Mr. Speaker, Sir. Thank you for allowing us to proceed with this second reading speech, which truly is the essence of the Budget. The previous Prime Minister, under whom I served, was never tired in reminding this Honourable Chamber that the real Budget was actually the Second Reading of the Appropriation Act, with a schedule being the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue. And I detailed this only because it is important for successive generations to understand that while we may have had events two and three months later called Budgets, they really did not deal sufficiently at the time of the passage of the Appropriation Act with that which needed to be financed.
Sir, since gaining our Independence and continuing into Republican status, every budgetary statement therefore has been a moment of interest for this country. A standard feature, some may even argue, of our democracy. Citizens at every level listen with keen interest, comment on and applaud the final statement and budgetary proposal as being relevant to their needs or indeed they dismiss it.
The general view is that each budget will bring new taxes and measures to raise additional revenues, contains some eases and giveaways for various sectors, as well as to present stimuli for growth, stability, jobs, the macroeconomic landscape, the deficit for foreign reserves, the level of unemployment or employment in the nation, depending on which side of the House you used to be sitting. Now, I suppose it is the level of employment, not because we have one voice in here but because truly unemployment has been reduced in this country.budget-highlights-2023
The deficit, the foreign reserves, the major foreign exchange earners and indeed the government revenue streams – all of these have been matters traditionally addressed in a Budget.
It is therefore the expectation of citizens and commentators alike that a Budget will seek to maintain and improve our physical infrastructure, underpin the finances necessary to give effect to the aspirations of our country. The extent to which it is regarded as a success or a failure is determined by how it is measured against these criteria.
Indeed, Sir, every Prime Minister and Minister of Finance or Economic Affairs has brought their style and their vision to the budgetary exercise, seeking to give effect to the general purposes which I have just outlined, but also reflecting the socio‑economic and the policy priorities of the Government of the day. Please, do not forget that the choices we make are the choices that are driven by our convictions with respect to which we go to the people of this nation for and ask to be elected.
I think it is true to say that all Budgets have been intended as instruments and levers of national development, perhaps with different success, but all are intended since 1966 to have been that. Those who deliver therefore these budgetary proposals have been acutely aware that their time at the helm is brief, but development, my friends, is a continuum which is the work and duty of every generation of Barbadians and the ones that come after us. It is about passing a baton.
This year, although it, Mr. Speaker, will have some elements of the traditional Budget, I want to take the opportunity as Prime Minister and leader of Government to have a conversation with the nation, with the people of this country, and at the end of the conversation, I want us to agree on what I have come to call Mission Transformation, to agree on the work necessary to ensure that when others look back they can say, “Mission Transformation, mission accomplished”.
To download the full transcript of the Budgetary Proposals and Financial Statement 2023, please click here.