Newfoundland and Labrador’ s Budget Issues

The credit rating agencies are taking a bit of a beating as people try and absolve the Governments of Newfoundland of their solemn responsibilities. It’s said by some that the Government’ s recent actions of restraint  even regarding some really bizarre moves are all credit rating inspired.

Now I am no fan of the credit rating firms . And some of their actions or lack of action during the recent financial crisis leaves one dumbfounded in some instances.

But to imply that the library closures action ,for example , were necessary because of credit rating agency concern is more than a stretch , it is plain wrong. If anything , my experience of 10 years    when we faced serious if not grave circumstances , all the  way from essential service legislation to a multi year series of wage restraint ending in zero , zero , leads me to insist that what the ratings agencies and the financial markets want to see is ‘enlightened restraint.’ That is they are interested in a number of years’ plan . And long term ideas , and more than not , would likely see reducing library presence as counter productive ; a less read , informed citizenry rather than a more well read , responsible people. The agencies are not stupid.

As other commentators have clearly articulated the spending side of the ledger must be a priority .

Three ideas:

First

The multi billion dollar Muskrat Project must be addressed fully, completely in every way right now. This is now a hugh credibility issue with the financial markets.  Uncertainity means everything in the market place . Right now the data is clear that the Government and NALCOR are mismanaging this project . So quick effective action to regain credibility is critical . The Stan Marshall appointment was good but the follow up with the interim board partly diluted this . Immediate action.

Without credibility on this all the rest becomes questionable.

Second

The public service is too large , has grown too much in the last few years. Must be reduced . Say a reduction of 10 % over three years. A clear process to make this happen

Third

Capital  Spending Capped for 5 years.

Nimble spending on only the most critical areas . Projects like the Corner Brook hospital must be reviewed to get the capital cost down . This would send  a positive signal . I know it’s a different time but I remember projects in my time like the School for the Deaf , Grenfell Campus where the costs came in very high. But we demanded that the consultants etc relook  at the numbers ( remember consultants get a percentage) . A culture of a Chevy not a Cadillac must prevail.  You would be surprised that if this came from the top consistently what a difference this would make on all projects. The Come By Chance Refinery,  I was told , would cost many tens of millions( some so called experts had it over $100 million)  to get up and running in the nineteen eighties. It cost less than $20 million . The pier was to cost over $20 million. Got rebuilt for $5 million. In case some forget or are too young , the project was done with 100% private money.

Smaller stuff is a concern .

For example, student assistance at Memorial which allows out of Province Canadian students to pay less  than at home is not sensible . In Nova Scotia’s case , Muskrat Power cheaper there than in our Province should be enough , don’t you think?

And rather than a silly fee on all , does anyone remember the Newfoundland Savings Bonds that were introduced in the late eighties . Abruptly cancelled. I think in its last year $20 million was collected. How much would that be today?

Are there any savings in some services being privatized? If that could be clearly demonstrated without a reduction in quality should it not be tried ?

Would you believe that the salt and sand sheds of the department of highways were fenced and security reduced , savings realized , theft reduced . I remember reporting same to the House of Assembly as a result of an irate opposition member lambasting the Government for the program . With these facts the opposition and the press magically —–moved on to other things.

 

 

 

 

 

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