Friday, February 22, 2013

From the files of liquor control

A weekend oddity from the files of the British Columbia government.

On the night before the night before Christmas in 2011, a tipsy hit-and-run driver struck the parked government vehicle of a B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch inspector. 

Damage was estimated at $10,000 to the 2005 green Ford Escape SUV, which was parked legally. A white vehicle driven by a male struck the parked government vehicle around 11:18 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2011. 

In the course of his duties, liquor inspector Jeff Hum must have encountered dozens of people who have been serving or consuming liquor contrary to the good principles of moderation (and the law, too). But he never expected this to happen.

Hum's General Incident and Loss Report said:
“A truck headed northbound on (censored) hit the rear driver's side of the vehicle causing extensive damage, and the vehicle then fled the scene. Witnesses heard the accident and upon going out to see what had happened noted the same vehicle come back to view the damage it had caused. A license plate was obtained and police were notified off the hit and run accident. Police located the vehicle and the driver some time later and the suspect was interviewed and admitted to the accident. Police have charged the suspect with fail to remain at the scene of an accident as well as drive without due care and attention."
The hit and run driver may never have been found, had he not returned to the scene of the crime. 
Kamloops RCMP S. Sgt. Grant Learned said the driver was interviewed approximately two hours after the collision. 

“There were indicators of alcohol consumption on the part of the driver at the time of police contact and interview.  However, there was no evidence to support a charge of Impaired Driving at the time of the collision.”

Memorable, Interesting Liberal Follies

What were Premier Christy Clark and her staff thinking when she agreed to do a live phone interview on Courtenay, B.C.'s 98.9 JetFM with Justin "Drex" Wilcomes on Dec. 19, 2012? Were they thinking?

FM rock radio is perhaps the last bastion of male-dominated, politically incorrect programming, where fart jokes and breast-size banter are still alive and well. (Drex advised me, via Twitter, that he has never made such jokes.) If the format wasn't so popular with listeners, there would be no advertisers, and the boring Celine Dion and Phil Collins would monopolize every FM frequency... but I digress. Politicians seem to shy away from the FM rock format, but not Clark, who had previously appeared on 99.3 the Fox in Vancouver.

Clark's interview was famous for the clip that went like this:
Drex: "Andrew in Comox wants to know what it's like being a MILF?"
Clark: "Ha! Y'know, I take that as a compliment."
Drex: "Oh good."
Clark: "Y'know, it's one of those things, better MILF than a cougar, I think."
Drex: "That is true."
Clark: "Tell him thank-you very much, I appreciate it."
It even made Britain's Daily Mail (where the province was misspelled "British Colombia" on first reference).

If you need to know what MILF means, here's the clip from American Pie.

Clark has a chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, operations manager, press secretary, director of communications, director of issues management and director of policy (all very-well remunerated), but no documents were released to indicate any interview pre-planning happened. Handlers for government politicians are normally very fussy about times and venues for interviews. Ratings, demographics and the message the politician wants to convey are usually the prime considerations before putting a politician in front of a microphone or camera for a one-on-one, live or recorded.

Government Communications and Public Engagement told me it had no records. The Office of the Premier provided 15 pages of emails and a one-page "private and confidential" letter to Clark from Margot Micallef, the president of Jet FM's parent, Vista Radio, which operates almost three-dozen stations around rural B.C., including Prince George.

Micallef's Jan. 7, 2013 letter came three days before it became publicly known that Drex was sacked. It is hard to tell from the few lines of Micallef's letter that weren't censored whether it is an apology. Micallef did not respond to my interview request.

Aussie Drex landed on his feet rather quickly with 99.3 the Fox on the overnight and weekend shifts.

Emails from citizens to the Premier's office about the MILF incident were mixed. Here are excerpts:
  • "I apologize on behalf of our local radio host for handling that question so poorly. Women in politics do not deserve such base treatment, right?" 
  • "What filth you are, a disgrace to every woman, everywhere. I didn’t think there was a politician with less class than (name censored) but lady(?) you take the cake." 
  • "You should have immediately made it clear that the question was inappropriate. No one, man or woman, should ask such a question and you should have made that clear and refused to answer. Instead, you made things worse." 
  • "Funny but good answer Christy. Not only am i a Liberal Member and supporter but i also support your answer 100%, and yes, the correct answer too!" 
  • "This fellow was completely out of line, and Premier, you should have got up and walked out on this guy. How disgusting!" 
  • "I live in Alberta, but I would so rather you were our Premier than that one we have. It would be wonderful to have a Premier with a sense of humour, and more importantly, it would be great to have a Premier that stands up for her province." 
  • "I am offended that as the present leader of our province, you have time to do such totally banal radio interviews but not to comment on the recent Port Mann Bridge incident, for example."
The prepared response from Clark's email correspondence clerks was:
BC’s First Family DayThank you for your email. The question in that live interview was highly inappropriate; it was shocking and unexpected, and the Premier was attempting to quickly move the interview back to matters relating to her work and her office. Your concerns about this have been noted and will be shared with the Premier in the days ahead. We do appreciate your taking the time to share your views and hope you will find this response helpful.
Since the MILF incident, Clark's handlers have promoted her motherhood, even including her son Hamish in advertising and publishing photos on Flickr, like the one of them together on Family Day. She appeared assertive in a keynote speech to January's B.C. Mineral Exploration Roundup and even looked older in a party TV ad.

And they included a Feb. 22 lunch stop at Crown Isle Resort in Comox (within Jet FM's market area), on Clark's tour to sell voters on the so-called balanced budget, which the NDP has labelled "bogus" and an Ipsos-Reid poll has found to be lacking believability.

Either the MILF incident was a poorly executed trial balloon, containing too much lead and not enough helium, or an innocent embarrassment the Liberals want to put way behind them.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

#RoofLeaks wonders: is Coleman's future friendly?

Deputy Preem
Once in a while, a meeting listed in the agenda of a certain cabinet minister or senior bureaucrat is particularly intriguing.

The one that Deputy Premier Rich Coleman (aka Emir of Energy, Majordomo of Mines, Nabob of Natural Gas, Lord of Lotteries, Boss of Booze, Highness of Housing and Poobah of PavCo ) held on Oct. 5, 2012 would be at the top of the heap. 

At a location not disclosed, Coleman sat down with Peter Brown and Darren Entwistle for a half-hour. 
Bagman Brown 

Brown is an Order of British Columbia member and diehard BC Liberal bagman. Brown is best-known as the founder of the Canaccord investment house. He is perhaps B.C.’s best-known capitalist, the chairman of the Fraser Institute, no less, with a bull and a bear painted on the gates of his Point Grey mansion. During the summer of 2012, Brown wrote an alarmist letter to the B.C. Conservatives, warning them that splitting the free enterprise vote would ensure an NDP victory and could bring European-style economic chaos and social unrest to B.C.

Entwistle is the CEO of Telus, the biggest private corporation in B.C., which was given a controversial 10-year, $1 billion contract to supply the government, Crown corporations and health authorities with telecommunications goods and services. Competitors Bell, Rogers and Shaw claimed the process was unfair.

Together, Brown and Entwistle represent $740,000 of donations to the BC Liberals since 2005, according to Elections BC figures ($378,777.35 from Telus and $360,630 from Canaccord). 
NDP leader Dix (left) and Telus boss Entwistle

Brown quit the board of B.C. Pavilion Corporation in spectacular fashion on Feb. 13, 2012, with a pointed resignation letter (see below) to chairman David Podmore, which was copied to Finance Minister Kevin Falcon and Pat Bell, the minister responsible for PavCo until the Sept. 5, 2012 cabinet shuffle. Brown was angry about the government’s decision to cancel the 20-year, $40 million deal to sell B.C. Place naming rights to Telus. 

Just over two weeks later, Entwistle mugged for cameras at the end of a March 2, 2012 Telus news conference outlining the company's B.C. job and investment activities. 

Premier Christy Clark wasn’t there, only ex-Finance Minister Colin Hansen. But it was NDP leader Adrian Dix who was called to the stage for the photo op with the telecom titan. 

Telus's B.C. Family Day-themed ad

The Liberals and Telus kissed and made-up. Entwistle was joined by Clark for the late June groundbreaking of a new data centre in Kamloops. The government eventually paid in August 2012 to Telus a sum that it doesn’t want to disclose to you. The government and Telus have since restarted talks about the Telus Park naming rights. Could the $2.7 million taxpayer-supported bid for the 2014 Grey Cup be connected? 

Neither Telus nor Coleman nor Brown would disclose the contents or the outcome of the meeting. 

Rich Coleman's Oct. 5, 2012 agenda:

Peter Brown's Feb. 13, 2012 resignation letter to PavCo

Elections BC reports on donations from Canaccord and Telus to the BC Liberals

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#RoofLeaks kicks off

In 2012, this blog launched #LiquorLeaks, a flood of documents regarding the Liquor Distribution Branch and the BC Liberal government's thirst to privatize the storage and hauling of booze in British Columbia. 
I spelled out how BC Liberal-connected Exel Logistics and ContainerWorld were strategizing to win the business. The tendering process was abruptly halted Sept. 27, 2012, the day the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union reached a two-year deal with government. The four shortlisted companies had yet to make their final presentations. 
There is more to come from #LiquorLeaks. In the meantime, I now introduce #RoofLeaks, a compilation of records gleaned from my Freedom of Information requests directed at the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the taxpayer-owned company that operates the Vancouver Convention Centre and B.C. Place Stadium. These are the two biggest and most-expensive buildings in downtown Vancouver. Magnets for big events and big controversy. And I will demonstrate for you why British Columbians should be concerned about how they are managed.

For starters, PavCo is seeking an order to quash my right to file Freedom of Information requests. It has effectively blacklisted me since making a complaint on Feb. 13 to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, claiming my requests are frivolous and vexatious, repetitive and systematic.

I say PavCo is wrong on all counts and I am contesting PavCo's application, which amounts to intimidation just ahead of the election. As a journalist reporting in the public interest, my goal is to show the public how its money is spent and how its assets are managed.

On Feb. 19, NDP members Doug Routley and Spencer Chandra Herbert took-up my case in the Legislature, seeking answers from Premier Christy Clark and PavCo Minister Rich Coleman. The following is an excerpt from Hansard:

Photo of MLA Doug Routley
D. Routley: The Premier has made claims to open government being one of her top three priorities, even telling the media that information belongs to the public. Yet on Friday we learned that investigative journalist Bob Mackin received a letter from PavCo telling him they have applied under the Freedom of Information Act to bar him from "frivolous and vexatious" claims to information. Does the Premier agree with this outrageous act by PavCo to silence one of its chief critics?
Hon. R. Coleman: The individual that the member refers to has been making and has received some information with regards to information and privacy from PavCo. But the members opposite and the members of this House should know that he is 89 percent of all the requests of information and privacy at PavCo. It's a large volume of work, so they were finally to the point where some of it became ridiculously frivolous in their minds. They asked and they have gone forward to ask the commissioner for an opinion.
 D. Routley: It's about the public interest — an uncomfortable fact for the government. It was through these claims to freedom of information that the public found out about PavCo's hundreds of millions of dollars of overspending. It was only through these requests that the public knew this.
Does the minister responsible for PavCo stand by the position that asking about massive cost overruns is frivolous or vexatious?
Photo of MLA Rich Coleman

Hon. R. Coleman: Through to the member opposite: well, first of all, Member, the first thing you'd like to do yourselves is to try and get your numbers straight when you're actually making public comments. I've heard your members talk about the $100 million figure quoted for the roof for B.C. Place under PavCo's chair back in 2008. The member doesn't actually want to tell the rest of the story, which was about a pillow roof to replace exactly the same roof as was there before and not a significant investment to actually redo the entire stadium, which this was. PavCo announced the final approved budget of $563 million for B.C. Place revitalization in October 2009. They did it for $514 million...

Photo of MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert
Chandra Herbert
S. Chandra Herbert: This is about freedom of information. This is about giving journalists access to information they need to do their jobs. I know the minister wants to focus on sports stadiums, but we're talking about work that the media needs done so that they can support our democracy. Under the Liberals, PavCo has had a history of mismanagement. Five times over budget, the Telus naming debacle, PavCo's float plane fiasco, PavCo's botched casino deal, the convention centre going massively over budget… The list goes on and on. The Premier claimed that open government was one of her top priorities. Will she stand today and demonstrate that she actually puts action behind her words and tell PavCo to stop trying to ban the media from doing their job?

 Notice how Coleman referred to me, not by name, but as "the individual that the member refers to?" The Premier? She didn't stand.

Here's an uncomfortable fact for Coleman: The original budget for B.C. Place renovations was not $100 million, but actually $75 million, including a new, inflatable, fabric roof. That inconvenient truth is contained in a Jan. 8, 2008 letter from PavCo chair David Podmore to Wayne Henderson of Dominion Construction, the company that eventually was awarded the bid for phase 1 work. That letter is below.

Just 14 days later, on Jan. 22, 2008, Podmore told Vancouver city manager Judy Rogers in a letter that "the scope of the rehabilitation project is in the order of $100 million which includes replacement of the roof."

By April of that year, PavCo had changed gears and was considering the pre-Olympic installation of a Frankfurt-style retractable roof for $253 million. But the anticipated completion date of Jan. 31, 2010 was deemed too close to the Feb. 12, 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. The project was delayed until after the Games at a Jan. 9, 2009-announced budget of $365 million.

That budget was increased (after the BC Liberals won re-election) to $458 million on Oct. 23, 2009. The government finally admitted it would be $563 million and now claims the final price was $514 million. Oh, they're so proud that it's $49 million under the final budget. But don't dare mention those pesky scope changes and cost increases! The leaky, grease-stained roof? Nothing to see there, move along. Those are such uncomfortable facts for a party so desperate to remain in power.

For the sake of all, let's hope Auditor-General John Doyle expands his fact-finding mission into a full-blown value-for-money investigation of the B.C. Place project. The taxpayers deserve to know the truth about the evolution of such a risky project that shows no signs of breaking-even.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Fudgsicle Cometh? (updated)

Finance Minister on ice + fudge = Fudgsicle Budget '13
History says you should not believe BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong when he stands up and delivers his budget speech in the Legislature on Feb. 19.

Also, put aside that he’s a BC Liberal, the ruling party that appears to be on the way out of power under the style-over-substance Premiership of Christy Clark. 

It’s just that de Jong is delivering a pre-election budget. British Columbia governments, regardless of ideology, have had serious trouble telling the truth about finances en route to election day. This is the Land of the Fudge-It Budget. This time around, will it be a Fudgsicle?

Former Junior B hockey player and current shareholder in the inactive MSA Fundamental Hockey School de Jong laced up his skates in Victoria and hit the ice at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for the cameras on Feb. 18, instead of buying a new pair of shoes, the tradition among finance ministers. He donned a Victoria Royals Western Hockey League jersey and donated $1,000 afterwards to KidSport.

Turn back the clock to March 24, 1988 when Social Credit Finance Minister Mel Couvelier gave birth to the Budget Stabilization fund -- $450 million of goodness to "help us absorb fiscal shocks." 

That was the 1980s and the Socreds evidently didn’t have the best spin doctors in their corner. The media instantly branded Couvelier’s plan the “B.S. Fund." It was the best knee-slapper since Socred Agnes Kripps proposed "BOLT" (Biology on Life Today) replace the word "sex" in 1970 (during the sexual revolution). It was surpassed in June 1996 by the nicknaming of the NDP's Cabinet Policy and Communications Secretariat (CPCS) as "cupcakes." But I digress.

“Due to the boom-or-bust nature of the B.C. economy, government revenues have been difficult to predict," Couvelier said. "In years when revenues peak sharply, transfers will be made to the fund. In years of revenue shortfall, transfers will be made from the fund.” 

Vaughn Palmer weighed-in with a March 25, 1988 column in the Vancouver Sun headlined “Mel’s Mirage: the $450 million jiggle.”
The fund does not exist in the sense that it can easily be turned into cash tomorrow, the way your bank account can. At the extremes, accounts can be manipulated to present a horn of plenty to the stockholders or a deathbed scene to the taxman.Similarly, the government slants its accounts to produce certain effects.Before an election, it wants the balance sheet to look as healthy as possible.
Couvelier sat down for a 90-minute session with the Vancouver Sun’s editorial board, which produced a story on March 29, 1988 in which Couvelier admitted it was an election ploy!
Couvelier said the fund, which amounts to a promise by the government to pay itself $450 million at some point, could be used "to support social programs or lower taxes or whatever the government decides to do with it - build highways, get themselves re-elected, whatever they want. . . "When it was suggested that re- election might be the so-called Budget Stabilization Fund's primary purpose, Couvelier replied: "Okay, that deals with motive. I'm saying the fund is there to be used for a rainy day."Now, my definition of a rainy day is not an election. But that's not to say we won't have a need to spend it in an election year."
On March 28, 1995, Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull heralded a balanced budget. NDP’s Mike Harcourt resigned from the Premiership on Nov. 15, 1995 and Glen Clark won leadership of the NDP in early 1996.

Cull tabled another allegedly balanced budget on April 30, 1996, but the Legislature was dissolved before it could be passed. New Finance Minister Andrew Petter reintroduced the budget on June 26, 1996, after the NDP won re-election. The NDP claimed “Jobs Up, Taxes Down, Debt Reduced, Budget Balanced.”

A July 4, 1996 Vancouver Sun story was headlined “B.C. finance minister admits budget ‘goof."
Glen Clark's NDP government is fighting to contain a mounting controversy over allegations it misled the public by campaigning on a balanced budget that turned out to be a $235-million deficit. Clark campaigned during May boasting that the NDP had brought in a balanced budget for the 1995-96 fiscal year. 
Auditor-General George Morfitt criticized both Cull and Petter for “inappropriate” actions. Morfitt criticized (Elizabeth Cull) particularly for injecting "$156 million of optimism" into forecasts for how the 1995-96 fiscal year would end up, optimism even above her own staff's most optimistic forecasts. Morfitt's report shows that Cull was frequently uncomfortable with the optimistic figures that were being urged upon her, mainly through the actions of (Glen Clark)'s confidante and top aide, Tom Gunton.
Fast forward to 2009 when the BC Liberals were aiming to get Premier Gordon Campbell his three-peat so that he could soak-up all the glory as B.C.’s Olympic Premier in 2010. 

On Feb. 17, 2009, amid the Great Recession, Finance Minister Colin Hansen tabled a budget with a forecast deficit under half-a-billion dollars. After the election and after the announcement of the Harmonized Sales Tax, Hansen tabled an update. The amount of red ink more than quintupled!

The Sept. 1, 2009 headline in The Tyee said it all: "B.C. budget includes record $2.8 billion deficit, cuts, optimism." 
British Columbia will have a record deficit of $2.8 billion, according to a budget update Finance Minister Colin Hansen presented today. That's five times greater than the $495 million projected in February and insisted upon by Premier Gordon Campbell during the election campaign.Back to de Jong and 2013. 
The Liberals are trying to make it look like they’re more fiscally responsible than the 1988 Socreds, 1996 NDP and 2009 Liberals. They even hired an expert! Tim O’Neill, a former BMO economist from the Maritimes! He’s independent! Shhh, don’t pay attention to the $25,000 he’s pocketing for less than a month’s work that resulted in a 22-page report, B.C. Budget 2013: Economic & Revenue Forecasts -- Review and Assessment. Don’t dare suggest it’s just spin. Gosh, no. The government would never do that. Perish that thought!

Well, it’s 20 pages after the title page and disclaimer. The first and last pages are half each, so that’s really 19. The margins are wide and the print is big. The word count is 4,520. Hey, that’s better than $5.50 per word. Not a bad gig, eh?

The word expenditure is mentioned just once. The word expense is nowhere to be found. 
The government paid for a report on what it will be taking in, not on what it will be paying out. A report on revenue only tells half the story. 

Surprise, surprise, O’Neill has nothing really bad to say, except, perhaps the government is too bullish on natural gas. (A degree isn’t necessary to arrive at that conclusion; one need only have watched the throne speech).

“I have concluded that there are no glaring problems or inadequacies that need to be addressed," wrote O'Neill. "There is ample evidence of professional competence, analytical rigour and appropriate caution applied in the work that goes into producing the revenue projections.”

There you have it. Voters beware

Budget tidbit: Will any ex-convicts be on the guest list for this year’s budget speech at the Legislature in Victoria? Just wondering! Last year there was one that we know of: Jaspal Atwal. Both Bill Tieleman and Alex Tsakumis wrote about that scandal. 

UPDATE (Feb. 22): The nearly $44 billion budget did nothing, zip, nada to tame the debt! The debt goes higher: it’s $56.1 billion this year, forecast to grow to $62.7 billion next year and, by 2015, $69 billion. A make-believe scenario to tame the deficit now without anything demonstrative to address the ballooning debt only shifts the burden from today’s families to families of the future. 

How can the Liberals spend more than $16 million of your money on an advertising campaign, which includes a brief image of debt-crushed Greece at the 2-second mark in the famous dominos ad, and claim that it is being frugal and responsible with the province’s finances? Was it really necessary to give B.C. Pavilion Corporation $2.7 million to make a bid to buy the rights for the 2014 Grey Cup for B.C. Place Stadium? Certainly B.C. Lions' owner Sen. David Braley has a large enough bank account to avoid needing a taxpayer-subsidy from a government that really can't afford such discretionary spending.

The best line of de Jong's budget speech
"Starting today, as British Columbians travel to other parts of Canada, they will be able to say with pride, “I come from B.C. where the government doesn’t spend more money than I send it. Where the government doesn’t burden future generations with the cost of programs being delivered today.”

Comedy gold. Who writes this stuff? 

Most British Columbians do not belong to the Liberals or any political party, for that matter. They’re not worried about those "socialist hordes at the gate" once feared by Premier W.A.C. Bennett. They’re actually worried about the persistent bill collectors and impatient bankers showing up at the door. 

The budget was skimpy on details. There was no detailed list of real estate for sale, nor was there a recap of major cost-cutting. 

The budget contains tax increases targeted at anyone who uses B.C.'s medical system, smokers, corporations and the perceived wealthy, those who earn $150,000 and up. All, except the health insurance premium hike, are things the NDP would have done. You could just tell that de Jong had practiced his lines. They were repeated over and over in the media. 

“I’d prefer not to have (raised taxes), clearly the guiding principle here was to achieve balance, a whole series of decisions flow from that, some of them very difficult,” he told reporters in a pre-budget briefing. “Those making more than $150,000, we're asking them to contribute a little more.” 

The budget was the bookend to the previous week’s throne speech, which included Clark’s unicorns and rainbows vision (delusion?) of a future in which we’ll be swimming in profits from the export of liquefied natural gas (meanwhile, Russia, Arab states, China, U.S. and even Australia are ahead of B.C.). 

An indication of how the Liberals (aka the Natural Gas Party) have lost the trust of the public is that the first major poll released after the budget, by Ipsos-Reid, indicated 72% of respondents didn’t 

Cartoonist and video satirist Dan Murphy (who the Province will someday realize was a mistake to let go) weighed in with his subtle and hilarious Budget Highlights Closed Captioned for the Truth Impaired.

While the NDP called the balanced budget “bogus," independent MLA John van Dongen used more flowery language to blow the whistle on de Jong's misconduct for dealing a bodycheck to the concept of truthful budgeting. Abbotsford South MLA Van Dongen did nothing to flatter Abbotsford West MLA Liberal de Jong with his speech, archived here

van Dongen
“This so-called balanced budget,” van Dongen said in the Legislature on Feb. 21, “is designed to manage and manipulate perceptions. As such, it is imaginary, a mirage, a facsimile of the real thing. The facts don't back up the perceptions being left with the public in saying that this is a balanced budget.”
“Madam Speaker, think for a moment of the apparent sleight of hand that occurred Tuesday. Did we loot the treasury as may have happened in Shakespearean days? Did we rob Peter to pay Paul? Or did we bank on selling millions of dollars in taxpayer assets and depend on reaching deeper into the pockets of families and business people as government spending on advertising itself continues to escalate?
“I've been asking questions about the spending of millions of dollars by government, missed revenue opportunities and missed investment opportunities, and my search for the most basic answers has been blocked at every turn. I probably don't have to tell you what those questions are, Madam Speaker, but I can tell you my efforts to pursue those answers have led me to a continued search for good government...
"This budget is a pre-election document that can change quickly after the votes are counted on May 14. The budget faces none of the normal scrutiny of this Legislature, which again emphasizes the need to move to a fixed fall election date to remove the obvious politicizing, regardless of political party, of election year budgets.
“I have always strongly agreed with the objective of a real balanced budget, but I do not believe it is achievable in this fiscal year based on current economic conditions and the measures presented on Tuesday by the Minister of Finance.”

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