Monday, 25 February 2013 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Amidst the fracas of resistance, resignations, apologies, and promises of dismissal within the government forces in the Senate, Caribarena has learned that the Citizenship by Investment Bill can no longer be brought before the Upper House in this current session.
This means that it cannot be returned until after the next session of Parliament is called, which is essentially when the government would be preparing to deliver the budget for 2014, representing an automatic deficit in the budget.
The passage of the CIP represented over $32 M of the government’s budget for this year. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer pointed out in his address last Friday evening that the Senate was aware of the importance of the Bill’s passage, having itself passed the Budget, which included the programme.
Leader of the government business in the Senate Dr Errol Cort had originally withdrawn the bill from the Upper House on the grounds of technical issues when it was tabled late last year, so it never made it to a vote and committee.
The first time it was actually rejected was at the last sitting of the Senate, where it went to committee stage and was voted down.
According to sources versed in the parliamentary process, since the bill was rejected from the Senate, the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda dictates that it can only return in the next Session.
Prime Minister Spencer alluded to this in his message when he said his senators had joined forces with the opposition to “kill” the Bill.
“The bill is dead. They killed it. It cannot come back to the House of Representatives until the next session,” the source asserted.
Further, the government had the chance to guarantee passage of the Bill, had it acknowledged that it was a “money bill” instead of an ordinary investment package. Had this been done, and the Senate failed to accept it, the government would have been able to employ the option of sending the bill to the governor general’s office for assent.
Parliamentary Representative for St Mary’s North Molwyn Joseph had initially raised the question of the “money bill” during a debate in Parliament. But both the mover of the Bill – Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, and the speaker of the House - D Gisele Isaac had disagreed on the record.
“…When it comes to the money bill, the government has certain obligations that must be fulfilled and the constitution is basically saying that when elected representatives make a decision to pass a money bill, it cannot be stopped,” Molwyn Joseph explained on Sunday. “So the constitution allows for that onward passage to the governor general. This means that you do not need the Senate to agree to a money bill.”
He questioned why the mover of the Bill resisted the money bill claim, and said from his perspective, it was simply a matter of the government not wanting to face the public perception that Antigua and Barbuda had resorted to selling passports.
“They wanted it to look like an investment programme,” Joseph said. “I have always maintained as a member for St Mary’s North that the programme was more a revenue measure, rather than a measure to attract investment. That’s why they didn’t want the bill to be defined as a money bill.”
When money bills are debated in Parliament, this opens up the opportunity for MPs to look at those bills in the context of the wider operations of government, allowing them to raise any issue surrounding the bill without restriction on the type of debate that can be undertaken. WIth any other bill, as was the case with the CIP bill debate, MPs’ presentations are confined to the subject matter before them.
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