The House of Representatives is scheduled to complete debate on Tuesday (January 26) on a motion from Minister of Finance and the Public Service, the Hon Audley Shaw, seeking approval of the Letter of Intent for a Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month.
The Government had expected to start and complete the debate Tuesday (January 19), when the House resumed after the Christmas break. But, after the Opposition sought a postponement until next Tuesday, the Government settled on a compromise of Thursday to close off.
Leader of Opposition Business, Derrick Kellier, noting the absence of Opposition spokesman on finance, Dr. Omar Davies, said that the issue was far-reaching and his side was not prepared for the debate.
“The Opposition will have to do its proper due diligence to prepare to respond appropriately, and we are saying that we will not be able to respond today or tomorrow,” Mr. Kellier said.
“We will not be able to respond in this debate on this very complex matter, until we have adequate time which we consider to be by the next sitting, Tuesday, next week,” he suggested. This triggered jeers from the Government MPs, who accused the Opposition of backing down from a debate.
Leader of Government Business, Andrew Holness, said that the debate had been highly anticipated and Prime Minister Golding had briefed an Opposition team on the details of the Letter of Intent from last week. He added that, as soon as the Letter of Intent and subsidiary documents were ready, they were made available to the Opposition.
“I don’t think we can accept any excuse regarding time for preparation.All our members have turned up for work today and we are ready to move ahead ,” Mr. Holness said, as Opposition MPs shouted disapproval.
Opposition MP, Dr. Peter Phillips, said that the Government was free to start the debate, but there was need for a rush to conclusion. He added that the agreement would require national sacrifice, and the last thing needed was for it to be subjected to “petty partisan behaviour.”
Mr. Holness denied the “petty partisan behaviour” charge and demanded a retraction from Dr. Phillips, but the Opposition MP said that he was not accusing the Government of “petty partisan behavior”, he was only warning against it.
Prime Minister Golding pointed out that, not only was this the first time that an IMF Letter of Intent was brought to Parliament to be debated prior to the signing of the agreement, but that he had met with the Leader of the Opposition and 10 of her MPs from last week Monday to discuss the details.
Mr. Golding said he could not understand how the Opposition held a “mock” Parliament meeting on January 5, at Gordon House, demanding a debate on the IMF agreement without any information, but were unprepared after being briefed by him and after receiving copies of the Letter of Intent.
The debate was, eventually, opened by Mr. Shaw. Other speakers Tuesday were: Minster of State for Water and Housing, Hon Everald Warmington; Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Hon Shahine Robinson; and Government MP, Clive Mullings.