Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman on Tuesday ruled that the opposition could amend the budget.
Handing down his ruling the Speaker said though it was not expressly stated in the constitution it would be absurd to think the people’s representatives could not amend the budget.
“It has been suggested in this House that because the word amendment is not included in the constitution’s language that the National Assembly cannot amend the estimates. This in my humble opinion is quite a quantum leap to take. If taken to its logical conclusion its manifest absurdity is imediately evident,” the Speaker stated.
He added that the constitution in his view allowed the opposition to only reduce the estimates and not increase them. An increase could only be made on the proposal from a minister. Trotman stated that the options before the government were to either accept the budget as amended as was done last year or withdraw the entire estimates which would signal a lack of confidence in the government.
“It is for the government to make a calculated political decision as whether it can live with the amended estimates or not; if it cannot then the decision is obvious,” Trotman stated. If the government rejects the amendment it would send the nation back to the polls in three months time.
The AFC has proposed some $35.5B in cuts from the $208.8B estimates brought by the government. Trotman also urged that the power to amend should not be used to settle scores since that would be “highly unconstitutional.”
In brief reactions to the ruling the Leader of the Opposition David Granger and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan welcomed the decision while Leader of the House Prime Minister Samuel Hinds stated that the government would abide by it.