GAP’s presentation to Parliament on the 2011 budget

Once again we are assembled here to re-read on the one hand i.e. Government and dispel, doubt, refute and compliment sparingly if at all on the other side – The Opposition, the estimates presented by the Minister of Finance on behalf of the Government.

The Guyana Action Party’s long standing view on this yearly pantomime, yes play acting, where the pretence of democracy in action is on wide display. It is also a time when some members of the National Assembly are given the opportunity to at least say something- ANYTHING officially until the next year.  Even Hon. Member Neil Kumar. G.A.P has expressed on many occasions that the time expended on the debate could have been more meaningfully spent in dialogue and discussion prior to the formulation of a National Budget. Someone on the Government side stated that all the opposition offers is criticism, maybe so. But explain to the people of Guyana when and where ideas, suggestions and recommendations to this deaf and sometimes dumb administration can be sensibly delivered. It is no secret that the Government after making its own kool aid believes that it is the best drink ever produced and swallows large mugs of the mixture truly believing its own propaganda and sometimes getting delirious in the process. The Hon. Minister of Local Gov. Mr. Lall suggested that the opposition should present its own budget. I must let him know that we will come next year.

The government will glibly state that it consults widely and the resulting budget “Together building Tomorrow’s Guyana Today”. May I remind the Government of the reality of speaking to oneself and answering back, better described as madness, nothing new or innovative will result .

Comparative Years

It is no less than pathetic, that after almost two decades in office the PPP continues to believe that they can divert the populace’s attention from sometimes corrupt and wasteful stewardship of the economy by making comparisons with the state of the economy under the worse years of the PNC. Chalk and cheese cannot be compared.  Just as the Speaker cannot be compared to a Gail Teixeira.

The basis on which the PPP must assess its performance after 18 plus years in power ought to be on its own record and performance from 1992. Stop hiding behind the PNC BOOGEY MAN.

Size of the Budget

Mr. Speaker, allow me on behalf of  GAP to make it absolutely clear, that it has no problem with the government bringing the largest budget ever and even encourages this administration during the short  time it has left to manage the affairs of the people, to increase the spending.  Our  people deserve it. It has never been an issue of how much was spent. The issue Mr. Speaker, has always been HOW WELL ALLOTTED FUNDS WERE SPENT. Accountability, value for money, timely completion of projects and other quality indicators, are of importance. There can be no doubt that monies are haemorrhaging from so many areas in an almost shark-like feeding frenzy fuelled by greed, downright incompetence and poor to non-existent supervision – all of which can be substituted with one  word “corruption”. It is for this reason that it is becoming exceedingly difficult to support any initiatives of this administration.

“Accountability good governance transparency has removed extravagance. The government is waging a war on corruption and bribery.”

These characteristics of government are necessary. More and more people in the north are asking their leaders questions about aid to developing countries, a substantial part of which had indeed been misused. It is essential that governments put themselves in order so that the real issues of development can come to the fore and attract serious consideration and resolution”

Development of Guyana must be based on a harmonious mix of improved social and physical infrastructure, adequate and efficient production levels, just distribution of the national wealth and genuine cultural upliftment within an ever expanding democratic process” Paper; Sustainable development in the Americas, by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, President of Guyana, York University Toronto, Oct, 31 1996

But Mr. Speaker according to Minister Robert Persaud, Corruption is fictional. Sir if this is true you will have some revision to do your three point plan. As I have said before “to bury one’s head in the sand will expose other parts of the anatomy to abuse” But maybe Mr. Speaker some people enjoy such abuse. If we cannot look at the problems of corruption and incompetence squarely in its face and admit that we have these issues no progress will be made.

Vision

If one were to ask any young high school student what field of study or training they see themselves pursuing as a result of studying this and previous budgets of the PPP, they would be clueless. Mr. Speaker we cannot blame them. This administration is also clueless. There is so much adhocracy, making it up as we go along kind of stumbling and hopefully we trip over something good. LCDS (Hydropower), large scale plantation farming, ICT, Tourism (joke), Mr. Speaker some areas are so poor that Carrion Crows cannot be found. The Hon. Minister of Trade rambled on at length about the rising tourist population. Then gave a few stuttering sound bites about the efforts to reduce the cost of airfares, something fundamental to any tourist industry. The government has failed to solve a fundamental requirement in this industry. But we must be fair to all concerned. Guyana is a high risk investment due to the tons of cocaine which leaves these shores. If the government would agree to pay the fines for the airlines operating I am sure that we will have investors lining up. Mr. Speaker these two realities coke and cheap airfares are tied together, can we expect relief in the near future? I sincerely hope so.

Mr. Speaker as a consequence of the above I re-read the Finance Minister’s Budget presentation, looking for reference to the parallel economy and its effects on our legitimate business environment. The silence was indeed deafening are we to assume that it does not exist and has no effect on financial indicators such as GDP, Interest rates and cost of living? Then why the increased allocation for GRA in the form of fast boats and other tools necessary? It is precisely for these reasons that the financial projections must be taken with nuff salt.

Unemployment

Mr. Speaker a Boston trained student of economics-Hon. Manzoor Nadir, who use to boast about the superiority of his degree over the young Lumumba University  trained economist, now President Jagdeo, should be relieved of the portfolio of the Labour Ministry. Since he has failed to produce any meaningful statistics on the state of un-employment, under employment in this country. Relying on ball park figures of some report pegging unemployment at 10 %. Adding insult to injury the superior Boston trained individual, went on to say that the figure of 10% could be even lower since there we many individuals who could work did not want to work. What a shameful statement. I implore all who want work, are qualified and skilled  in certain areas converge upon the Ministry of Labour every single day with all of their written applications, certificates, competency and otherwise until work is found. It appears as though the Minister is un-aware of the real situation in our villages, towns and cities. This I call incompetence no such person should hold such an important office. However, I daresay that in this Minister  the PPP/C has found the ideal partner of convenience a UF proponent  of reactionary capitalist sentiments who gladly will do the dirty work that the legacy (long long ago) of the PPP for those who could remember, would find difficulty in accomplishing.

Tax Relief

Certainly this government has helped the business class with the 5% Reduction in corporate taxes. Each business may now keep the profits, re-invest or buy property in North America and Europe. There is no guarantee what-so-ever that these savings will be re-invested to expand businesses and create employment. When windfall profits of companies are examined prior to 2009 those companies that expanded did so regardless. There can be no guessing however, that if tax relief were calculated for the ordinary workers, based on the amount of children and dependents in their care much could have been achieved. As Mr Michael Carrington over many years had proposed that extra savings would stay in this economy to assist in the alleviation of poverty and stimulate economic activity. But this is a “loving” government, which boasts of an increase in public assistance instead of job creation and the removal of persons from the public assistance role due to them bettering their existence. We have the widening chasm between rich and poor.

Rice drying floors

In the year 2010 one cannot but be shocked when we promote drying floors concrete strips costing up to 17 million dollars without the possibility of cover from the very real event of rain. Mr Speaker the calculations done on these floors showed that indeed enough money was available to construct removable covers on all facilities.

Special Housing Area-retirees

This project actively discriminates against all Guyanese living here at home. What infrastructure, service and other amenities are to be introduced in this scheme that others do not deserve?

The text below was not delivered in the debate.

Preventative Medicine

Negligible efforts have been made to push preventative cures and life sustaining practices to reduce the non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer) that  create havoc in the health system, in an effort to reduce cost in the medium to long term. Spending on drugs though necessary cannot solve the problem.

Examination Results

The cost of extra lessons is a de-facto tax on the population. The tortured statistics coming out of the Ministry of Education, which is presented yearly, extolling the great advances made in this sector, does not take this into consideration.

Of note is that in the rebuttal presented by the Minister of Finance no answer was given regarding the parallel economy.



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