Chief Justice Ian Chang in his preliminary ruling today in the opposition 2012 budget cuts case concluded with the government's position that it was a violation of the constitution. He also determined that the Ethnic Relations Commission could have its GUY$99.4 million restored because it is a constitutional body that draws directly on the Consolidated Fund.
“In order to enable that constitutional entity and its secretariat to perform its constitutional functions, the court orders the Ministry of Finance to allow all expenditures necessary from time to time for the maintenance of that entity and for the performance of its constitutional function to be charged directly from the Consolidated Fund (as mandated by the Constitution) until the National Assembly determines a lump sum by way of a subvention to meet such expenditure,” he said.
The Chief Justice said the High Court would not order any relief for the budget cuts for those budget agencies because that is the Finance Minister’s responsibility. “Even if those cuts and reductions were constitutional but have resulted in insufficiency, it is the minister and not the Court in whose hands remedial action lies. The court cannot usurp the constitutional functions of the executive minister just as the National Assembly cannot usurp the constitutional function of the executive minister,” said Chang. The Judge emphasised that the Finance Minister’s is constitutionally empowered to make estimates of revenue and expenditure. If per chance, the National Assembly were to disapprove of the budget, it is the minister who must re-craft his estimates and return them to the Assembly. At the same time, the judgement states that the National Assembly does not enjoy the constitutional right to reduce the budget and hardly one to disapprove of the budget. “Thus is so because it is inconceivable that the National Assembly as a national institution would cripple executive governance by non-approval of any estimates of expenditure…Final non-approval of the estimates of expenditure by the National Assembly does not appear to be an option contemplated by the Constitution.,”