Finance Minister Larry Howai says preparations for the 2013/2014 National Budget will not be affected if Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar decides to heed the call of some of her party’s councillors and postpone local government elections due by October 26.
But Howai said yesterday there could be a possible impact on the reading “of the next Budget”.
Howai and Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj spoke on the matter in response to questions from TV6 News after the launch of the Caroni Green Initiative Harvest Launch Programme at Orange Valley yesterday.
The nation’s 14 municipal corporations receive funding from the Budgetary allocation for the Ministry of local government.
As budgetary preparations are now underway, Howai said, “We are proceeding as planned; we have everything being put in place. In fact, when I leave here I have another meeting and then I get back up to the office for us to deal with a number of issues relating to the Budget.”
He said, however, “Perhaps the only thing really that affects it is when we read the next Budget because we want to make sure that by the time we get back to account to the people at the next Budget we have completed all the things we said we were going to do in the prior Budget.”
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar told reporters after the UNC’s National Executive Council (Natex) and Parliamentary Arm meetings on Wednesday night that UNC councillors suggested a delay in the local government elections for various reasons.
Persad-Bissessar said, however, no decision has been taken on the matter.
Maharaj said Government’s programmes, such as the Caroni Green Initiative, “are in train and they are progressing along regardless of the decision one way or the other”.
Questions have arisen as to whether a delay in the local government elections is legally possible since the terms of the Municipal Corporations have ended.
“We can extend the life of Local Government by going to Parliament and extend via the Act through voting on it,” Minister in the Ministry of the Environment and UNC election officer Ramona Ramdial told TV6 News.
The Parliament’s website shows that during San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning’s tenure as Prime Minister, the local government elections were postponed in 2006, 2007 and 2008 by extensions granted to the Municipal Corporations’ terms before they came to an end.
Persad-Bissessar said UNC councillors want the delay now due to Constitutional and local government reform.
Another argument raised for the delay, the Prime Minister said, was President Anthony Carmona’s recommendation during the ceremonial opening on the Parliament on August 2 for a referendum on the CCJ.
Carmona said then: “The upcoming local government elections, in two months’ time, afford an ideal opportunity for doing this.”
Asked, therefore, whether in light of Carmona’s suggestion if the local government elections should be postponed, Ramdial said, “As I said before we are weighing our options both as a political party and as a government. As you know we are a parternship we have multiple political parties to consolidate the decision making process and therefore we are in that process.”
Ramdial also said the UNC’s Natex “intends to meet every week” to discuss the matter.