With the Government yesterday unveiling a $220 billion budget and a whopping $6B for the sugar industry, Leader of the main opposition APNU, David Granger said that unless the sugar industry is reformed his group will not be supporting such a large sum.
“We will have to go into the Committee of Supply and we will have to see what the budget entails. Certainly the allocations for sugar and power generation, we will want to see what is being provided so that the money is not wasted. We don’t want to throw good money after bad and unless
the sugar industry is reformed from the top down, I don’t think we will be able to provide that amount of money,” the Opposition Leader told journalists at Parliament after the budget presentation.
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh in his budget presentation had told the National Assembly that $6 billion was being allocated to the Guyana Sugar Corporation, and $3.7 billion to the Guyana Power and Light. Granger asserted that the budget “seems to be divorced from reality.” “It is a repair and maintenance budget, It is not a development budget. It will not substantially affect the lives of the masses. I do not have faith that it can create jobs for the young people. I do not have any inkling that the measures there will relieve poverty,” Granger asserted.
He also spoke about several of the problems affecting children at the Paramakatoi Secondary in Region Eight. “I was at Paramakatoi Secondary and the computers are there but there is no power so they can’t connect so it is just an ornament…I have seen the widest variety of plastic buckets as the children in Paramakatoi school have to fetch water every day.”
“I don’t know what the budget is all about. We don’t see any development or change. The country will be in the same position in March 2015. It is not going to provide solid development,” Granger argued.
The Opposition Leader said that while he supports the Rural Enterprise Development programme that was mentioned by the Finance Minister, “when I see what has been happening with the Youth Programme for the Amerindians, it is basically a social programme. It is not providing jobs, it is putting $30,000 or $40,000 in people’s pockets but it is not creating employment. It is just like an election gimmick.”
With regards to the 5% increase of old age pension from $12,500 to $13,125 per month, Granger said that while they “appreciate it, we were looking at $15,000. That was our target. What might sound okay for Georgetown is not okay for people in the hinterland…they have to come down to collect their pension. When we see pensioners in those areas spending $800 for a pound of chicken it is a different reality, so giving people 5% more is not going to change their lives,” he said.
The Opposition Leader added that he would have liked to see the provision of school buses and school boats as opposed to a financial grant for parents, especially for school children in the riverine areas.
Expenditure is not growth
APNU Shadow Minister of Finance Carl Greenidge told reporters after the budget presentation that, “the Government through the Minister seems preoccupied with confusing spending more money on one thing with development. Expenditure is not growth, it is not development especially in a country where corruption is so rampant.”
“Not enough careful thought was given to this budget…The Minister spent a good part of the presentation explaining what has happened in the first part of the term which is reasonable. … coincidentally we have the highest rate of suicide in the region, we have the highest rate of migration in the region, unemployment among the young and a variety of issues that have not been addressed at all.”
Asked about the party’s plans for cutting the budget, Greenidge stated that the Low Carbon Development Strategy and an equity contribution to the Amaila Hydro Project that was mentioned by the Minister are most likely not going to be approved. “There are going to be all the usual concerns and if they are not dealt with, all the appropriate reactions open to us, we are going to use them,” he said.