BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Opposition parliamentarians of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) gave their perspective on the 2022 budget, ahead of the budget presentation by prime minister and minister of finance, Dr Timothy Harris.
Interviewed by Devonne Cornelius in a ZIZ/WINNFM coverage ahead of the presentation, leader of the opposition, Dr Denzil L. Douglas, MP St Christopher 6 said he hopes to see a lifting of the restrictions of the movement of the people of St Kitts and Nevis and the government’s acceptance to allow the people to live with COVID-19.
With St Kitts and Nevis about to achieve the one million arrivals in cruise ship passengers which was achieved in the last three years, Dr Douglas said he would like to see further growth in the cruise ship sector.
“Back in 2015 when I left the government, it was placed on a growth path. We have seen it dip significantly and we expect it to because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to remove a lot of the barriers and it seems that the government is coming to terms with the reality of COVID-19 and living with it. I expect that tourism will begin to see the leaps and bounds we expected two years ago.
He said he expects a significant allocation to agriculture to feed the people and reduce the high importation of the food bill.
Dr Douglas, whose St Kitts – Nevis lbour administration had introduced computer labs in the schools and provide all high school students with their personal laptops before demitting office in 2015 noted that the students in the just-concluded school year had performed well in their overseas exams under the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I expect creativity and innovation in the education sector and the digitalization that we expect should now be in place and I expect to see that in the 2020 Budget,” he told the ZIZ/WINN Media live coverage.
Parliamentary Representative for East Basseterre, Dr Geoffrey Hanley said he looks forward to “a budget that is really people-centred, one that is filled with innovation and compassion.”
Dr Hanley said he would also be cross-referencing the 2022 budget with the 2021 budget “to ensure that the objectives that were stated in the 2021 budget as we move forward.”
He said the opposition’s responsibility is not only to criticise the budget presentation but also bring our perspective as to what government ought to be doing and that “transparency is also present in the Budget presentation.
Dr Hanley said while the COVID-19 pandemic would have some negative effects on the outcome of delivery, “I hope that would not be an excuse that the reason why things cannot be done or were not done, is because of COVID, because we have a track record blowing our trumpet that we have handled COVID-19 well. You cannot be telling the world you are handling COID-19 well and want to blame it for not being able to exercise plans and programmes that you promised the people a year ago. Of course, there might be situations in certain ministries where things just could not have been done because of what we were dealing with. but I would not accept that as an excuse, because it boils down to innovations.”
Senator Joyelle Clarke said the budget must be “responsive and innovative,” and wants to see policies and programmes that are inclusive and sustainable and give young people the confidence to overcome the pandemic.
“Ensuring that young people have a way out of this pandemic. Ensuring that we have something that speaks to what I call the pandemic tension. What can we do now that we are living with this pandemic in addressing food security, climate change, climate adaptation appropriately climate finance so that we can survive.”
Dr Clarke said the government can decrease spending so that you pad yourself for future hardship or increase spending and generate growth in the economy to help people support their livelihoods.”
Dr Douglas will respond to the budget address on Wednesday during the continuation at the National Assembly.