Premier Dr D Orlando Smith last evening tried to defend his government’s handling of the territory’s financial affairs, adding that a motion of no confidence against him continuing as Minister of Finance is mere political grandstanding wrapped in falsehoods and a list of tired complaints.
He added that the motion, which was moved by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie, unfairly impugned members of his government.
Fahie moved the motion in the House of Assembly yesterday in an effort to have Premier Smith removed from the post of Minister of Finance on the basis of alleged incompetence. But the motion failed because no other lawmaker volunteered to even second it.
Premier Smith, in one of his lengthiest statements outside the annual budgets, referred to the Opposition leader’s concerns as diatribe, which means a forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone.
“As I read the words of the motion presented before the House of Assembly, I do not see just a list of tired complaints that have been before this House many times.”
“I see not just a list of falsehoods – although there are surely plenty of those. And I see not just a plain act of political grandstanding – although there is surely an element of that here, too. In fact it would seem that the Leader of the Opposition believes that the more he repeats the same diatribe, the more likely it will be believed,” Premier Smith said.
He stated that he has broken his silence about the motion in order to – among other things – defend his personal integrity and his service as finance minister.
“I speak for more than just protecting the honour and good name of the members of my government – all of whom have been unfairly impugned in the motion… I see the honourable member calling into question my integrity and my competence as Minister of Finance, and more indirectly this government’s commitment to carrying out the mandate of the people of this territory,” the premier continued.
“I am a patient man. I have been in public life long enough to know that, when one steps into the arena, one must expect that from time to time one will have to suffer attacks and insults and indignities. That comes with the job. Indeed, I have been asked why I had not responded [to the Opposition leader]. The truth is that I was waiting to do so in the House where the motion has been moved. I saw no need to trade barbs and insults with my colleague. It’s never been my style, and I am not about to start now.”
Premier Smith further said he knows the people of the BVI are a ‘discerning people’ who recognise opportunism when they see it. “I do not fault the Honourable Member (Fahie) for launching this broadside against Government – albeit indirectly. It is his job to hold us accountable and I do not mind the challenge.”
‘House is in order’
Premier Smith, in the meantime, tried to counteract each of the several reasons the Opposition leader had given for moving the motion of no confidence against him continuing to serve as Minister of Finance.
In the final analysis, the premier suggested that he has been doing a good job as finance minister – a job he seems to think is being reflected in the economy.
“The real question is whether the territory’s fiscal house is in order. That is not something that an audit alone tells you. To assess that bigger picture of our fiscal situation, one needs to look for other evidence – and that evidence is ample,” he asserted.
Premier Smith noted that the government of the United Kingdom has reviewed and approved his government’s Medium Term Fiscal Plan. “That only happens when your house is in order,” he said.
He also claimed that the territory’s debt has stayed low years on end. “That only happens when your house is in order,” the premier added.
He further stated that independent rating agencies have given the BVI a sound credit rating. “That only happens when your house is in order.”
Premier Smith continued: “Our reserve fund is full to the tune of $60 million. That only happens when your house is in order. And year, after year, after year we are delivering measurable economic growth. And that only happens when your house is in order.”
He also claimed that his administration does not make certain financial decisions without involving the House of Assembly.
“This government only spends money on the basis of budgets that the House of Assembly sees and approves. This government only borrows money on the basis of plans that the House of Assembly sees and approves,” the premier continued.
“This government only embarks upon major development projects on the basis of funding sources that the House of Assembly sees and approves. This government’s vision is rooted in sound management of the public’s money, and we have delivered on that vision. Period!”
Premier Smith went on to state that the Opposition leader would be misleading the territory if he claims that the current government has not been managing the public’s money prudently.
“It is false and misleading for the honourable member to suggest otherwise, and, frankly, irresponsible to suggest that this government should hit the pause button on crucial spending until the auditors do their work. The world does not stand still for audits. Neither does this government,” Premier Smith further said.
To read the premier’s FULL response to the motion of no-confidence, please click HERE
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