THURSDAY’S mid-year review by the Dr Keith Rowley administration represents the crystallisation of a procedure which has considerably bolstered accountability when it comes to the State’s management of our financial affairs.
It seems clear that this process of presenting an update to the nation in-between budget presentations, which is in its third year, is now well entrenched and has become a permanent fixture on our political landscape, something which must be applauded. The degree of anticipation going into Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s presentation rivalled what would normally accompany a full budget. However, the Finance Minister soberly avoided the flashy pyrotechnics we have come to expect in budget presentations, opting to report on the state of the economy. And his message was very clear. While there are signs of economic recovery there is still much work to do.
It must be remembered the slightly rosier picture presented in Parliament was due to an adjusted gross domestic product; increase in natural gas output; a rebound of foreign reserves in a controlled foreign exchange sector – all of which have been affected by a combination of long-term and short-term factors.
Even our pleasingly low headline inflation rate of 1.3 per cent must be looked at with caution. While it represents a considerable improvement for savers who tend to often see their purchasing power diminished over time, it may also reflect soft spending due to a still weary public.
Overall, Imbert must be praised for resisting the temptation to roll out megaprojects or centrepieces which have, in the past, simply shackled us to high levels of debt and done nothing to bolster productivity. Indeed, the minister struck the correct balance by focussing on the continued programme of infrastructure development and the long-term plans for items like the Clico Investment Fund, which is to be made accessible to a wide cross-section of the population.
In this regard, the Opposition’s stance that the presentation was the “same old, same old” completely misses the point. For what is needed now to re-engineer our economy is continuity and stability, even through successive administrations. Some of the major projects which Imbert referred to were initiated or planned under previous PNM and PP regimes. To condemn the minister now is to condemn the Opposition’s own record of wanton spending. If the UNC finds fault in the slow pace of economic transformation, it cannot do so without acknowledging the reality that it failed to put the measures in place needed to transform our economy.
As with the fight against crime, what is needed now is cooperation to ensure our quality of life is what we want it to be. Let us hear about solutions and ways in which we can move forward instead of the same tired stances.