PPP/C executive members yesterday slammed the joint opposition for the $21 billion cut to the national budget, saying that the move was made out of revenge and not in the best interest of the nation.
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali and Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai at a press conference at Freedom House fumed about the budget cuts and their effect on Guyanese, especially the youth and Amerindians.
Rohee said that it was clear that the opposition, particularly APNU, had established a link between the negotiations that were taking place at Office of the President and their positions adopted during the considerations of the estimates. This meant, he said, since there was no progress during the talks at OP, there would be none in Parliament.
He said his party believes this was rather unfortunate because when most of the cuts were examined, “we are of the view that those matters had to do with our national interest.” Though, he added, the PPP does not want to create the impression that it is the only party aware of what ought to be considered national interest.
According to Rohee, APNU entered into negotiations with the government on its own and that bore fruit in respect to old age pensions. “We saw some positive signs at the beginning, where the government and the APNU reached agreements,” he said, emphasizing that as the talks progressed government saw “the first bad faith movement” where having agreed on a formula for supply of electricity to Linden, APNU backed out, bowing to pressure from their supporters and the Alliance For Change (AFC).
Rohee said the joint opposition went to the Committee of Supply “waving what is now popularly known as the tyrannical scissors,” and he added that the slashing of the budget was a crime committed against the people of Guyana and as a result of this, many persons particularly youth, are out of jobs.
Later, Sukhai described the cuts as “reckless, irresponsible actions,” adding that the nation should be told about the “true nature of the opposition”.
She stressed that the cuts will drastically affect vulnerable groups and prevent the government from advancing the furtherance of Amerindian development in terms of more than 156 projects which are critical to their socio economic development.
More than 70,000 Amerindians, she said, will not be able to benefit from any economic intervention outside of what was approved in the capital budget.
Sukhai told reporters that 13 communities will not be able to receive land titles because funding has been cut. “It is saying to the Amerindian community, to hell with you and your land rights. We don’t care, we have gotten your votes and therefore we do not need your votes until maybe the next elections,” she said.
“It’s a loss for our people. It is a loss for the Amerindians. It is a loss to this nation.”
Sukhai, at one point, seemed to forget she was not in Parliament as she referred to the reporters as “Mr Speaker”.
She said the cuts have brought the Low Carbon Develop Strategy (LCDS) – the country’s national development strategy – to its knees, while the tourism and agriculture budgets and the adaptation programme have also been affected.
Stating that hinterland youth are anxiously waiting for their computers and connectivity, she asked, “How can an opposition be so irresponsible to be deny the Amerindian young people and households this modern piece of technology…?” She opined that the intent was to discredit the LCDS.
Minister Ali added that the cuts have impacted greatly on policy, pointing out that regional and international communities are taking note of what is happening here. He said the areas targeted in the cuts have severe implications for international and regional trade and agreements.
Ali said the affected programmes which extends outside Guyana’s boundaries, will test the country’s “trustworthiness and credibility in relation to our international commitments and that is what is at stake also.”
He said certain agreements were made with members of the international community based on the government’s vision. He questioned what guides the joint opposition used while they were considering the budget cuts.
“The opposition cuts were carefully calculated in a way to destroy the future economy, to destroy the expansion of the services economy and to destroy the linkage of a development infrastructure to economic growth and expansion,” he said, adding that the purpose is to create a failed state.
As regards Granger’s position that the cuts are reversible, Ali questioned the impact they will have on the lives of the 38 Government Information Agency (GINA) employees, pointing to the social and economic impact the cuts will have. He asked, “Are people’s lives reversible?”