Although the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is not totally satisfied with the 2017 National Budget, they are happy that the Government did not announce cuts in jobs and wages.
In fact, convenor of JTUM Vincent Cabrera said Government considered Labour's Economic Alternative Plan, which they presented to Finance Minister Colm Imbert last month. He said they were taking cognisance of government's "social justice" tax on income earners of $1 million and up.
Also sitting well with JTUM was government's thrust for the business community to generate foreign exchange as opposed to straining an already burdened reserve.
As for the increase in the excise duty on tobacco and alcohol by 15 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, he doubts there would be much quarrel for moral reasons.
"I think that all in all, it was not a Budget that really came down on the people. A lot of people would have assumed that the minister may have come with cuts in employment levels and wages. He even talked about Saudi Arabia who did that as a response to their own problems recently. "If he had done that, I would have argued that you'd have to look at the level of Saudi's income because maybe they could afford the cuts with their earnings so high. I'm saying that you have to look at the minister's position in the context of the financial gap that exists in terms of the fall in oil revenue," Cabrera said.
He said the 15 per cent increase in diesel could lead to increased prices on most products but Government could argue that it was a necessary means of closing its financial gaps.
He said although they understood why Government would use the public/private partnership model to fund projects, the JTUM was cautious about it and would do its own research.
He said JTUM will have criticisms of the Budget, but must first analyse it and give a detailed response in the coming days.
In wrapping up his three-hour speech, Imbert said, "JTUM played a key role in the deliberations and demonstrated that they fully appreciated the critical importance of economic growth. They submitted a well-thought out and practical plan of action for stimulating key sectors of the economy, for achieving social equity and for diversifying away from dependence on oil, for which I especially thank them."