APNU leader David Granger and AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan will approach proposed cuts to the 2012 budget on common ground today as the two parties attempt to cast aside public perception of a rift, following recent closed-door meetings between APNU and the government.
APNU and the AFC met privately yesterday during the consideration of the 2012 budget estimates at the National Assembly to discuss proposed cuts to the budget and other matters of national interest.
Granger and Ramjattan later spoke to the media together, further demonstrating solidarity and appearing to put to rest accusations of “selling out” and “betrayal” that had dogged APNU over the past few days.
Ramjattan told reporters that the discussions hinged on, “expenditure that we want to see better managed” and for which explanations had not been forthcoming. He added that the opposition had intended to propose the cuts to in order to fund proposals that were brought to the attention of the Office of the President.
These include reductions in value-added and personal income taxes as well as “ensuring that we have a Public Procurement Commission, which once operational… [will] see savings amounting to billions of dollars in contract work and procurement of services,” Ramjattan explained.
As regards the budgetary allocation of $18 billion for the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which the opposition proposes to scale down, Ramjattan noted that the government has inserted the sum in this year’s budget but the monies are yet to be approved by the relevant foreign agency. “We have not as yet gotten the money, and that kind of money is only subject to an additional appropriation… you go and fix it in the budget as if we already got it… It is illegal and wrong,” he said.
As regards cuts to the $6B subsidy budgeted for Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Granger said the opposition was proposing the cut in order to ensure compliance with the laws. “We are demonstrating our lack of support for the subsidy and we feel that the government needs to pay attention to the demand of both [opposition] parties in terms of [the National Industrial, Commercial and Investments Limited, [and the Government Information Agency]…” he said, adding that the opposition was united on all grounds in order to foster better financial management of state funds. Granger also sought to reiterated cooperation between the two opposition parties. He said APNU and the AFC have been in contact since December 1 last year, following the general elections and that they “have never really broken contact and we have common objectives, on the old age pension, in looking after the working people and the continuation of a process of cooperation that started since December last year.”
Granger said the opposition intends to have continuous dialogue with the government in order to bring about change in the interest of its constituents.
“We feel that this is in the national interest and we are using this as a means of bringing in the administration to discuss some broader issues, which we think they are ignoring,” he explained.
He added that the opposition has not closed the doors to having dialogue with the administration and looks forward to speaking with the administration “to have an outcome which is satisfying to the whole country.”
He said too that the opposition is not holding the government to ransom, however, “we want an outcome with which the majority of the people who voted for AFC and APNU will be satisfied.”