Following the trend of harsh criticisms of the 2009 Budget by the non-government MPs on Monday, PNCR-1G Leader Robert Corbin yesterday continued the pattern, calling the Budget “disappointing” since it failed to address many of the concerns of the country’s citizens.
During his almost two-hour presentation, which interestingly began with several of the PPP/C front benchers absent including Finance Minister Ashni Singh, Corbin outlined several reforms that he said needed to be implemented. Corbin said that in spite of this year’s budget “Working Together – Reinforcing Resilience” not enough consultation was done and this was one factor that made the budget disappointing.
Value Added Tax
The Opposition Leader called for a re-arrangement in the financial priorities so as to bring relief to the workers. Consequently, in addition to an increase in salaries, Corbin urged that VAT be reduced from 16 percent to 8 percent.
Later on Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir told the National Assembly, that the introduction of VAT at the expense of the 30% Consumption tax was the single largest tax cut in the country’s history. He said that this had led to in excess of 400 items including furniture, refrigerators being reduced and in addition to this, he said that the government had subsequently decided to zero-rate several items.
Berbice Bridge tariff
Meanwhile Corbin also called for a review of the high tariffs currently charged to cross the Berbice Bridge and said that they were placing undue financial strain on persons who used the bridge. According to the Opposition Leader, he has received complaints from parents whose children have to use the bridge to attend school. He said that these students now had to pay $500 dollars to use public transportation to make a one way trip across the bridge. The Opposition Leader urged that the Bridge be brought under the supervision of the Public Utilities Commission.
Nadir, during his presentation, criticised Corbin for his negativity towards the Berbice bridge, and stated that the bridge was a welcome development for Guyanese especially businesspersons since it gave them easier access to new markets.
Corbin meanwhile also questioned the recent post-flood relief efforts of the government. He said that several farmers along the East Coast of Demerara and in other areas needed more than a “few seeds and chickens” since many had lost substantially during the flood.
Meanwhile the Opposition Leader urged the government to enter serious dialogue with the Trades Union Congress and for it to restore subventions to the Critchlow Labour College. Corbin highlighted the importance of the College as an educational institutional and urged that subventions be restored, while also calling for careful auditing of the finances supplied to this institution.
In response, the Labour Minister said that the Government was working towards putting things in order as it related to the college.
He said that there was some concern with how the money channelled was being used and suggested that there were questions as to how some of the people who were on the payroll of the institution were on that list. Nadir emphasized that the government was determined to ensure that the college was functioning and that its role was clearly defined.
The Labour Minister said that he was optimistic that the country would not only achieve but that it would surpass this year’s budget predictions. He said that although the budget was the largest in the country’s history, the Finance Minister had demonstrated extreme conservatism in several of his projections.
The PNCR-1G leader once again issued calls for shared governance saying that his government was willing to begin dialogue on this matter as soon as possible. Corbin also called for the installing of an Integrity Commission that would enjoy the confidence of all Guyanese as well as a properly appointed Ethnic Relations Commission. He also urged that the Public Procurement Commission be established.