Unfinished Business

Every year, Focus tracks the implementation of the key issues and policies identified in previous Budget Speeches.

Disappointingly, last years list, including the policy issues and targets identified in the 2001 Budget, remains largely untouched. We review these under two headings repeats and forgotten.

Repeats

The following are unfinished policy issues from last year which are repeated in the 2002 Budget:

      Completing a Tax Reform Study;

      Tabling legislation on bankable property rights;

      Tabling new Procurement legislation and establishing a new Procurement supervisory body;

      Reforming the Civil Service;

      Bringing a new semi-autonomous Deeds Registry into operation; 

      Improving institutional framework for trade and investment facilitation;

      Appointing a Commissioner of Insurance and support staff to enforce legal framework;

      Restructuring the rice, sugar and bauxite industries in order to enhance their viability, their ability to compete internationally and their net contribution to society; and

      Diversifying the economic base for the purpose of stimulating investment into new products and services in order to reduce the countrys dependence on the traditional production centers.

Forgotten

Prior year issues which seem to have been forgotten are:

      Separating from core civil service 1,000 security guards;

      Appointing a Director of Civil Aviation;

      Working with local and international banks to provide pre- and post-shipment financing and other related services to the manufacturing sector;

      Improving the welfare of Amerindians by developing market networks in the Caribbean for Amerindian art and craft;

      Launching of a Youth Employment Programme;

      Supporting distressed companies - the only concerted effort has been with respect to small operations in the rice sector; and

      Establishing an NGO Co-ordination Unit.

Ram and McRaes Comments

The growing list of policies abandoned along the way and/or not executed raises serious questions about the co-ordinating function and executing capabilities of the several Ministries of Government.

Some years ago, it was announced that a leading advisor to the President when he was the substantive Finance Minister was being transferred to the Office of the President with specific responsibility to monitor the implementation of policies. Perhaps this task should be assigned to a Parliamentary Committee.  

While there is a clear imperative for civil service reform, it would be meaningless if this did not have as one of its objectives the reduction in the number of ministries. How can a small country as ours afford two Ministers of Local Government, a Minister of Foreign Trade and a Minister with responsibility for Parliamentary Affairs?

It seems that considerably more work has to be done to make Go-Invest a one-stop shop rather than just another layer of bureaucracy slowing up the work of the Ministries of Tourism and Finance.

No meaningful restructuring of the rice industry can take place without measures to address the financial difficulties facing the large operators in the industry. The assistance of the small farmers while welcome does not solve the problem of the industry or the bankers. It is a systemic problem warranting an inclusive solution.