Home Letters The key is to effectively manage budgetary allocations
The national budget is pegged at $383.1billion dollars, which as an amount is difficult to conceive in real terms. The late President Ronald Reagan, a skilful communicator, described one of his budgeted amounts by stating that if you were to stack US$100 together, it would fill the entire Empire State Building. A similar vivid imagery of our $383.1B budget would be if you were to stack $5,000 notes together, it would probably fill our National Stadium at Providence up to roof level about four times. That is a lot of money; hence we have to ensure that it is effectively managed in a sustainable, transparent and cost-effective manner.
Among the things we have to ensure are the following: –
1. The preparation and awarding of bids for all central and local Government tenders are in accordance with the regulations of the National Procurement and Tender Administration. We should avoid sole-sourcing and secret tenders; they raise a lot of unsavory questions.
2. Every drain that is dug, every road that is built, must be done to approved standards. If the canal is to be dug to the depth of 12 feet, that does not translate to 10 or 9 feet.
If the asphaltic layer for the road is specified at six inches, then it should be no less. For too long we have been tolerating substandard works, which deteriorate quickly and have to be redone at taxpayers’ expense.
3. We have to ensure proper inventory management of medical drugs and fuel procured by the budgetary funds. Year after year, we continue to receive audited reports of wasted and expired drugs costing billions of dollars. This is a terrible tragedy, given that some of our people die because of a lack of drugs.
With regard to fuel used for the drainage and irrigation projects, it appears the phenomenon of the Black Hole operates, where copious amounts of diesel just disappear without any trace. We have to zealously guard against this extreme wastage.
4. The various revenue and capital works identified for each community must have majority local content. If a drain is to dug, a school or community centre to be built, roads or streets are to be paved, people from that community must be employed to carry out the work. This is what empowers individuals and retains them in their communities.
5. We have to curb bureaucratic extravagances. It is almost comical to see the length of the security details for our Government officials in the absence of any real or perceived threats. For a people with three quarters of a million in population, our security details outclass developed countries with over four hundred million people, as well as those Afghan warlords. It is a terrible waste. I have seen vehicles of Government officials running for hours while they are in a conference, just to keep it cool when they emerge. All the unnecessary lunches, fabricated allowances, irrelevant meetings are milking our resources. The Government bureaucracy is bloated and needs to be trimmed of its fat.
The budget is fairly balanced, and has something for all the various sections of our society, but until and unless we manage our monies effectively, real development will always be elusive, and we will continue to have bigger and bigger budgets to no avail.