While the AFC plans to support some aspects of the 2012 budget, MP Dr. Verasammy Ramaya on Wednesday vowed that the party would not support the $75 billion allotted to capital works.
“There are elements in this budget that the AFC can support but there are some elements such as the $75 billion for capital works that we cannot support,” he said during his maiden address to the National Assembly.
He stated that a mere $5 billion reduction from the $75 billion allocated for capital works could be used to increase the wages of 30,000 government employees without any major impact on capital works.
“It will cost this government some $5 billion for a 47% increase for all state workers, including GuySuCo workers as a para-statal agency.
“Reduce the capital works from $75 billion to $70 billion, no big deal, no big difference.” He opined that for many, $5,000 may not be much an increase but “$5,000 more means more milk for the children…more food on the table.”
While there has been no reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) the income tax threshold has been increased from $40,000 to $50,000. However, there has been no wage increase stated in the 2012 budget for government workers.
Against that background, Ramaya called for a “better deal for all workers of Guyana.”
In particular, he made a call for a 20% pay hike for police, soldiers, fire fighters and prison personnel, while noting that the servicemen perform high-risk duties in providing various aspects of national security.
“Everyday many of these officers put their lives on the line for the nation and to have another budget that offers them no salary increase is shameful,” Ramaya said.
On agriculture, Ramaya said that the AFC feels that this is the era for the diversification of crops and urged government not pay equal attention to non- traditional crops but others such as pineapples and vegetables, since in the long-run these would play a major role in Guyana’s economic development. Turning his attention to the ailing sugar industry and by extension the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Ramaya criticised the government’s approach towards improving the sector. He said that the US$200 million Skeldon Sugar Factory illustrates a waste of resources.
“The factory at Skeldon is currently consuming 20 tonnes of cane to produce one tonne of sugar, where factories more than 30 years old are producing more than this state-of-the-art factory,” he said.
The sugar factories at Enmore, Rose Hall, Blairmont, Wales, Albion and others currently use between 11-15 tonnes to produce 1 tonne of sugar, he noted.
Government this year budgeted a $4 billion bail-out for GuySuCo aimed at ramping up production.
The sugar corporation has already announced that steps are being taken to remodel aspects of the Skeldon Sugar Factory to ensure that it is efficient. The corporation hopes to produce 265,000 tons of the sweetener this year, up from last year’s total production of 237,000 tonnes.