The Tues­day Night House Mir­a­cle!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Star Re­porter

It was push­ing past 11pm on Tues­day when a very tired House of As­sem­bly, af­ter a day of heavy de­bate, the usual hurl­ing of in­sults, politi­cians ac­cus­ing one another of ev­ery sin un­der the sun, and a his­to­ry­mak­ing Speaker of the House heard a pro­posed Bill from Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet, named The Public Fi­nance Man­age­ment Bill, that sought to ad­dress gaps in the Fi­nance (Ad­min­is­tra­tion) Act and achieve com­pli­ance with the stan­dards set by the IMF, OECD and Public Ex­pen­di­ture and Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity (PEFA).

In his in­tro­duc­tion the PM said: “Most im­por­tantly, it is the hope that in­cor­po­rat­ing these fun­da­men­tals, which have now be­come widely ac­cepted as ba­sic PFM re­quire­ments, al­lows the Depart­ment of Fi­nance the nec­es­sary lat­i­tude to in­sti­tute pro­ce­dures aimed at achiev­ing fis­cal dis­ci­pline which have the back­ing of the law. The PFM laws im­pose con­straints on un­de­sir­able fis­cal be­hav­iour in re­spect of public money, and they can pro­mote re­forms by man­dat­ing cer­tain fis­cal ac­tions. The PFM laws also seek to im­prove trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of the govern­ment’s fi­nan­cial man­age­ment.”

Af­ter the dis­turb­ing dis­plays that had tran­spired ear­lier in the day in­volv­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of East and South Cas­tries and Anse la Raye-Ca­naries, not to men­tion the ap­par­ent in­abil­ity of the Speaker to rein in of­fend­ing MPs, the last thing any­one ex­pected was har­mony. How­ever, as Vieux Fort South MP Kenny An­thony be­gan to lay out some points as to why he ob­jected to the pass­ing of the Bill, Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet cut him short. But only to say they were on the oc­ca­sion both singing from the same sheet.

Said Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet: “I con­cur with the Mem­ber from Vieux Fort South. This is a very, very im­por­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion. It is late [af­ter 11 pm] and given that there are so many po­ten­tial con­tentious points I think it is worth­while for us to sus­pend the con­tin­u­a­tion of this mat­ter. I would love to get some points from the Hon­ourable Mem­ber so I can make this avail­able to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral in the hope that we can work some­thing out. Or have this go to com­mit­tee stage and try to have a dis­cus­sion.”

Chas­tanet added: “There is no way my govern­ment is at­tempt­ing to ram this down the throats of any­body and I agree with him whole­heart­edly that this is a very, very im­por­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion. I thought the fact that it had been out there meant that we would have had a bet­ter dis­cus­sion on it; that is my mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of it and I am very grate­ful to him for bring­ing it up and, with his con­sent, I would like to sug­gest that we sus­pend the de­bate on this and put it at a time when we can spend more time on it and maybe have it as a sin­gu­lar item in a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion be­cause, as he says, it is ex­tremely im­por­tant.”

The Mem­ber for Vieux Fort South wel­comed the Prime Min­is­ter’s words and latched on to the sug­ges­tion that a com­mit­tee com­pris­ing the op­po­si­tion and the govern­ment, as well as tech­nocrats from the var­i­ous min­istries, be set up to re­view the Bill.

In his own turn Kenny An­thony said: “Madam Speaker, I wel­come the sug­ges­tion that the sit­ting be sus­pended to re­view this Bill but I just want to latch on to a sug­ges­tion by the Hon­ourable Mem­ber. I know that other col­leagues of mine have is­sues with the leg­is­la­tion. I think it is very im­por­tant, as you rightly said, that there be con­sen­sus on both sides be­cause this is a very se­ri­ous piece of leg­is­la­tion with ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions. If I may, I want to sug­gest that we take the op­por­tu­nity, as we did with the Public Pro­cure­ment Bill: let us put a com­mit­tee; three on the govern­ment side, two on the op­po­si­tion side, with the tech­nocrats from the min­istry, and in the course of the next few days share our per­spec­tives and come back and com­plete the de­bate.”

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet (left) and for­mer leader of the Op­po­si­tion, Dr Kenny An­thony.

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