Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Pay more attention to Estimates


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THE ANNUAL DEBATE on the Appropriation Bill which is better known to the Barbadian public as the Estimates owes its source to of the Barbados Constitution which commands the Government of the day to lay these Estimates of the revenue and expenditure by the 31st of March every year.

It is an important time in the parliamentary calendar and it allows the Minister of Finance and his colleagues to defend their stewardship for the previous year while giving the Opposition a chance to attack the Government and suggest where the ruling party’s policies are wrong or are not working; and calling upon the members of Cabinet to account for the developments in their ministries.

The public interest is clearly involved in this exercise especially in these days when there is so much debate about the state of the economy and whether there is sustained growth, and the state of the foreign reserves, and the deficit and how to tackle it, whether by privatisation or otherwise.

We think that the man in the street should be paying as much attention to the Estimates as is paid to the Budgets when they are presented. This year fewer than five people were reported to be in the Public Gallery, when the debate began; but the debate was carried on radio and was streamed from Parliament itself.

Particularly in this the year where there are frequent reminders of our 50th anniversary of Independence; we believe that calls for greater knowledge of the Constitution should include specific education on such important areas which matter to our everyday lives; for the decisions which are reflected in the Estimates may have a direct impact on the cost of living and the creation of jobs, among other things.

A complaint made year after year is that enough time is not allocated for discussion to take place on the specific ministries. The majority of time is consumed by the debate which deals with the general policy and does not look in detail at the various “Heads” of money allocated to specific ministries.

As a result, many of the Heads are passed without debate when time runs out! Perhaps more time could be allocated to this important debate.

Minister Donville Inniss struck a realistic note when he criticised what he called “dysfunctional structures” and said that they needed to be addressed and that the country should try to get its administration right. He also spoke of being aware of investors whose applications were sitting idly on desks or floating around in Government departments for months on end, while the investors were getting frustrated.

At this stage of our country’s development and in the light of its economic position, it is imperative that Government’s policy be expeditiously executed by those employed in these departments. Mr Barrow famously spoke about an army of occupation; but Inniss, though not wishing to pinpoint any one department, has added his voice to what is clearly a hindrance to the speedy execution of policy. 

This is what the Estimates debate should be about.

It is a time for clearing the air on what is going on in the dusty corridors of power, and making public what the servants of the people are proposing on their behalf.

There is abundant public interest in the Estimates debate and members of the public must be encouraged to give it greater attention.


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