Nigel's well-reasoned budget presentation
...and the British stiff upper lipWednesday, March 17, 2021
As I expected, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke presented a well-reasoned and prudent budget presentation as he kicked off the debate on the national budget for the fiscal year 2021/22. He demonstrated once again that he has a comfortable command of the portfolio into which he has grown.
In Dr Clarke one feels assured that he has a good grasp of not just the fiscal or macroeconomic variables that lead to a sound and viable economy, but how people's lives are impacted by these variables. Thus, he crafted a budget that is not just about balancing books, but also balancing lives. He communicated that there is also a strong humanitarian bearing on how often dull and esoteric financial subjects can have deleterious effects on people's lives if not managed carefully.
The budget is once again being cast in the context of the still-raging novel coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the economy. The minister was mindful of the limitations imposed by this ongoing reality. It is going to be a hard slog going forward, and a lot will depend on how people continue to maintain the safety protocols until vaccines can lead to herd immunity in the population. In the meantime, the Government has to work with what is within its command.
Of the many things that stood out in the presentation, the Government's decision not to raise any new taxes this year was music to the ears. On an already beleaguered population, this would have come as a blow to many who are struggling to survive.
Concomitantly, the minister stated that the budget would not be financed by borrowing. Given the shellacking that the country had received from COVID-19, it might have been justifiable to raise additional revenue to spur production by taxation and/or borrowing, but the Government has decided to do neither. It must resist the urgings of those who would want to put the country further in debt.
On the surface it might seem a no-brainer that, for us to spur production and growth, one has to access additional funds given the battering the economy has received. But we have been down that road for too long and today our level of indebtedness to gross domestic product (debt/GDP) is still horrific. There is no certainty that we can ever deploy borrowed funds to get the economy growing at a rate that can shrink this ratio. Certainly not in the short term. What our experience has taught us is that we have used debt with reckless abandon over the years in the guise of growing the economy; only to find at the end of the day that we have nothing of worth to show for the effort.
Debt has to be repaid and, even though I believe that while Minister Clarke will move decisively from the practice of the past, if further indebtedness should become inevitable, we should avoid this enticement, even at a time like this. There are other options to be explored, such as further divestment of government assets. We can see our way through by carefully managing what resources we have with integrity, transparency, and the utmost accountability.
Harry, Markle and the British Monarchy
So, the heads of “The Firm”, the British Monarchy, are twisting themselves into a pretzel to explain to the British people and the rest of the world that there is no racism in the British monarchy.
I never was awed by the British monarchy, or any monarchy for that matter. Speaking broadly, these are relics of the past which could best be consigned to the dustbin of history.
To be sure, the British monarchy predates African slavery, but we will not forget that it is during that horrible period in human history that the empire over which it presided brutalised black human beings and used their labour to further Britain's economic standing and influence in the world. The Bills that cemented slavery in British consciousness emanated from the House of Commons and were endorsed in the House of Lords, and finally signed by the reigning monarch. These all helped to entrench slavery as an institution in the British Empire, especially in the West Indies, over which it had totalitarian control and dominance. And they now have the temerity to question whether there is racism in The Firm.
We can be spared a lot of the hand wringing by them just coming clear and declaring that they were wrong in how Meghan was treated. But will this happen? Don't hold your breath.
The monarchy is what it is: An institution steeped in the culture of its times, and entrenched racism happens to be an essential ingredient of that culture — the British stiff upper lip, notwithstanding.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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