St. Lucia’s Parliamentary debate is about to begin, and the estimated expenditure for the financial year 2019/2020 is in the sum of one billion, five hundred and ninety-one million, five hundred and eighty-nine thousand dollars ($1,591,589,000.00). That is a great deal of money indeed, and many persons are waiting to see what projects are up for consideration, and how taxpayers’ money will be allocated.
The upcoming Budget presentation begs the question; do most people merely sit and watch this grand event of sorts unfold to see how the country’s capital will be spent and then complain about how better they, in some fantasy world, would run a government, or do they actively pay attention to the areas prioritized by government on an annual basis, in an effort to make sure that government, whichever party is in office, keeps its word?
As only a handful of people can participate in parliamentary debates, there are often questions revolving around whether or not decisions are in the interest of the people. No matter how much parliamentarians may appear concerned for the well-being of their country, people can’t resist speculating that they are in it for their personal gains as well. So… what can well-meaning citizens, who are not in parliament do to improve parliamentary oversight of public funds? What can we do to provide ourselves with the comfort of knowing that our parliamentarians are skilled to be more meticulous and more critical in the way that they challenge budget proposals? And ultimately, how can we be sure that the money is entirely being spent for the purposes intended and in ways beneficial to the majority of the populace?
It is impossible to be entirely sure, but we can be sure enough if we all take a genuine interest in the spending of public funds. We all pay taxes and are therefore are entitled to play a part in planning the budgets which determine our fates and our children’s fate in this country. This means that we have a right in determining the areas that should be paid attention to. We should exercise that right. It is our responsibility to ensure that the projects for which funds are allocated are executed properly and to see to it that the appropriate persons are involved. We can all do our part to see to it that transparency and accountability are practised on every level. We can supervise the actions of our governments by paying attention to the physical things which serve as evidence of their work, or the lack of it.
So… every man, woman and child can start today in taking an interest in not just matters of state, but matters of personal interest to all of us. We can all begin (those of us who have not before) to listen to these debates to get a sense of what is going on. It is true sometimes that the atmosphere and jargon of parliamentary debates are sometimes dreary, and perhaps it is designed this way to bore us to sleep so we miss the important bits. But this is not the time for sleeping. Stay awake and keep informed.