An ongoing opinion survey conducted by this writer for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) has found strong support for the 2023 budget that was unveiled in, debated by, and approved in Parliament. The budget was presented in mid-January and approved on February 2 after continuous daily (late hour) debates by all MPs and Opposition queries about planned Government (ministerial) spending. There was virtually no opposition to the budget among the public although almost everyone polled did express concerns about price increases and the inflationary impact of the proposed huge spending.
The budget, based on the latest opinion poll, found widespread approval among all sections of society including those who traditionally support the Opposition PNC (APNU) and who voted for AFC. The budget found disfavour with only 5% of some 550 respondents polled (representing the demographics of the population); 7% did not give an opinion on the budget. The high approval rating (88%) of the latest budget bolsters public confidence in the Government’s handling of the economy. The strong approval rating of the budget may well have the effect of boosting the popularity ratings of the Government, President, Prime Minister, Vice President, and other office holders and increasing the electoral prospects of the incumbent party (PPP) in Local Government Elections to be held later this year.
Every respondent in the poll expressed support for increases for pensioners, various child and adult grants, poverty alleviation, salaries for public servants, educational scholarships, part-time employment, healthcare, infrastructure, and other public works, among other programmes. They praised the planned investment in community projects and services, expansion of housing, tertiary educational access, developmental projects, and safety programmes. They are hopeful that the budget will lead to a more affordable and liveable environment, but they complain about neighbourhood security from criminal elements. Almost everyone said not enough is being done by the security forces to combat crime.
While praising the Government for all the positives in the budget and welcoming the increases in spending and the various handouts, half of the respondents say these may not be enough to raise the standard of living because of rising prices. Almost everyone complains about rising prices (inflation) on almost every item, triggering concerns about the potential inflationary impact of the humongous budget. They appeal to the Government to find means and ways to address inflation (rising prices) to shield those who are living at or below the poverty line and those on a fixed income who can barely make ends meet.
In spite of their concerns about inflation and poverty reduction, the public feels very good and optimistic about the future of the country. Overall, the public feels that the budget and planned policies are very good for the economy, describing it as progressive that will lead to stronger economic growth in the coming years.
(The poll interviewed 550 individuals – 40% Indians, 30% Africans, 19% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, 1% others – reflecting the demographic composition of the population. It was analysed at a 95% confidence Level. There is a margin of error of +/- 5%).