Debate Ensues on Alleged Constitutional Breach
Did the Government breach the constitution by not presenting the budget before the start of the new financial year on April 1st?
That's the subject of widespread national discussion.
The matter was first raised by Former Premier Rueben Meade in a post on his personal Facebook page where he suggested that the Minister of Finance violated section 92 (1) of the Montserrat Constitution Order 2010.
That section states that the Minister of Finance shall cause to be prepared and laid before the Legislative Assembly before the beginning of each financial year estimates of revenues and expenditure of the Government for that financial year.
Attorney at Law Warren Cassell provided this legal opinion.
Another legal opinion shared with ZJB News also suggests that the government contravened section 92 (1) of the constitution.
The opinion states that a strict interpretation of the statute and in particular section 92 seems to suggest that there is a strict requirement for a budget to be laid before the house before the beginning of a new financial year, which is March 31st.
It further states that shall in this case has to be read and construed in its true context which is mandatory.
Even if it is construed to be directory, the opinion states, it does not alter the context of what is required and the time frame in which it is required to be done.
It therefore follows that the Minister is required before the 1st April to put what is termed the budget before the assembly.
This shall contain Revenues and Expenditure for the following year.
When asked about the consequences for failing to lay the budget before Parliament according to the time prescribed by the law, Attorney Warren Cassell says there are no clear penalties.
A Financial Analyst says the delay in the preparation of the 2018/2019 budget sends a bad signal to the potential investors and the regional and international financial community.
Financial Analyst Peter Queeley.
ZJB News reached out to the honourable Premier and Minister of Finance Donaldson Romeo for a comment.
Mr Romeo agreed to address the apparent breach of constitution on Wednesday.