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Historic 'No' vote to Budget

FNM leader Hubert Minnis

FNM leader Hubert Minnis

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

OPPOSITION leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday that FNM parliamentarians will not support the Christie administration’s “deceptive” 2014/2015 budget which seeks to borrow $343 million for the forthcoming fiscal year.

Dr Minnis said for the first time in history, the opposition, which holds eight seats in the House of Assembly, will vote against the budget.

The decision, he said, was reached “reluctantly” by all of his colleagues after a discussion at a parliamentary caucus meeting.

A House of Assembly clerk told The Tribune that the opposition’s “no vote” position was the first in recent times.

Despite the opposition’s plans to vote against the budget, the fiscal plan will pass through the House of Assembly and head to the Senate for debate because the Christie administration holds a 30-seat majority in the House.

The FNM’s strong push back to the budget elicited a wave of criticisms from several representatives on the government’s side, including Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis and Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins.

Dr Rollins suggested that FNM MPs forgo their salaries for the new fiscal year to substantiate their opposition to the budget. If not, Dr Rollins said, Dr Minnis’ remarks would be nothing short of “political grand standing.”

He said: “If everyone of the eight in the opposition understands the ramifications of what their leader says, it means that they will in fact forfeit their $28,000 (per year) salary for the upcoming budgetary period which amounts to some $279,000.

“It is advised that the opposition too in the next budgetary cycle will not receive the $279,000 and that those Junkanoo groups that the leader of the opposition enumerated will be in receipt of those monies.”

According to Dr Minnis, apart from the “secretive” nature of the government’s fiscal plans, a comprehensive break down of personal emoluments was not included. He said that element has been presented in every budget since the country’s independence and its absence hides salary and allowance figures of anyone on the public payroll.

Pointing to Article 129 sub-sections one and two of the constitution, Dr Minnis said a requirement of the budget is to reflect estimates of revenue and expenditure for public services during the succeeding financial year. In addition, the estimates should show separately the sums required to meet statutory expenditure and the sums required to meet other expenditure proposed to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund.

“Let me say that in voting ‘no’,” Dr Minnis said. “We appreciate that members opposite will shout that we are against paying public servants. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“We are voting against reckless, secret and wanton spending. We are voting against an unconstitutional budget which does not provide the details required by the constitution. We are voting against waste and abuse of public money and tax dollars. We cannot in good conscience support government by subterfuge, secrecy and stealth.

“We cannot do this, we will not do this. We will take a stand in this House, on this day, by voting no.”

He said the government’s financial plans were a betrayal to the Bahamian people and criticised almost every government project now underway, including the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), Urban Renewal 2.0 and value added tax (VAT) implementation.

As it concerns the emoluments and their inclusion into the budget, State Finance Minister Michael Halkitis accused Dr Minnis of seeking to mislead the public and incite panic.

“It is a stretch,” Mr Halkitis said. “The member is misleading. The budget is divided into separate heads (with) all of the statutory expenditure from the budget estimates so separately does not mean that you have to list every single item that you spend. The member should not seek to cause panic and mislead the public about some breach of the constitution.”

Comments

TalRussell 8 years, 1 month ago

When Leader Minnis says; "The decision was reached "reluctantly” by ALL of his colleagues after a discussion at a parliamentary caucus meeting," is he really willing to TRUST his leadership credibility with a risky "NO Vote" in the hands of his "animated antics" deputy leader Loretta and his renegade MP Marsh Harbour's Edison? Good luck ...cause with these two standing MP's standing behind your back, you'll need all you can get!

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ThisIsOurs 8 years, 1 month ago

“It is a stretch,” Mr Halkitis said. “The member is misleading. The budget is divided into separate heads (with) all of the statutory expenditure from the budget estimates so separately does not mean that you have to list every single item that you spend. The member should not seek to cause panic and mislead the public about some breach of the constitution.”

Great, now what amount has been budgeted to individual MP/cabinet minister salaries?

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TalRussell 8 years, 1 month ago

Minnis and his red shirts must now put up or shut up. As they did so in calling for the arrest of the numbers operators .... Comrade Leader Minnis will you and your opposition party,now call for the Commish of The Policeman's to arrest ALL MP's and Senators who have NOT abides by the law to file their Parliamentary Financial Disclosure Statements? If not, why not?

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sheeprunner12 8 years, 1 month ago

Its just a political statement ..... cannot affect the Budget......... PLP has big majority

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 years, 1 month ago

That Bahama Mama, while not the best brightest crayon in the box, certainly makes this fella Minnis seem like the worst of all possible choices for the leadership of the FNM going forward! He has the wrong political temperament and most white Bahamians with deep pocket books see him as _ _ _ _t!

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proudloudandfnm 8 years, 1 month ago

Excellent move! Way to go Mr. Minnis! Opposition... Finally! Keep this up and you may not have any problems come convention. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to see from you sir...

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TheMadHatter 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't understand the disagreement from the persons making comments here today. Are you suggesting that the opposition should always vote YES to any Bill put forward, or just Budget bills they MUST vote yes to?

If their job is to vote yes to whatever is put on the floor, they do they really need to show up to the parliament building? Or could their votes just be written down by the Speaker as being YES ?

What is a Bill was passed to say drivers licenses can only be issued for a period of 30 days and must be renewed every month? Should they vote YES to that too ?

TheMadHatter

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