Oil, Gold, Sugar – And Poverty

Faith – On the best Friday of all

Look, regard this as a most elementary, Primary Grade three “commentary” on National Budget 2012 – related issues.

The print media is now replete, daily, with analyses, critiques, support and rejection regarding the government’s account of how it will approach its income and its spending for the period between next week and next March.  Those writers are more qualified to offer their professional views than I am. I however, feel free to share my brief understandings from a working-class, vulnerable-citizens perspective. This is, in other words, for my poor people, my “ordinary” Guyanese Man and Woman-in-the-Street .

First of all, you may have a working idea of what a National Budget is.  You all must also understand what the government’s national Budget does!  Again, put simply, as a top economist points out/reminds: the Budget usually reviews the previous year’s budget and how it impacted on the economy and citizens’ lives; the new Budget then outlines and projects the government’s economic/financial strategies/programmes for the coming year – all in a bid to manage our country’s resources for our benefit.

The normal hardworking citizen would also keep eyes and ears out for any immediate benefits the good Minister might announce.  Like increased salaries, higher tax-free earnings, lower taxation, better pensions, even the budget impact on consumer items.

As I’ve indicated, I won’t repeat the daily commentaries now abounding on this year’s Budget.  For we have to brace ourselves for next week’s onslaught in the National Assembly when the new Opposition wades into the Finance Minister’s plans for this year.

How interesting it promises to be! The Opposition, with its one seat majority, which vote can determine which budget measures are approved or not, will have to be tactical – and shrewd.  There can either be agreement and compromise, or the opposition can utilize its power, only for the government to claim it is being stymied and cannot govern and administer in our interest!  Stay tuned as I now offer basic views, vested with cynicism – and hope.

The promise of ever-lasting potential

You know the mantra.  For generations past we’ve been told of our country’s vast “Potential”.  Potential in our mineral and forest resources, our rivers and harbours, the human resource of our people – from the potential of our home-based artisans to “potential” world-class athletes.

Alas, since the fifties, the “potential” has not catapulted us to even developing  status as the bulk, the masses of our people remain victims of that mere under-developed potential!

But wait! Here we go again.  The Budget and the President and certain foreign investors are giving us hope for 2012.  Oil,  gold, magnesium, tourism, sugar, Information Communication Technologies beckon!

Our President of 100-plus days paid an unprecedented visit to one of the off-shore oil rigs last weekend.  Optimism if not oil, flowed.  There is already talk of plans afoot about just how to manage  all that discovered crude can bring us.  I’m not being cynical when I wish the oil companies – and us – the very best.

The Finance Minister, the “new” Natural Resources Minister and the Gold and Diamond Miners Association now reveal, dramatically, that gold now fetches us more than sugar, rice and other Agri-crops combined!  Great news and revenues, whilst they last.

Timber and Bauxite have their challenges but look to our Budgetary strategies, along with astute management and non-corruption, to bring these industries back during this budgetary year.  I suspect that the Opposition will call for significant subsidies since sugar is being given millions.   But thousands upon thousands depend on ailing sugar…)

So there you have my two-cents worth of reflections on the Budget so far.  Except for a last word on poverty.

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The employed, unemployed poor

Remember the PRS? The Poverty Reduction Strategy of a few years ago?  Has the government – fashioned programme reduced poverty?  Won’t they claim that external forces always compromise the “strategies”?

Any Budget can identify those classified as poor by some criteria or “index”

Hinterland dwellers, single-parents, children the consistently unemployed, even the “employed poor” in government jobs, pensioners – all qualified to be described as poor. Their poverty is reflected in infrequent meals, inability to afford full shelter, education or medical treatment and care.  Life’s poverty means hustle, hustle. Some claim that poverty breeds crime.

This Budget tells of the NIS, the higher take-home-pay tax threshold (for incomes); assistance for sugar and GPL workers.  That would never be enough. Hey!  Here is one of my simple/simplistic (?) suggestions: shelve plans to use tax-payers’ millions to build another Casino hotel and use that money to increase pensions and establish consumer buying clubs for the poor.

Discuss.

A Good Friday for Christians…

Christians would remind us.  It is a Friday that saved them – and all human-kind.  For their God so loved the world that he gave up, as divine sacrifice, his son.

This powerful story purports to illustrate the rock-solid belief of millions. That one manifestation – the Son-of their God was given up to absolve those living in sin 2012 years ago and up to this day – from those sins.

Pardon me, but it is still arguable – that life is “abundant” for the world’s poor Christians in their millions.  That, it is said, is the work of the Devil – the Anti-Christ.  Oh but is not Satan doing a fine job with “sinners”?

I bid Christians a Reflective Day and remind them that the Resurrection is a Primary Pillar of their Faith.  If you don’t accept that dramatic rising, you have no basis for your Christian Belief.  And oh, remember Attorney Leon Rockcliffe’s plea: Let today be joyous amidst sombre reflections!  He expected to die. And did, so that you may live! Right? So enjoy.

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Easter Ponderings…

*1)  Postponed: The Relevance of Trade Unions.

*2)  What a week last week – of-Justice!  I’ll return to the Sexual Offences Act and how bad in law was the two year Treason Charge.

*3)  Start the Buying Clubs!  Burnham insisted that the trawlers bring in cheap fish for his (suffering) people.  Think up more of such.

*4)  Welcome to the Proverbs 31 Anti-Domestic Violence Organisation.  I want to join!

*5)  Coming in August – the Festival of the Three Guyanas! (stay tuned).

Til next week!

(Comments? allanafenty@yahoo.com)