Construction sector needs help

– MP Patterson
AFC parliamentarian David Patterson has argued that the government should take steps to ease the woes of the construction sector.

Speaking during the budget debate last week, he said that the housing sector has joined those already taking a hit and pointed to the New Building Society where “new home starts are down”.  Patterson charged that construction costs are rising and consequently the cost of building a new home has gone up considerably.

Patterson asserted that the blows being felt in construction can be eased if government considers VAT zero-rating certain items in the industry. It is a matter of instituting simple measures to ease burdens across the country, Patterson said, as he called on government to “start walking the walk and stop talking the talk”.

He ripped into the national budget saying that nothing inside it convinces him that Guyana is prepared to tackle the onslaught of 2009, and also questioned the inflation figures for the year as stated by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.  According to Patterson, the computation of the inflation rate needs to be re-checked.

Patterson then shifted focus to the Mandela landfill site declaring that the time has long passed for it to be rehabilitated and expanded, adding that government needs to move quickly on the construction of the modern facility at Haag Bosch, East Bank Demarara “for the sake of the residents at Lodge and North East La Penitence”.

Like the Mandela landfill, he said, the same kind of stagnant approach to new development has been taken with the Olympic-size swimming pool to be constructed on the lower East Coast. Patterson said the administration botched the project, spending $70M to build a “fish pond”. He charged that they went ahead without considering design among other things and came out with nothing but a fish pond, adding that more money had to be diverted to the project because of the bungling.

He rapped the administration on local government elections saying that his party will not support any such polls if the relevant legislation is not in place. Patterson charged that the AFC has been repeatedly denied a seat on the local government task force by the PPP/C.

But while the party is denied participation there, he said, the government is quick to clamour for expanded participation when it best suits them while referring to the consultations that were held on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

“…When their backs are against the wall, they open their eyes and ask you to support their agenda and on other issues they are as inflexible as an old dying guava tree”, Patterson stated.

But PPP/C MP and Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jennifer Webster countered Patterson’s theory of the populace being ignored in this year’s budget. She said that government policy over the years has continuously shown an interest in the people.

More recently, she said that the administration has subsidized fuel, flour and the operations of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), in addition to other interventions that reduced the economic burden on the people.
By forging strong bilateral agreements, she said that government has provided critical support to a number of micro credit initiatives that are tied to job creations, particularly in Linden. Under the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) some 271 loans were disbursed within past 2 years and 112 jobs were created, according to Webster.

And there are success stories. She said that persons who have accessed loans in the poultry industry have managed to expand their businesses into large scale operations.

She named a Miss De Abreu who has benefited under LEAP, who now rears an average of 2,100 meat birds and has also now embarked on cash crop cultivation.

Webster said that the budget has been crafted to complement key bilateral agreements while making provisions that will benefit the Guyanese public. She said that the Finance Minister deserves recognition for the work he has done and his vision.

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