Veteran Journalist Mike Jarvis on the Upcoming 2018/19 Budget Speech

Montserrat’s Budget Day 2018
Austerity budget or copy and paste budget, status quo or stagnation?
Governments are known to increasingly give a ‘heads-up’ as to what’s coming up in their annual budgets, especially when there’s an important initiative on the cards.
It’s not a ‘big country’ concept being imposed on a micro state – Montserrat in this case – as some love to preach. Governments are supposed to engage proactively rather than constantly being on the defensive and in damage control mode.
Being proactive shows that you are confident with your policies. That in turn inspires the private sector and the wider community to have confidence in you. A budget is arguably the most important indicator of how a society is performing and the direction the government plans to take it in. This impacts the economy overall; from the private sector right through to all aspects of social services and the society.
For this Monbtserrat 2018 budget preview, I’ll focus on the private sector. I keep hearing the mantra “Montserrat is open for business.” However, judging from some current practices and ongoing concerns, serious questions must be asked: Is Montserrat really open TO business? Is Montserrat really ready for business? Is Montserrrat currently ‘equipped’ to handle it? One can only hope that today, the Premier (on behalf of the government) gives some practical and realistic concessions and indicators to reassure and reinvigorate the local private sector.
Last year’s idea of opening up Cork Hill, Delvins etc for rebuilding was a conceptual disaster of volcanic proportions; well-intended but impractical…and potentially dangerous. As a business model, the major beneficiaries would have been insurance companies offsetting risk with high premiums, and construction companies. Homeowners would have faced the constant risk of being cut-off in the event of lahars, and at a higher risk of being affected in the event of volcanic activity than areas north of Belham. Ultimately, that would have been an additional burden on already burdened government. Desperation policies are not rooted in reality no matter what import subsidy and tax concession sweeteners are on offer.
So let’s get back to reality with realistic institutional initiatives that support business activity. The MDC – or something like it – is now three years overdue. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much or anything in the budget that offers hope in that respect. This budget should be about business and it should mean business. Whatever is likely to be said, the numbers in this budget makes it business neutral. I hope I’m wrong. And while the Premier’s at it, an update on the Mott McDonald report regarding the hospital and what will be implemented and realised for the economy, especially during 2018-2019, would be most welcome.
Anything going further forward to 2019-2020 would be nothing more that early stage election campaign promises. I too will be tuning in for this most important 2018-2019 budget presentation.

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