Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party
Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party

Dominica's once-powerful Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) of the late Dame Eugenia Charles, now in revival mode, has dissected the new budget presented by the Roosevelt Skerrit administration last week, and has found it wanting in several aspects.

"This 2020/21 budget appears to be similar to the failed previous budgets in term of the rhetoric and expected result," said Kent Vital, the new DFP political leader in a statement.

Vital added: "But this 2020/21 budget presentation, like many previous budget presentations, woefully lacks reporting on outcomes achieved and that are being pursued.

"There could be several reasons for such lack, including; the administration's lack of understanding of the basis for effective planning and budgeting; the administration deliberately not reporting on outcomes given that the indicators are not flattering; the administration's continued push to manage the country in their own self-interest with brazen displays of extreme corruption which make it impossible to pursue effective planning and budgeting".

Vital, an economist by profession, said some of the specific proposals in the budget "offer little to bring real change, though they appear on the surface to give people something."

In his budget speech, Skerrit announced a number of concessions and initiatives: to the manufacture sector (waiving VAT on packaging materials and equipment); duty free concessions on purchase of vehicles to tour and taxi operators; the construction of roads in the East, South ad some enhancement programmes in Roseau Central; the introduction of property taxes to reduce the number of derelict buildings in Roseau; a 48% reduction in taxes and fees for land purchases; decriminalization of marijuana legislation and a tax amnesty for a limited period.

What Skerrit took before parliament on Tuesday was a budget of EC $942, 179, 940. This is $77.9 million less from the billion dollar budget of 2019/2020 budget.

In the previous budget, EC$538,387,527 was recurrent and EC$481,786,018 capital.

In this budget the recurrent amount is $514,931,535 and capital is $427, 248,405.

Saying that the ruling regime has "merely thrown out a bunch of nice sounding words to deceive the people", Vital added that the budget contains a series of excuses for "a lack of progress".

"Over the last decade and more, the regime has moved from blaming the 2008 financial crisis, to blaming Tropical Storm Erica, then Hurricane Maria and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, these external shocks to our economy are real, but it is the regime's failure at economic management and governance in general that has led the country to a point of extreme low resilience," Vital said.

Vital accused the government of "misleading use of data" in its forecasts of GDP growth and Dominica's response to COVID-19.

"Indeed COVID-19 is sparking a massive global economic crisis. Many of our tourism dependent Caribbean neighbours will be greatly affected," Vital said. "Dominica will also be affected; but the Dominica economy was already on the brink of collapse; it just got worse given COVID-19 and the ensuing global economic crisis. Sadly, COVID-19 is an excuse that the ruling regime embraces".