While the opposition cannot add to the National Budget set to be delivered by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh on Friday, Leader of the Opposition David Granger says with the new dispensation in Parliament an avenue for real debate had been created.
“This time there will be real budget debate,” Granger told Stabroek News yesterday in an invited comment and pointed out that what passed in previous sessions for debates was “farcical” He said while the opposition cannot add to what will be presented by the Government it is the legislative branch that has to approve the proposed expenditures. Under the rules of Parliament only the government can introduce measures which impact on the Consolidated Fund.
The opposition had hoped to have a meaningful contribution to the country’s proposed estimates of expenditure through tripartite talks but this has not materialised with the last attempt on March 16 falling flat on its face when the parties instead of having a meeting to address opposition concerns on the National Budget dealt with the status of the budget meeting. A few days later the Government announced Friday as the budget day.
Asked whether APNU has a plan on what the next step will be should the government present a budget that is lacking, Granger said that the coalition is not interested in a “car crash.”
“We are not interested in a car crash, in any collision or gridlock,” Granger said reiterating that there is now an avenue for proper debate of the budget.
According to Granger both APNU and AFC had from the outset called for tripartite consultations on the budget as the parties were interested in participating in the drafting of the document. He said the government had shown little interest in allowing the opposition parties to be part of the planning of the budget and the parties were literally shut out with no consultation. The administration, he said went ahead and drafted a budget in accordance with its plan even though the majority of those who voted on November 28 cast their votes in favour of the opposition parties.
Granger said that both parties are interested in better management of the country’s finances and are seeking more transparency. The budget, he said, should be shaped towards creating greater economic stability for Guyana. The opposition leader said that the parties had “a lot of ideas” to contribute to the process and are now looking to the government to correct the faults in the country’s financial management and business. For this to happen more money needs to be poured into the country’s education sector and in the hinterland regions. Granger said the hinterland regions have been neglected by the government and this has led to poor infrastructure.
Reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) and raising the income tax threshold were some of the issues APNU had campaigned on during the run up to last year’s election and while these are issues that it would like to see addressed in the budget Granger once again noted that the opposition cannot add to the budget.