Budget fails to deliver for the poor, says APNU’s Sharma

-Kumar urges opposition support

The government’s proposed budget has nothing for the poor, according to APNU MP Jaipaul Sharma, who says the benefits forecast from some of the announced measures are illusionary.

“While there are a few goodies such as the reduction in the personal income tax rates, increase in pension for senior citizens, increase in the tax free threshold for property tax, introduction of mortgage interest relief and old age pension and electricity assistance programme, there are all illusions and no real attention has been made to give any substantial increase in the minimum wages to enable the poorest of the poor public servants… to cope with the rising cost of living,” Sharma, who said he was speaking on behalf of the “plenty poor people of Guyana,” told the National Assembly last Friday.

Jaipaul Sharma
Jaipaul Sharma

He said that this year’s budget was not crafted for the people but rather for “the rich and the middle income earners, the large and the medium scale enterprises” and that it contained nothing for “the working poor, the small man, the real man earning minimum wage.”

Sharma noted that there was no mention of a wages increase or an increase in public assistance in this year’s budget. He said too that the $5,900 per month for public assistance is “a shame,” which represents a deviation from the norm since in previous budgets this grouping would receive an increase.

Turning his attention to the 16% Value-Added Tax, Sharma said that it is the poor people who are saddled with it and who are feeling the effects. He noted that the Finance Minister is projecting a $16.5B in VAT collection, an 11.5% increase and he suggested the government may see it fit to reduce the VAT to 14%.

He said that people want a better way of life, better quality of service and security and consumer protection. “…The budget is a disappointment.

It is not going to significantly transform the people’s lives because of the absence of programmes to address the working poor and the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities,” he added.

Sharma also criticised the 3.3% reduction in personal income tax and the 1% increase in rate payments to the National Insurance Scheme. “This employee that is getting a $1000 in benefits from the reduction in the PAYE is getting $33 savings but he will be paying $510 to the NIS so he is worst off at the end of it,” he said, while adding that the take home pay will be less coupled with that of transportation and food bills which will go up “because of the unscrupulous business community that embrace this budget will increase price because they believe that people are taking home more money which is not true.”

He noted that in the absence of price control mechanisms, the poor will have to pay.

‘On the rise’

Meanwhile, PPP/C MP Neil Kumar, who also made his contribution last Friday, focused extensively on all that the successive PPP/C governments have done for the mining town of Linden and Region Ten since taking office in 1992.

In responding to points raised by APNU MP Rennis Morian with respect to the appointment of women in Region Ten, Kumar called out names from a long list along with designations and some appointment dates. He added that for first time, there is a female Town Clerk.

Kumar also went to great lengths to highlight some of the enhancement works and investment projects that government has undertaken in Region Ten. He even made the point that there is “even a Church’s fast food in Linden.” He also said 12.5 M Euros was pumped into the Linen Economic Advancement Project and that there were 702 loans approved and 701 disbursed.

Neil Kumar
Neil Kumar

In the area of housing, he said more than 4,000 house lots have been allocated in the mining town under the PPP/C. He also noted that lots of money was spent in the area of agriculture in the region, with over $300M being spent at Moblissa. He said that it was under the PPP/C administration that for the first time a student from Linden topped the “Common Entrance” examinations and he highlighted the rehabilitation of schools in the area.

Health, he noted, has also been addressed and this is evident from the construction of a state of the art hospital and health centres across the region and which did not exist under the PNC government. He said that millions were also spent to repair major roads in the region, including the Linden/Kwakwani road.

“Guyana is on the rise. Let us give our support to the 2013 budget as prepared by the Honourable Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh,” he said to loud banging and shouting from his fellow government MPs.

Kumar also said that some of the opposition members made lacklustre presentations and while praising President Donald Ramotar he urged the opposition to work and engage in consultation with the government. While noting that the budget was set with the interest of young people in mind, he said there is also something for the older generation and he pointed to the 25% increase in old age pensions as well as assistance for pensioners paying electricity and water bills.

He also spoke of some of the achievements of government, including the construction of the national stadium and the Olympic-size swimming pool.

This year’s $1.1B to the sports sector, he said, will ensure that all Guyanese have opportunities to participate in sports activities and programmes, thereby channelling their energies, abilities and talent “to contribute meaningfully to national development in all communities in all parts of Guyana.” He spoke of the monies that have been budgeted for the advancing works for the state of the art synthetic track, while noting at this venue international athletic and football events will be held.  The $52 M allocated for the construction of a warm up pool, he added, would enable for regional and international swimming events to be held at the National Aquatic Centre while an additional $300M had been allocated for the development and upgrading of sports facilities countrywide. He noted that money allocated for the development of sports must be well spent “not for a single group but for all Guyanese.”

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