$23.3 billion approved without a single question

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The Opposition was denied time to scrutinise $23.3 billion from the 2018 National Budget and as a result these estimates were approved by a vote from the government benches this morning.

Once the two hours had expired for consideration of the estimates under the Ministry of the Presidency on Monday, December 11, the Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, bulked all the Capital Expenditure for that Ministry, totalling $1.8 billion, and put it to a vote.

It was when Parliamentarian Juan Edghill was told this that he protested and defied the Speaker, who was then acting as chairman of the Committee of Supply which examines the estimate before a vote in the House. Mr Edgehill was told to take his seat and where he refused, Dr Scotland ordered him to leave the House. Today, Tuesday, 12 December 2017, the Speaker suspended Edgehill from the Chambers for the rest of the week and he was arrested on the road outside Public Buildings.

Once the Committee of Supply resumed on Tuesday morning, Dr Scotland decided to bulk all of the estimates that were planned for Monday together and put it for a vote without any question.

Those estimates were for the Prime Minister $839 million; Ministry of Agriculture $16.8 billion; Ministry of Business $2.1 billion and the Ministry of Natural Resources $1.8 billion.

The Opposition walked out of the House when the Speaker decided to put the vote; with the government side alone left in the House, the vote was put and the estimates were approved.

On Monday morning, under the Ministry of the Presidency, $7.6 billion under Current Expenditure was approved after questions by the Opposition.

Under this heading, spending for several departments are covered, namely Policy Development and Administration, Defence and National Security, Public Service Management, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Social Cohesion, Environmental Management and Compliance, and Cultural Preservation & Conservation.

The current budget for these agencies, which takes up payments for salaries, rentals, utilities, amounted to $7.6 billion.

All of this was not voted against by the Opposition even though several questions were left unanswered by the government, including $68 million in subsidy to an organisation the Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton, had no clue about; he, however, undertook to provide the information.

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