Over the past month, Skerrit has come under increased scrutiny from the international community and local citizens. The predominant question concerns Skerrit’s alleged collaboration in the kidnapping of Mehul Choksi, an Antiguan citizen of the CBI, and the mystery surrounding Choksi’s entry into Dominica, against his will. As an avenue of respite, Skerrit mandated the Church’s religious community to dedicate three (3) days, Friday 25e June to Sunday 27e June 2021 for unity prayers and fasting. By Monday 28e In June, Skerrit was heading to Parliament sounding “meaner than before” with a bill called the “Fiscal Accountability Framework” (FRF). It would have been dubbed an “April Fool’s Day” joke if the calendar hadn’t recorded that the date was 28e June, and if the origin of the bill was not the Department of Justice, Immigration and National Security.
Skerrit’s current concern about bringing the FRF Bill to Parliament is largely due to pressure from the IMF and ECCB for the massive decline in the country’s fiscal health, resulting from the growing budget deficit and increase in debt. How strategically deceptive a leader could be! Within a week, the Minister of Finance staged a massive public relations stunt to announce the signing of a $ 1.0 billion contract without parliamentary approval. This Contract will invariably subject the economy / citizens to unsustainable debt. Two (2) weeks later, the same Minister of Finance submits for Parliament’s approval an FRF model so that the economy âreaches a sustainable level of debtâ.
The citizens of Dominica were broadly unanimous in condemning Skerrit for instructing a subordinate to sign a $ 1.0 billion contract for the project to build an international airport, without parliamentary approval. Nonetheless, Skerrit thought he could slip through a draconian bill, without consultation with various associations of public sector workers. It is estimated that this bill will have disastrous consequences for public servants who earn enough income to support their families.
We have come to a point in our history when fiscal responsibility is the buzzword for prudent management of economies, especially in the Caribbean, which are in dire straits. For example, in January 2020, the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) submitted to its parliament a âfiscal accountability frameworkâ. The preamble to the law says: “It aims to establish the principles and procedures for responsible budget management and to facilitate effective parliamentary oversight and public scrutiny of the government’s budget performance.”
In June 2021, the Skerrit regime put the Fiscal Responsibility Framework Bill on the Order Paper. The preamble to the bill reads: âAn Act to establish a transparent and accountable rules-based fiscal accountability framework in Dominica, to guide and anchor fiscal policy during the budget process to ensure the sustainability of public finances in the short, medium and long term. long term. , compatible with a sustainable level of indebtedness and for other related issues â.
Please note that Skerrit’s FRF Bill makes no reference to âparliamentary oversightâ or âpublic scrutinyâ. It is deliberate and misleading. The preamble mentions the words âtransparencyâ and âaccountabilityâ as a joke. The presentation of the bill for debate in Parliament comes against the backdrop of the Skerrit regime’s unwavering refusal to account for the sums lacking in the Consolidated Fund. The fact that Skerrit is trying to push through a legislative framework for fiscal accountability in parliament, one month before the date set for the annual budget, is the ultimate signal of disaster. The economy is on the brink of collapse, under the weight of at least $ 2.8 billion missing from Dominica’s treasury, under Skerrit’s watch. Additionally, FRF’s Skerrit model is set against the backdrop of signing a $ 1.0 billion contract for the proposed construction of an international airport, without public scrutiny.
Thomas Letang of the Public Service Union (PSU) was quick to take a firm stand, denounce the bill and call on officials to be present in the House of Assembly, in protest gear, to defend their pleas. subsistence. For the millionth time, we listened to Lennox Linton, with an immediate and eloquent rebuttal to the misinformation and false analysis Skerrit was proposing to justify imposing a draconian bill on public servants. Lennox Linton has publicly pledged to return to Parliament to defend officials in the face of Skerrit’s financial abuse of the economy and people of Dominica.
An essential feature of any model fiscal accountability framework is the elimination of ânon-priority spendingâ. In June 2020, at a time when COVID-19 was having its greatest impact on the economy, resulting in a reduction in national income, Skerrit twisted his hand on his cabinet to approve a housing allowance, equivalent to $ 64,000.00 per month to cover rent and maintenance expenses, to be paid to Anthony Hayden, CEO of Mercury Ltd and owner of the lavish mansions in which Skerrit now resides, as the official residence of the Prime Minister.
At the same time, Skerrit is working to put additional pressure on civil servants to earn a decent living, he has created new gainful employment opportunities for his former colleagues in the previous administration. Skerrit has used the pandemic as an excuse for fiscally reckless spending aimed at rewarding his party’s most dedicated supporters and luring voters with various forms of donation through Christmas and Easter baskets. Through this FRF model, Skerrit has erased all doubts that âfiscal recklessnessâ is his modus operandi, and persistent poverty is his ultimate agenda for the citizens of Dominica.
It is not enough for the government to limit the FRF model to eliminating waste in the public service and ignore the opportunities for development and growth of the economy. With the abundance of water, and the well-established cultural practices in cannabis production, Skerrit is still unable to conceptualize a viable industry that could emerge from these two (2) products. Doing so would create a large pool of independent citizens, earning enough income to support their families. Instead, in his delusional state, Skerrit seeks to portray Dominica as having a comparative advantage in selling passports, due to its price tag of US $ 50,000 per family.
Skerrit does not have both the legal and moral authority to be the architect of a âfiscal responsibility frameworkâ in Dominica today. It should never be allowed to legislate on an FRF model that circumvents its current obligation to account for the missing $ 2.8 billion in the consolidated fund.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Dominica News Online or its advertisers.