Government shuts Opposition out of Budget Debate, but UPP says it will take its presentations to ‘The People’s Parliament’

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 enough
time 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).