Categorized | Editorial

Fool everyone only for so long and not all the time

Editorial – April 5, 2013 :
If it had not been that we have come to accept much of the things coming from government as shrouded with suspicion, we would not be so puzzled by the number of persons who have sought to express their concerns and doubts with the budget presentation by Premier and Minister of Finance Meade.

The difficulty here is not being able much of the times to test information that is provided and to check that what you are told has merit or mere words behind it.

We (the media) were advised on Jan. 21 that the DFID Budget Mission team would visit from the 24th to the 30th of January at the Cabinet Secretariat to look at the projections for expenditure and revenue for the government in the coming financial year which begins April 2013. Their work was to start the day they arrived, there being but one possible newcomer to Montserrat on the DFID team.

We were advised as follows: “On Day One, the team is expected to meet with His Excellency the Governor Adrian Davis and the Honourable Premier Reuben T. Meade. Later that day, they will look at the 2013/14 budget estimates including domestic revenue projections and policy objectives. It is also expected that the teams will review the variations in revenue and spending for the 2012/2013 against the budget estimated and the impact of external developments.”

They were to discuss such areas concerning the retention and recruitment issues and a review of the Technical Assistance posts and capacity development funding for 2013/14. There was even to be a video conference meeting with the DFID Head Office to look at reforms as laid out in the May 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU); as well as a session with the members of the Opposition.

They arrived as scheduled and were to hold a press briefing as normal. We looked forward to this remembering the briefing as difficult, maybe even contentious, in both February and September. By mid-year the team, still hedging on the delay and disagreements over revenue collections, reported some progress especially that the ‘suspicious’ MOU had been signed in May.

At the review, they were to discuss as follows: Economic trends, progress on reforms and expenditure and revenue performance since April 2012. The implications of the tax policy, reform in the collection of tax arrears and updates on outstanding cases, compliance issues and review additional expenditure requests, including unforeseen pressure on the health budget, costs associated with litigations against GoM, and arrears to local and regional institutions.

Also of grave concern to DFID, and to us, Tax incentives to new business was a central issue with DFID interested in how decisions are taken to grant benefits to companies such as MonTobacco Ltd. In addition, they looked at the progress on outsourcing and the impact on the financial situation for the present budget were to be evaluated. Moreover, there were more: The financial services sector, transport subsidy performance, public service reform, pensions, and compliance issues with the sand mining industry.

All this time we heard nothing from government on these issues, but we were aware and even understood the drastic but deceiving change in the tariff structure which we reported was nothing more than an attempt to raise additional revenue. However, government was giving tax and duty concessions to a company that should never do business in Montserrat; under the guise, they would provide very questionable employment.

On that background from a year ago when there was a delay in DFID’s agreement right up to budget presentation time as to the UK budgetary aid, how could Montserrat be in the position where DFID up to March had not yet made “conclusive findings or an indication of the budget aid settlement for 2013/14.” This budget year, DFID left without holding the press briefing because they had nothing ‘good’ to report, no agreement to budgetary aid. We found out that they promised it would not be less than previous. Government should never have presented a budget, and if they did should have told the people of Montserrat that it was a TEMPORARY one.

Eventually we obtained the budget aid final Aide Memoire from source, and we are grateful. However, it is the worst we have seen. Worst of all we learn that Government is in possession of it, but Ministers had not seen it.

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Editorial – April 5, 2013 :
If it had not been that we have come to accept much of the things coming from government as shrouded with suspicion, we would not be so puzzled by the number of persons who have sought to express their concerns and doubts with the budget presentation by Premier and Minister of Finance Meade.

The difficulty here is not being able much of the times to test information that is provided and to check that what you are told has merit or mere words behind it.

We (the media) were advised on Jan. 21 that the DFID Budget Mission team would visit from the 24th to the 30th of January at the Cabinet Secretariat to look at the projections for expenditure and revenue for the government in the coming financial year which begins April 2013. Their work was to start the day they arrived, there being but one possible newcomer to Montserrat on the DFID team.

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We were advised as follows: “On Day One, the team is expected to meet with His Excellency the Governor Adrian Davis and the Honourable Premier Reuben T. Meade. Later that day, they will look at the 2013/14 budget estimates including domestic revenue projections and policy objectives. It is also expected that the teams will review the variations in revenue and spending for the 2012/2013 against the budget estimated and the impact of external developments.”

They were to discuss such areas concerning the retention and recruitment issues and a review of the Technical Assistance posts and capacity development funding for 2013/14. There was even to be a video conference meeting with the DFID Head Office to look at reforms as laid out in the May 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU); as well as a session with the members of the Opposition.

They arrived as scheduled and were to hold a press briefing as normal. We looked forward to this remembering the briefing as difficult, maybe even contentious, in both February and September. By mid-year the team, still hedging on the delay and disagreements over revenue collections, reported some progress especially that the ‘suspicious’ MOU had been signed in May.

At the review, they were to discuss as follows: Economic trends, progress on reforms and expenditure and revenue performance since April 2012. The implications of the tax policy, reform in the collection of tax arrears and updates on outstanding cases, compliance issues and review additional expenditure requests, including unforeseen pressure on the health budget, costs associated with litigations against GoM, and arrears to local and regional institutions.

Also of grave concern to DFID, and to us, Tax incentives to new business was a central issue with DFID interested in how decisions are taken to grant benefits to companies such as MonTobacco Ltd. In addition, they looked at the progress on outsourcing and the impact on the financial situation for the present budget were to be evaluated. Moreover, there were more: The financial services sector, transport subsidy performance, public service reform, pensions, and compliance issues with the sand mining industry.

All this time we heard nothing from government on these issues, but we were aware and even understood the drastic but deceiving change in the tariff structure which we reported was nothing more than an attempt to raise additional revenue. However, government was giving tax and duty concessions to a company that should never do business in Montserrat; under the guise, they would provide very questionable employment.

On that background from a year ago when there was a delay in DFID’s agreement right up to budget presentation time as to the UK budgetary aid, how could Montserrat be in the position where DFID up to March had not yet made “conclusive findings or an indication of the budget aid settlement for 2013/14.” This budget year, DFID left without holding the press briefing because they had nothing ‘good’ to report, no agreement to budgetary aid. We found out that they promised it would not be less than previous. Government should never have presented a budget, and if they did should have told the people of Montserrat that it was a TEMPORARY one.

Eventually we obtained the budget aid final Aide Memoire from source, and we are grateful. However, it is the worst we have seen. Worst of all we learn that Government is in possession of it, but Ministers had not seen it.