Describing Government’s 2016/2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure as being riddled with errors and based on false assumptions, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley said this afternoon that its contents reflected a political illusion of stability.
In her two-hour reply to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who led off debate on the measure in the House of Assembly this morning, Mottley launched a blistering attack on Sinckler’s account of Government’s fiscal deficit.
“You can’t tell me you are going to spend $4.239 billion this year and that you are going to raise $2.668 billion in revenue. The difference is $1.57 billion. If you take out amortization for this year of a billion and six [dollars] yuh leff with $564 million; and if you take $564 million and divide it by the GDP of $8.921, what is the miraculous figure that comes up? And children in primary school with a calculator can do this [calculation and get] . . . 6.3 per cent. But this Minister come in here today and tells us the deficit is going to be 4.2 [per cent],” Mottley argued.
However, she insisted that the deficit would exceed 6.3 per cent.
Mottley also accused the Minister of Finance of using a new method of measuring the deficit in the hope hoodwinking Barbadians.
“Now I say to you that our comments in relation to these Estimates stand; and year after year we have come to this honourable Chamber since 2008; we said that the projections were overly optimistic and go beyond the bounds of what is acceptable . . . and in fact, what ends up happening, is that the deficit ends up ballooning because the expenditure was not cut to suit realistic revenue,” she charged.
The leader of the Opposition said for the first time in this country’s history, it was now faced with “an unacceptable situation” in terms of its current account deficit. which puts it in a position where it is unable to see growth.
Mottley accused Government of accumulating more debt than the former BLP administration did in 14 years, noting that this had developed partly due to accumulated deficits.
She argued that in 2008, 2009 and 2011 Government over-estimated revenue by 22 per cent; adding that last year there was a further over-estimation in the order of 15 per cent and again this year in the amount of 22.9 per cent.
She also said that in 2008, while Government had said it would raise $2.694 billion, it had achieved $130 million less; in 2009, it also fell short by $290,000; in 2010 by $100 million and in 2012, “when it had the least generous projection for February and March,” the administration missed the target by $56 million.
She also poured cold water on Government’s revenue targets for the current fiscal year, asking: “What has happened in the Barbados economy in February and March of this year that is so uniquely different that will cause this Government to raise that kind of money in these two months?”
Mottley claimed that because of the series of taxes imposed on the country since 2008, the average Barbadian family was now $8,000 worse off.
She attacked the Government for cutting its welfare allocation for 2016/2017 and was especially critical of its plan to increase the vote given to the Immigration Department this year to facilitate the fingerprinting of nationals entering and leaving the island.
While arguing that the current regulations specifically targeted persons under suspicion, the Opposition Leader questioned whether Government planned to deport its citizens who refuse to be fingerprinted on their return home.
Warning that this matter could be tested in court, she advised the Government to pull back on its plan to fingerprint Barbadians, saying the Opposition would support the change.