The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has proffered a mixed review of the government’s 2013 budget proposal, describing it as a consumer budget but bemoaning the fact that little provision has been made for the financing of critical infrastructural work and declaring that this year ought to have seen a more significant cut in income tax.
The chamber, while supporting the retention of subsidies to both the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) believes a point has long been reached where management and other systems need to be put in place to ensure that these entities are run more efficiently. “They cannot simply keep showing up for subsidies year after year,” GCCI President Clinton Urling said.
Asked to identify the positives in the 2013 budget, Urling said in an interview on Wednesday that government’s budgetary proposals reflected an increase in disposable income. “Apart from the fact that the budget actually provides people with more money to spend, it also provides support for some key sectors including housing and small business development,” he said. Noting that this year’s budget had reflected growth levels of 4.8 per cent Urling told Stabroek Business that this meant the country had recorded positive growth for quite a few consecutive years.
But, according to Urling, the GCCI remained concerned that the budget appeared to reflect no significant support for the country’s manufacturing sector. “There are several key issues in relation to the manufacturing sector that have not been addressed including problems related to power supply and energy costs and incentives that would ensure the growth of the sector. These have not been addressed adequately and we are disappointed,” Urling said.
Another area of disappointment is what Urling said was the budget’s failure to address the vexed question of the dredging of the Demerara River channel, an issue which was “a sore point” with the business community. “Just recently we had the Guyana Shipping Association addressing this issue at length and looking at its implications for higher shipping costs and for the economy as a whole. We might have expected that given the length of time that the dredging of the harbour has been an issue, this year’s budget might have seen a financial allocation for dealing with this problem,” Urling said.
Meanwhile, Urling said that while democratic practice made provision for spirited debate on the 2013 budget in the National Assembly, there was a need for the encouragement of “rational debate… Of course we need to encourage debate on the budget. We need to encourage rational debate and if the parliamentary opposition has issues with any of the provisions in the budget, it must state what those issues are so that there can be substance to whatever position it takes,” Urling said.