National Democratic Congress Political Leader V. Nazim Burke has released a broadside against Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and his cabinet members for being in his words, far from honest and sincere with the people of the tri-island state.
At a press conference held by the party last Wednesday, Senator Burke scoffed at Dr. Mitchell’s “mid-term review”, a publicised interview with three selected local journalists held approximately one week before to recognize the half way mark of the New National Party’s present term in office.
The NDC leader started off with some tongue-in-cheek congratulations to the prime for “sharing his view on what is going in the country, contrary to recent months when he preferred to play hide and seek with the nation, spending the majority of his time outside of the country and refusing to address national issues.
Senator Burke then took aim of Dr. Mitchell’s oft repeated claims of an economic surplus calling it fictitious and saying the NDC is flabbergasted at the behaviour of the present leaders. He said he is disgusted with some of the leader’s conclusions and sees it as continued attempts to mislead, misguide and misinform the nation.
If I am not paying my bills, can I claim that I have a surplus, the NDC political leader asked? He said the country is not paying its foreign debts so to claim a surplus is a falsehood and misleading. “Government has not paid a cent to international bond holders since coming into office” Burke exclaimed.
Interests on these debts continue to mount he said and all of that interest will be added back to the new principal debt after the so-called haircut is finalized.
Even if they are talking about monthly current payments they are still not telling the truth an emotional Burke said. He added, Government’s fiscal summary which is there to be examined on the internet by anyone interested since they are obligated to publish this every month.
He explained, surplus is the difference between revenue earned and expenses incurred. He went on, in the month of May for example instead of government paying the requested interest payment of 3.1 million they paid only half of a million.
“If you are not meeting obligations how can you boast of a surplus”, he appealed
He cited several other instances of short payment of obligations to commercial banks by government and asked “are we being told the truth of what is going on?”
On the issue of government collecting more revenue, Senator Burke expressed puzzlement as to how the prime minister could attribute this to increased economic activity and improvement in revenue collection when the simple and uncomplicated explanation is the imposition of 28 or more new and increased taxes, duties, fees and levies including the bringing down of the income tax threshold. “In light of this reality” he asked, “how on Earth could you not be collecting more revenue.
The NDC leader lambasted the government for presiding over a frightful scarcity of economic activity, asking, “Where is this economic activity going on?” “What project has the government engaged in that represents long term investment, will generate extended jobs and sustained economic activity?”
Burke said practically every project the government is now involved in were made possible by the efforts of the NDC when that party was in office from July 2008 to February 2013.
As an example he cited an agreement that he personally signed with the World Bank in October 2011 while he was the Minister of Finance, under the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Programme.
He said the arrangement was for $70.7 million, $21million being a grant and the remainder, soft loans. Some of the projects that were identified to be done under that programme were the Lance and Hubble bridges in St. John’s; landslide and rock fall mitigation including Sendall Tunnel, the Constantine rock fall, the Market Square retaining wall and others.
Burke said “every project going on now was put in place by the NDC so what has the NNP brought to the table?” “What new project has the NNP brought?”
He added the only major private sector project that has materialized is the Silver Sands project which the government has been accused of spending millions of dollars on to get it started.
Burke said NDC brought the food to the table and the present government is shamelessly eating and taking the credit without saying thanks or acknowledging the provider of the food.
He urged the media not to be afraid to challenge the government’s claims as part of their responsibility to the public to ensure that government is being honest with the people.