Scott, Gilbert differ on budget

APNU MP Keith Scott on Monday dismissed the 2014 budget as insufficient to address social and economic needs while PPP/C MP Kwame Gilbert says the allocations indicate the importance government attributes to the social and economic sectors.

The men’s remarks were made during the parliamentary budget debate.

Gilbert said the budget is visionary. In fact, during his presentation, he used the world “visionary” no less than four times to describe budget 2014. He said it recognizes the challenges and inadequacies of the present and presents a “bold and ambitious road map of what should be done to move us from where we are to where we need to be.”

He also pointed out that this year’s budget allocates larger amounts to each sector, which is an indication that the Guyanese people deserve more.

Gilbert noted that particular attention was paid to areas including education and agriculture, and highlighted that when APNU MP Carl Greenidge was Finance Minister, his allocation towards the Foreign Affairs Ministry exceeded the combined allocations of agriculture and education.

He also said that the budget pays significant attention to the eradication of interpersonal violence, the empowerment of women and the inclusion of men in the fight against violence. “This budget,” he reiterated, “is a budget of vision.”

Kwame Gilbert
Kwame Gilbert

Scott on the other hand, said though this year’s budget is undoubtedly the largest so far, it lacks substance. He kicked off his presentation by bashing central government’s decision to arbitrarily award a 5% wage increase to public servants, as opposed to consulting with public servants to ascertain more livable standards.

Last year, government officials, including Public Service Minister Jennifer Westford and Finance Minister Ashni Singh told the public that government could not afford to pay more than a 5% wage increase. Scott though, said that the money that has been used, and is slated to be used to pursue projects including the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri expansion project and the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project should have been used to effect a more acceptable wage increase.

During the budget presentation last week Singh lauded the economic development Guyana has been enjoying, last year being the 8th consecutive year of economic growth. Scott though, noted that Guyana continues to score poorly in international reports despite the development alluded to by the minister.

A 2012 World Bank report, he said, rated Guyana the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and South America.

He also pointed out that unemployment among youth was recorded at 49%, according to international statistics.

He also said the budget fails to bring cash to pensioners. While budget 2014 awards an increase in the monthly monetary cash supplement paid to pensioners from $12,500 to $13,125, the increased amount constitutes a difference of $625. Weighing in on these matters during his own presentation, APNU MP Ronald Bulkan said unemployment persists, despite the minister’s announcement of development. He also bemoaned the increasing wealth disparity, arguing that the ranks of poor and unemployment are swelling.

Scott said that such errors were made because government determined that it alone can develop Guyana, and pointed out that it now needs the approval of the National Assembly, the opposition parties specifically, to pass something they did not have a hand in creating.

“How can you expect us to endorse this,” he asked. He went on to lament the allocation of substantial amounts to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc. and GuySuCo despite the inability of the entities to improve their performance over the years. Both entities, he said, have been receiving government assistance for years, but have failed to show the level of improvement the opposition parties require. Dissatisfaction on the part of the opposition parties with regard to GPL’s performance, or lack thereof, last year informed their decision to slash $5 billion from the $10.2 billion that government had intended for the power company.

This year, government has made $3.7 billion available for GPL. Scott said that the opposition cannot support requests for additional money for GPL unless they bring electricity tariffs down and show how they have spent prior amounts.

Meanwhile, sugar production figures have been less than desirable, and the Skeldon Sugar Factory, which was built at a cost of US$200 million, and required additional costly work  continues to contribute a fraction of what was intended. Scott said that the opposition parties have proposed a change in the entity’s Board of Directors, the hiring of professional managers to run its operations, as well as its de-politicisation and diversification of its operations. He said these actions would undoubtedly curb the problems plaguing the industry.

Instead, he said, government chooses to ignore these suggestions, and resort to bailing the industry out of its slump. This year, government has intended $6 billion for GuySuCo. According the Singh, the funds will “help the industry achieve the reversal of fortunes that it so badly needs.”

The opposition parties have expressed their skepticism.



More in Local News

default placeholder

Alzarri Joseph called up for Test duty

ST.JOHN’s, Antigua, CMC-Promising Antiguan fast bowler Alzarri Joseph is set to make his Test debut after he was drafted into the West Indies side for the current home series against India.

default placeholder

Caribbean series hopes to crack US market with T20 foray

(Reuters) – Chris Gayle and Shane Watson need no introductions in cricket-playing countries but while they are unlikely to become household names in the U.S.

Renee McDonald

Chair of Bid Protest Committee resigns

Chairperson of the recently-established Bid Protest Committee (BPC) Renee McDonald has resigned even as the body’s first case—Cevons Waste Management’s protest against the Ministry of Communities over the award of a $221M Haags Bosch landfill maintenance contract—awaits a decision.

default placeholder

Main suspect in Black Bush triple murder held, owns shotgun

The main suspect in the Black Bush triple murder has been held and he is the owner of the same type of weapon that inflicted the deadly wounds.

Shane Mc Almont

Two charged with killing missing miner

Just two days after severed body parts suspected to belong to Mahdia miner Shawn Clarke were discovered, two men were charged in a city court with his murder.

default placeholder

Ferry collides with Supenaam stelling

The ferry,  Sabanto  suffered extensive damage after it collided with the Supenaam Stelling last evening and will be out of service until further notice.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: