Sitting down together on the budget cuts
Just about every senior government official – including President Donald Ramotar – has had his or her tilt at the parliamentary opposition’s cuts to the 2012 budget; the repetitive nature of the well-publicized official protests becoming sufficiently repetitive to cause them to resemble a none too ingenious public relations campaign designed to cause it to appear as though the budget cuts had placed the government’s spending plans for this year in imminent and irreversible jeopardy.
Eccentric extremes like the “No May salary for ERC staff” report in sections of the media (as a result of budget cuts) are just the kind of caper that persuades you that not for the first time our politicians have moved into the realm of ‘playing games.’
Up until now, not much has been said by the private sector on this year’s budget, a circumstance which, one suspects, results from what has been, over the years, a carefully designed strategy by the private sector organisations to keep themselves out of harm’s way, politically speaking, that is.
This week the Stabroek Business has published an article written by Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Clinton Urling in which he says quite a mouthful both about the 2012 budget and about the political brouhaha over the cuts. Not that we were unaware of it all along but, interestingly, Urling chose to issue a reminder that the budget cuts are not set in stone insofar as there are provisions and procedures to address those and that, therefore, there is really no need for a posture which, from one day to the next, shifts from a sort of sackcloth and ashes syndrome to a confrontational tone. While Urling opts for measured language, the essence of what he says is ‘let’s cut the crap’ and sit and talk since, unless we do, there are important national projects that could be affected if the status quo remains unchanged.
Interestingly enough, just around the same time that Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill was letting it be known that the budget cuts had forced the shutdown of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Burkett appeared to be moving in a more placatory direction, calling for “dialogue” on the budget cuts and even going as far as saying that as far as the cuts are concerned “there are things that can be done.”
We are unsure as to whether or not we are correct in assuming that the comment by Minister Rodrigues-Burkett was intended to send a signal the government may be close to ready to do a political climb down and sit down with the parliamentary opposition to talk about the budget cuts. What does appear to be the case, however, is that the head of one of the country’s major private sector umbrella organisations wants to push the politicians in the same direction, which appears to be the same as saying that we have had our interlude of theatrics and political grandstanding and that it is time to close the curtain on that episode and move on to addressing the substantive agenda.