– business sector involved, Prashads rebuts
Chairman of the Alliance for Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday criticized the government for failing to consult with stakeholders before it compiled the 2009 Budget, which he dismissed as “fluff”.
During his presentation in this year’s budget debate, yesterday Ramjattan opined that given the severe economic problems internationally, this year’s budget required a broader input from members other than the executive arm of the government, especially from persons in the business and labour sectors.
He said that based on his investigations this was not done and this was reflected in that fact that several leading persons in the business sector had publicly expressed their disappointment about the lack of consultation. Ramjattan opined that this clearly did not bode well for Guyana. He accused the government of “talking consultative democracy but not living it” and stated that the ruling party was only willing to consult on a few physical matters but not on economic issues.
In response later on, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manniram Prashad said that contrary to what Ramjattan had said, there had been widespread consultation with members of the business sector before the budget was compiled. He said this was a basic policy of the government and it was employed every year.
Ramjattan, meanwhile, stated that the budget was unrealistic, referring to it as “fluff with no solid strategy to take it forward.” He said that the 4.7 % growth rate that has been predicted for the economy during 2009 was extremely optimistic especially when the country is facing problems with its traditional sectors such as sugar and rice.
The AFC chairman called for the government to create the environment for the entrepreneurial class to develop as this was not being encouraged in the current situation. He said the taxation system needed to be re-examined since the various taxes and levies were very discouraging to business persons.
He also said that young people needed to be encouraged to implement new ideas and also raised concerns about the unemployment rate in the country; he questioned what was being done to ensure that more jobs were being created.
Ramjattan also called for greater accountability of the country’s resources and said that a Procurement Commission needed to be established to help eliminate corruption. He also urged that all massive infrastructural projects – such as the proposed $3B Hope Relief Channel to drain the East Demerara Water Conservancy — be properly evaluated so as to ensure that the money is properly spent and that the projects done properly.
The AFC chairman said billions of dollars could be saved if the some of the government ministries are shut down and only the essential ones remain functional. He said that in having so many ministries, the government has moved away from its stance prior to 1992, when it had promised to be “lean and clean.”
Rising to speak, Prashad traced the developments at his ministry over the last year and highlighted progress in the tourism sector and success in keeping the prices of essential commodities such as flour and fuel at a relatively low price in spite of spiraling international prices, as major achievements.
He promised that during this year his ministry will be “promoting touring, developing industry and advancing commerce”. He added that various legislation will be implemented that would help the government to achieve this plan.
Meanwhile, he highlighted the developments of certain local estates especially the one at Lethem as being a priority of the government during the year, as it sought to develop industry and commerce.