Budget 2018 has been read, and the parliamentary Opposition is unhappy with what it refers to as a “disastrous” budget. According to the party, its efforts to meaningfully contribute to the budget process were frustrated by the coalition Government.Responding to questions during a post budget press conference, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo noted that his party, with 23 years in governance, was willing to help the coalition with its ideas.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoAccording to Jagdeo, the party submitted a motion to the National Assembly with over 100 proposals that would have been both growth-enhancing and welfare-contributing. But despite the potential to create a framework of development and growth, his party’s motion never saw the light of day.“We have run Governments several successful years. We’ve been in these positions. We’ve dealt with these issues. We know what it takes to create frameworks. And unless you get the data, which we have been asking for… We requested the data to prepare our presentation to come to (their) meeting, he refused to give us. Clearly he didn’t want a productive engagement.”Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira corroborated Jagdeo’s contention that the party had submitted their motion since October. She said there was ample time to have the motion debated, but it was continuously stalled.Shadow budgetThe motion in question was submitted since October 9 by PPP Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali. Among other things, it had recommended the reversal of Value Added Tax on education, zero rated items, essential food items, electricity and water, as well as local construction materials and heavy duty machinery.The PPP’s motion also advocated the removal of VAT and other taxes from businesses earning less than $400,000 monthly; the removal of VAT from local products from the forestry sector, and the reduction of VAT to 12 per cent, one of the coalition’s promises on the campaign trail.There were other recommendations: for the directive to licensed currency dealers, banks and cambios to limit the spread between buying and selling rates of the US dollar to G$3 or less.The motion had sought the restoration of the annual one month tax free salary bonus for all members of the disciplined services, as well as the active negation with unions for increases in salaries and benefits for public servants (who have already been told they will receive no Christmas bonus) and teachers.Among the motions’ other proposals was to allow public servants, in particular medical professionals, to choose whether they would be on a pensionable fixed establishment or on contract. It would also seek to cap benefits and allowances to ministers, in keeping with the caps on former Presidents Benefits (Amendment) Act of 2015.In the arena of social services, it recommended the restoration of the Single Parent Assistance Programme, with vouchers to assist with costs for day-care.It would also restore public assistance on a permanent basis for caregivers of disabled persons and patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS).The PPP motion would have recommended the increase of old age pension to $25,000, from the coalition Government’s last increase of $19,000. The Government did increase the pension in Monday’s budget- by $500.It would also introduce evening and night child care centres for women on the night shift; as well as increase public assistance from $7,300 to $12,000; as well as recommend published statistics on the number of recipients by region every six months.In agriculture, the motion proposed to “Resume negotiations with the Government of Venezuela with the intention of selling rice and paddy to that country,” as well as to “Negotiate with neighbouring Brazil for increased quotas for the export of rice under the Partial Scope Agreement.”There were also recommendations to “commence discussions with all the commercial banks lending to the industry, to review terms and conditions of loans taking into account the prices farmers are getting in order to ‘soften’ repayment conditions; bring supplementary provisions to the National Assembly to provide financial support to farmers in order to aid in the purchase of seed paddy and fertilizers; implement an aggressive marketing strategy in order to enhance current prices and secure new lucrative markets.”The motion proposed a number of other decisive measures, including the repeal of the Broadcasting Act 2017; implementing the UN Working Group of Peoples of African descent prison recommendations; and auction unallocated oil blocks.
More than $57 million was spent on Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, which comes to about $230 per vote cast, and the campaigns aren’t done reporting their spending totals. If you’re looking for where it went, start with where a lot of it came from: Out of state.Download AudioMany of those millions never made it to Alaska. About a third of the total went to out of state companies for things like Internet ads, robocalls, mailers, advertising commissions and strategic advice.What remained in Alaska was paid largely to local TV stations. More than half of the $40 million spent by superPACs and other outside groups bought airtime on Alaska’s radio and TV stations. The candidates are done reporting their expenditures yet, but it looks like the majority of their money went to media expenditures as well.“The unreported story of the election cycle is how particularly electronic media gouges in the political cycle,” says Jim Lottsfeldt, who spent $10 million through the Put Alaska First superPAC to press for Sen. Begich’s re-election. He’s sipping piña coladas in Hawaii this week, but he’s still irked at what he had to pay to get his ads on air.While stations are required to give candidates their lowest rate, the same does not apply to other political advertisers. So, in the week before the election, the candidates paid just $450 for a 30-second spot on Anchorage TV news. Put Alaska First, along with its Republican counterparts, paid $7,500. Lottsfeldt says it’s not right.“TV and radio stations just start adding zeros to the cost they would charge any other customers. It’s ridiculous,” he said.Did you happen to watch the NFL game on the Sunday before the election? Put Alaska First paid Anchorage station KTUU a whopping $35,000 to run one 30-second spot during that game. He had the money (thanks largely to contributions from a PAC associated with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid) so he didn’t dwell on such costs. But Lottsfeldt says rates like that are a big reason campaign spending went so high.“So when people talk about wanting to get all the big money out of politics they should have an honest conversation with TV stations and radio stations,” he said.Elizabeth Wilner, who analyses campaign spending for the research firm Kantar Media, says the situation may be exacerbated in Alaska because it lacks competition in local cable. And because Anchorage has one especially dominant TV station.“Sometimes you’ll get political advertisers get better rates by playing different platforms off one another. You can’t do that in Alaska because you just don’t have that many options,” she said.KTUU General Manager Andy MacLeod says he doesn’t know yet exactly how much ad revenue the political season brought to his station.“There’s no question it’s a significant number,” he said. “Is it a windfall? Yes.”MacLeod says KTUU reaped most of the total airtime buy because it’s got by far the bigger audience, especially for local news. In fact, the station ran more Senate ads this cycle than any other station in the country. And MacLeod’s unapologetic about making money off political ads.“The political landscape is a revenue driver that happens every even year,” he said. ” Sometimes large, sometimes small.”To avoid pricing regular customers and candidates off the air, McLeod says KTUU essentially reserves a slice of its ad time for the non-candidate political advertisers. Then it’s an auction, and the well-funded political groups bid the rate higher and higher. MacLeod says the cost of that airtime can’t be compared to regular ads.“They really reflect the value of, in this case, a senate seat. They reflect the value of party control of the Senate,” he said.TVstations didn’t get all of the campaign money spent in-state. Some of it paid wages for local workers, for hotels and rental cars, and for newspaper advertising. But all told, the checks outside groups paid to Alaskans other than broadcast stations, came to about $3 million.