Opposition bench objects strenuously to Monday start of Budget Debate; vote results in Tuesday being selected, instead

The Government bench’s desire to commence the 2024 Budget
Debate on Monday, December 18 – less than 24 business hours after
it was presented – stirred a flurry of objections from the Opposition
bench, with Leader of the Opposition Jamale Pringle saying the time
period is “unfair.”
Prime Minister Gaston Browne delivered a lengthy Appropriations
Bill, 2024, today, December 15, after which Attorney-General
Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin moved a Motion for the debate to begin
at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

However, this was met with outrage from the Members of the
Opposition bench.
Benjamin ultimately admitted that – only the day before, Thursday
morning, December 14 – he had informed Pringle that the budget
presented on Friday would be debated the following business day.
As an excuse for bringing the debate forward – instead of allowing
the usual one-week interim – Benjamin said that ministers are
expected to travel on government business.
But Barbuda MP Trevor Walker was very vocal in his objection to
the narrow time frame that Government was affording the
Opposition bench – which, collectively, had garnered more votes in
the January 18 General Elections – to prepare for representing its
Accordingly, Walker suggested a compromise by moving a counter
Motion, giving Thursday, December 21, as a more appropriate date
by which the Opposition could deliver its response. He noted that a
precedent has already been set – that is, one week to get ready for
the Budget Debate.

Meanwhile, Pringle chided the Government for its ongoing disregard
of the Opposition, and said that more time was needed for its
Members to present a well-researched response.

The Government’s proposed timeline was unacceptable, he said,
particularly since requests to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, asking
for specific financial documents, have gone answered.
During further objections by MP Richard Lewis, House Speaker Sir
Gerald Watt intervened, seeking a compromise. But after the
Opposition bench stood its ground, the Motions went to a vote, by
division, with a nine-seven majority in favour of the Government.
Independent Member for St. Peter Asot Michael was absent from the
day’s proceedings.
Parliament will now convene for the Budget Debate on Tuesday,
December 19, at 9:30 a.m.