Basseterre, St. Kitts, – For the first time since 1998, there will be no National Consultation on the Economy – at least prior to meetings of the Estimates Committee which completed sessions last week.
Leader of the Opposition and former prime minister and minister of finance, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said the discarding of the National Consultation on the Economy is another sign of the growing dictatorship of current prime minister and minister of finance, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris.
Dr. Douglas during his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader” was invited to comment on the situation and pointed to several dictatorial actions taken by Dr. Harris.
“It is a departure from what has been established. If you are planning the responses to the social and economic challenges that you are facing as well as the social responses as well, it is always best to consult the stakeholders,” said Dr. Douglas, who noted that his Labour Administration had implemented the National Consultation on the Economy in 1998.
The consultation is organised by the Ministry of Finance at which the Cabinet of ministers, officials from the Ministry of Finance and all other government ministries and departments, along with representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organisations, political parties and students from the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC) meet in what Prime Minister Douglas said was an “exercise in good governance, transparency and accountability” by his ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration in preparation for the presentation of the annual budget traditionally in December of each year.
‘Those who have over the years participated in the framing of social and economical development plans seem to have been discarded and no longer need to be consulted,” said Dr. Douglas.
“That is why people have become alarmed at the rate at which Dr. Harris has become a dictator. Dr. Harris knows everything. Dr Harris and his family members whom it would appear he consults with on a weekly basis, know everything. They bring their views to bear on the national economic and social development of the country. They bring their ideas to bear and it would appear that Dr. Harris has become a full blown dictator. He no longer consults with his regional colleagues on matters of regional importance,” said Dr. Douglas, who pointed to several instances where Dr. Harris within the government and in his own People’s Labour Party (PLP) has exercised dictatorial tendencies by unilaterally discarding founding members and executive officers of his PLP and those who assisted in the formation of the three-party coalition in which he is the lone elected parliamentary representative among the six elected in the Cabinet.
This year, there has been no public Consultation on the Economy prior to the Estimates Committee meetings.
During the Opening Ceremony remarks are usually delivered by the Financial Secretary, the President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce; the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Premier of Nevis. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance gives the feature address on the state of the local economy.
Caribbean Development Bank, IMF and World Bank officials are also present during working sessions at which presentations are made and questions posed to the ministers and government officials.
Non-governmental organisations such as the Bar Association, Teachers’ Union, churches, and representatives of disabled persons are also invited to make recommendations which are discussed during the Estimates Committee Meetings held afterwards for possible inclusion in the Budget presented in December for the financial year which begins on January 1st.