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AUDIO: Brawl in Parliament: Politicians argue about spending nation’s money

Published:Friday | March 7, 2014 | 8:25 AM

Debbie-Ann Wright, News Editor - Radio



KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Protracted discussions on the revised national budget escalated last night with the Government accusing the Opposition of suggesting that the country borrow money to fill a revenue shortfall.




In the revised estimates tabled last week, the government is planning to spend $20.17 billion less than the $520.88 billion approved in April.



Phillips said he expected the debate on the supplementary estimates to be a simple matter, however, the deliberations extended way into the night.



Yesterday’s debate on the first supplementary estimates was characterised largely by the Opposition expressing concerns about the budget cuts to critical agencies and the Government insisting they were necessary.



Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, said he was uncomfortable with further contractions in the budget.



He noted that given the current state of the economy the Government needed to create some stimulus.



Holness insisted this did not mean spending more money.



He suggested that addressing the county’s energy problem could result in significant savings which in turn could be used to create that stimulus.



However, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said the Opposition seemed to be suggesting the government borrow more money, which would only compound the country’s debt problem.



That’s when things escalated with Holness demanding Phillips withdraw the statement and Phillips insisting he would not.



Deputy speaker, Lloyd B. Smith eventually asked Phillips to continue but to stay clear of the contentious issue.



The revised estimates of expenditure were eventually approved by the House.



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