Opposition MP for West Kingstown and New Democratic Party (NDP) chairman Daniel Cummings in parliament on Wednesday questioned the move by the Dr Ralph Gonsalves administration to rush through parliament at Christmas time nearing the end of the year a number of bills that are of tremendous importance while the rest of the year was somewhat scant.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, however, said there was “good reason” for the end of year work schedule.

The Prime Ministed identified four bills, which were listed for Wednesday’s sitting but which he said had to be traversed to the scheduled sitting on December 27th, 2018. They are: Income Tax Amendment Bill, The International Business Companies and Consolidated Amendment Bill, The International Trust Amendment Bill, The International Tax Corporation Economic Substance Bill.

Prime Minister Dr .Ralph Gonsalves

“I want to explain the reasoning behind the work schedule, Mr Speaker. In relation to the Public Procurement Bill, and an aspect of the Income Tax Amendment Bill, we had given certain commitments to the World Bank, as par of our normal reform. We had done the Audit Act, we had done the Finance Administration Act, and this one should have been done earlier but the consultancy had come to an end. So, we are just keeping our committment. and this is good policy. And we want to have it in advance of the budget because there are some implications on aspects of the Tax Administration Amendment Bill,” said Prime Minister Gonsalves.

Dr Gonsalves said the government wants to complete the bill by the end of this year ahead of any assessment in February, next year, hence the work schedule close to the end of year which is the  Christmas season.

“The FSA, the Attorney General’s chambers, the Ministry of Finance, the office of the Prime Minister, we’ve been working overtime on them – long nights and long days. And all of that has exacerbated the difficulty of shaking off the flu as swiftly as I had hoped.

“So, that’s where we are in respect of the schedule” Dr Gonsalves told parliament.

West Kingstown MP Cummings, while making his contribution to the debate on the Mt Wynne/Peters Hope Hotel Project Loan Authorization Bill, made reference to the work schedule at the very close end of the year and in the height of the Christmas season.

“At 10.46 on the 19th of December … I rise on the 19th of December, Mr Speaker, with a few days left before Christmas, painfully to address this parliament on the possible expenditure of over 135 million EC dollars,” Cummings said.

“And I mentioned the date and the time, Mr. Speaker because one wonders why is it that as we come to the end of the year parliament has been meeting far more frequently than it had for virtually the rest of the entire year. And every time we are suspending and suspending so that as a Member of Parliament, I am unable to bring a question to the honourable house for 3-4 successive meetings. And I’m wondering if this is not a deliberate ploy to stifle our democracy,” the West Kingstown MP said.

Cummings said that in this parliament year, outside of the first meeting for the purpose of the budget by several days, if his memory served him right, there have been only 3 substantive meetings of the House in the year. 

“I sat on a select committee to deal with a bill – a Child Justice bill, Mr. Speaker. In my humble opinion, a very needed piece of legislation. Several meetings of the select committee took place. This bill has been shunted aside. We have had so many opportunities to come here and discuss it. We put it off, and when we come back we find priorities for, in my mind, all kind of frivolous matters. I cannot think of anything of substance that occupied the parliamentary legislative agenda this year,” Cummings stated.