Source- Real News Antigua: The Members of the Opposition bench were shut out of the debate on the 2024 Appropriations Bill, which began and ended in the Lower House yesterday, December 19.
The political leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), MP Jamale Pringle, told REAL News the Party’s six representatives, as well as their colleague, Barbuda MP Trevor Walker, were in the middle of preparing for the debate on Tuesday morning.
Pringle explained that, given the time frame of one business day to get ready; the difficulties Members were encountering in reaching critical government offices; and the critical need for consultation with constituents and advisors, it simply was “impossible” for them to be ready that day.
Accordingly, the Government side began the debate – including the hurling of various criticisms and accusations at the absent Members – and rushed it to conclusion that same day.
And in what one pundit says is “Part 2 of a calculated rush-through of the Budget Debate,” the Upper House will sit for one day only – Friday, December 22 – putting its “expected rubber stamp” on the Appropriations Bill, 2024.
In the meantime, Pringle is assuring Party supporters and the public, in general, that the UPP parliamentarians will deliver their properly researched presentations during “The People’s Parliament.”
‘This will take place, he says, “after the holiday celebrations, when the people are less distracted and in a better position to hear and absorb what we’re saying.”
Observers have noted that fewer than 150 people tuned in to view the debate via the ABS Facebook page, which, apparently, even Prime Minister Gaston Browne was monitoring.
They say that Browne, himself, appeared not to be too interested in his colleagues’ contributions, as posts to his Facebook page were appearing even as the debate was taking place.
Initially, the debate was slated to start on Monday, December 18, the next business day after the budget was presented.
However, the Opposition bench objected, noting that it did not allow them enoughtime to prepare properly and to seek advice from the experts.
Pringle and MP Richard Lewis, speaking for the UPP, felt that Thursday, December 21, would have been more appropriate and in keeping with the traditional period of time for a response.
Walker, too, vehemently opposed the Government bench’s dates and stood in solidarity with his UPP colleagues. However, Independent MP Asot Michael was not present.
However, the Government settled on Tuesday, December 19, and in a vote on the Motion, its bench prevailed.
Supporters of the Opposition – which, collectively, received more votes than the ruling party in the January 18 General Election – are displeased with the disrespect the Browne Administration continues to show their representatives and, by extension, the voters.
Meanwhile, starting the debate on Tuesday was Minister of Education Daryll Matthew, who outlined plans for his portfolios for 2024, followed by the minister of housing and public works and the tourism minister, respectively.
The other MPs followed, with Finance Minister Browne winding up the debate on the $1.3 billion budget, said to represent 17.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
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