Senators bothered by lack of transparency in government’s need to increase borrowing limit

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Senators bothered by lack of transparency in government’s need to increase borrowing limit

Opposition Senator Wade Mark has condemned the Government for wanting to increase the borrowing limit from $65B to $75B.

He has questioned the Finance Minister’s justification for the additional funds.

Speaking in the Upper House on Tuesday, Mark said the lack of transparency in stating the types of programmes and projects the money will be used for, was something he could not support.

Mark added this was the fourth time in eight and a half years that the Government proposed an increase in the borrowing ceiling, yet it could not tell citizens how the additional money will be spent.

Mark said, “Under no circumstances, the alternative government, the incoming government could ever support that motion that is before us. It is reckless. It is irresponsible. It is dangerous. It is troubling. It is disturbing for us to support that.

He further asked: “What are you using it for? I don’t want our money to be used to establish death squads. $300M in the last budget was used as a supplementation to bump up the SSA (Strategic Services Agency). Now we are hearing the SSA has a death squad, a mongoose gang, a ton ton macoute (a Haitian paramilitary and secret police force) and they are killing people in the country. So, that is what you’re asking me to approve? To give the SSA more money to kill more people.”

Independent Senator Sunity Maharaj said requesting an additional $10B was a huge ask of the public’s purse.

In addition to failing to be transparent about how the money will be spent, she said Government also failed to explain how the money will be repaid.

She said the importance of knowing if the money would be allocated to development spending raised concerns since the country imported many items, so choosing to invest in the domestic market did not necessarily equate to profit circulating locally.  

Maharaj said, “The minister failed to meet the standard for public transparency on a very important issue … It’s a huge ask of the public’s purse and therefore I think at the very least, the public deserves the respect he would give to any investor, any borrower, anywhere in the world. We need details. We need clarity. We need to be convinced that money borrowed under the Development Loans Act is truly about development.

“This is not vex money that you put aside. You have a few dollars in your pocket and you say, ‘In case something goes wrong, I can jump in my taxi and go home.’ This is $10B that is going to be on the books for us, for every tax-paying citizen in this country and for your children, and therefore we deserve the respect … We deserve not to be snowed over with easy talk. This is the country’s business and it is the public’s money, so for those reasons, I cannot support this. It will pass, no doubt, but that will have to be my position,” she added.

Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ayhe noted the importance of living within one’s means, but said there are times when Government should be trusted if it means it will benefit citizens.  

She said, “We realise that this is necessary. The Government is not saying, ‘We need all this money now.’ But, what the Government is saying ‘We want to have the facility that when we need it, we don’t have to come back to the Parliament every day.’ So, we understand the position and there are times when we feel like we have to trust the word of the Government, but yet we must always be vigilant and hold the Government to account when we see things going awry.”      

Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards said, it was very important for Government to identify if the additional funds will be used to continue past projects or new projects.