Labour Minister Dr Nanda Gopaul has issued a warning to the opposition that cuts to the 2014 budget could result in a loss of opposition-held seats in the House should there be another election.
During his budget address on Tuesday, Gopaul said “cut the budget and you will cut your votes and your seats.”
Gopaul’s speech sparked cheers from his own side of the house while the same level of heckling could be heard on the opposition’s side. The labour minister was focusing his 2014 budget address on the ways in which he said the People’s National Congress – the main component of opposition coalition APNU – set about ruining the sugar industry in the 1970’s.
He made promises that the Guyana Sugar Corporation would see a turnaround, echoing many of his fellow PPP/C parliamentarians during the 2014 budget debate and in the 2013 and 2012 versions.
Gopaul called for the proposed $6 billion sugar subvention in the 2014 budget to be supported across the house, stating that if it wasn’t, former President and founder of the PPP/C Dr Cheddi Jagan would turn in his grave.
He could not provide answers for GuySuCo’s current debts of over $6.2 billion and instead spoke about the sugar industry under the PNC. Gopaul went on to say that the Skeldon factory’s current issues were caused by GuySuCo management put in place by the PNC and that it was under the PPP/C that that management team was later removed. The Skeldon factory was conceived during the tenure of President Bharrat Jagdeo. At the time GuySuCo was under Booker-Tate management. The Booker-Tate management was in place from 1991 and after it acceded to office in 1992, the PPP/C kept those managers until 2010.
Gopaul did not in turn offer any explanation as to why under the current management structure GuySuCo has had the lowest production figure in 22 years. In 2013 GuySuCo made just over 186,000 tonnes, a far cry from the revised sugar target of 240,000 tonnes.
He stated that the opposition did not behave in a manner in which a government in waiting should and instead continuously chose to “sabotage” the economy. To this he was met with persistent heckling, calling on him to help with the passing of the local government bill yet to be assented to by the president. Gopaul countered that for there to be stability and development then the opposition had to pass the anti-money laundering legislation. He did not respond to calls by the opposition to have local government legislation assented to.
The labour minister called for cooperation from the other side of the House in the interest of the people. He stated that the labour ministry was vested with creating more opportunities and that more persons would be trained as heavy-duty equipment operators, a field that has seen an increase in demand. He said that biomedical engineers would also be trained as well as skilled workers in the forestry sector. Gopaul was responding to APNU’s Volda Lawrence who, had minutes before, raised the issue that there needed to be a revision of the types of vocational training provided though the various education programmes.
Lawrence had stated “for several years now we have been training women in the same field without any feasibility study effected to ascertain the needs or demands in the various regions…for instance, how many cosmetologists, seamstresses or caterers do we need and where are they needed?”
Gopaul, when he spoke said that the Single Parents Training Programme had 447 graduates in 2013 certified as seamstresses, cosmetologists and caterers.
The minister chose to give a recap of the government’s labour achievements in 2013. He highlighted the 2013 reduction in personal income tax by 3.33 percent.