“MINI-BUDGET” NEEDED; TIME TO DISMANTLE NALCOR

The Province needs a “Mini-Budget”.  The Government should commit to dismantling
Nalcor, too.

Presently, the House of
Assembly is engaged in a ridiculous debate over minimal savings on downsizing
the Legislature. The Government has created a diversion; large, financially
worthy decisions are delayed. It should to be talking about public policy
issues and measures that will seriously downsize government expenditures; it
dwells on an amount equal to a rounding error in the context of the size of the
deficit, especially next year’s.

A crisis looms; the important issues can’t make it to the top of the public agenda.


Politicians
don’t get that the role of government, in a democratic, free enterprise economy, can and should be limited. Its chief role includes programs and
services. Governments should be preoccupied with figuring out how they can be delivered cheaper and better. They should be concerned about laws and regulations for the well-being of society.  They should be worried about sound management
practices, good governance and about providing for the future. 

Experience
has shown that, while these are roles in which bureaucrats are suited, they are not good at running businesses.

The “international experts” at Nalcor have been permitted to
use the public purse as a roulette table; to place a large bet on the public treasury; doing, at Muskrat Falls, what one local icon of industry said “he wouldn’t touch with a
barge pole”.

Muskrat enlarges the fear the well being of thousands of people will be affected if the current financial crises is poorly handled.

The
Government should be working on an interim budget, right now. It should bring in a “Mini Budget”;
one that provides for immediate action, including specific cuts to expenditures. The imprecise declaration it made, late last year, about freezing “discretionary expenditures” won’t suffice. Firm decisions, now, might lessen the pain of delayed
decisions; any deferral will surely shock the economy and make matters worse. 

The
government has stated it wants to delay the Spring budget, too, and wait until the
federal government has brought down its budget, now delayed until April. That is a mistake; decision time is here. A new statement on the deteriorating condition of revenues is also required.

Oil
prices have fallen further since the Finance Minister released the “Budget
Update” on December 16th, when the forecast deficit was estimated at $916 million. The deficit likely exceeds a $1 billion, now.  In addition, the fall in oil impacted
only the latter six months of the current fiscal year.  The new Spring budget will be based upon a
full fiscal year at the lower oil price.

At
$30 million for each dollar oil has dropped, the 2015-16 budget is short $1.65
billion. That figure does not include loss of mineral royalties, the prices of
other commodities having moved in oil’s southerly direction.  

Remember,
too, that the budget deficit this year would have been $538 million even if the
forecast $105 price for oil, for the full year, had been on target. Then, there
is the annual inflation rate including public sector wage increases, already
contracted.  All of those issues add to
oil’s shortfall which place the government’s problem well in excess of $2
billion next year.



The need for a mini-Budget is obvious.
Lower oil prices and out-of-control public spending have compounded the problem of cost overruns and other issues at Muskrat Falls. 

Now
that the oil bubble has burst, confirming Williams’ energy warehouse idea was based upon a political architecture of inflated egos and false expectations, we have to kill the policy and, where we can, its
offspring. Nalcor must be stopped from making new commitments. It must be dismantled; carefully but unmistakably. 

The
process will be neither easy, or fast, nor cheap.  Martin has already made references to “sunk
cost”. Now, the government should make immediate decisions to ensure we
experience as little further capital destruction. 

Muskrat
Falls is a black hole that will compete with hospitals and schools.
We may not be able to stop it now; I don’t know. I do know, given the severity
of our Budget crises, a Crown Corporation which has advanced that project
through a sanction process history will judge as reckless, must be permanently stopped from compounding the harm it has has already conjured.

Of
course, the alternative is the government will
continue to evade responsibility and not make any important decisions at all.  

The
dismantling of Nalcor will require public discussion.  Monday’s Post will attempt to first give the issue
some further context; a second Post will offer more specific proposals.

Your
own views are welcomed, as always.
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

GROUP SEEKS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CABOT MARTIN RESEARCH AWARD

Cabot Martin’s sudden passing, in September, has stirred his friends, colleagues, and others familiar with his work, to honor him and encourage continued work in applied research and public policy development.

GILBERT BENNETT AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF CRONYISM

$1 million is not bad farewell for a fellow whose work performance represents one of the principal reasons for a twenty million dollar Public Inquiry, and who failed so badly in his job so badly that NL Hydro is still trying to define the mess that he (and others) has left behind.

THE “ODE”: SHORT CUT TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS LANDS MEMORIAL IN HOT WATER

As much as anything else, it is also a simple love song to a people and to their place. It is deficient in the language of inclusion, yes, sexist by the standards of today, too, but only those who misunderstanding the language of respect ascribe to it offense whether to aboriginal, to gender, or to religious belief.