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Speaker of the National Assembly rules in favour of the budget cuts – 16th Apr 2013

In what is being called a landmark decision, Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, today, ruled that the National Assembly does have the power to amend or cut the national budget. But with that ruling, he said the opposition was being handed the power to cut whimsically, but should use that power responsibly. Trotman said he would even intrude in the proceedings to ensure that the opposition is responsible in the way it cuts the budget.

The Speaker relied on several authorities in making his ruling after hearing lengthy arguments from both sides of the House Monday evening. But in the end, he ruled in favour of the Opposition, which argued that the constitution and the Parliamentary standing orders gives the House the power to cut the budget. The Government had argued that the Chief Justice last year ruled that the House cannot cut the budget, only, approve or disapprove. The Speaker however, ruled that there is no duty of the House to adopt rulings of the Court and that he is not convinced that court has a supervisory role over the National Assembly, and so he made his decision.

But the Speaker warned the opposition against cutting the budget simply for the sake of cutting and said he would intervene if needs be to ensure that does not happen.

The opposition accepted the ruling of the Speaker, and the Government indicated that while it has to consider the ruling further, it would stomach it for now.

Part of the Speaker’s ruling was based on the arguments of the Finance Minister himself, who last year, spoke on the powers of the opposition to amend the estimates. Those words of the Finance Minister were repeated by AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday.

The AFC has indicated its intention to cut the budget, and those cuts could eventually add up to 38 billion dollars. But the party said those cuts could be avoided if the Government comes clean when questioned on various spending. The largest coalition bloc APNU has also signalled its intention to cut the budget.

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