No impact has yet been seen from cuts to the 2013 budget and Opposition Leader David Granger says that government is proceeding as though nothing has happened and he does not expect that there will be significant change.
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan meanwhile says that change is happening.
In April, the opposition slashed $31 billion from the $208.8 billion 2013 budget. The $20 billion allocation for the Low Carbon Development Strategy was cut by $19 billion; $5.2 billion was cut from the $10.2 billion proposed for the Guyana Power and Light (GPL); $1.2 billion for the specialty hospital project was also snipped along with the entire air transport allocation of $5.63 billion under the Ministry of Public Works. Also coming under the knife was GINA, which had its allocation of $135.858 million reduced to $1; NCN’s $81.337 million was also cut to $1.
“It’s too soon to tell…the cuts were only made in April,” APNU Leader Granger said when contacted on whether any impacts have been seen from this year’s cuts.
Last year, the Opposition which holds a one-seat majority in the National Assembly also made cuts to the budget. However, government resorted to the Contingencies Fund to restore the allocations.
Granger noted that the opposition’s main intention in making the cuts was reform of the targeted agencies but said that government is proceeding as though nothing has happened. “We have not seen any change in the performance of NCN,” he said as an example. The Opposition Leader said that APNU has done everything humanly possible to force accountability and said that there would be follow-up action in the National Assembly.
However, he was not confident that there will be much change. “I don’t expect that there will be any significant change this year” which is a pity, Granger said, adding that they want accountability and transparency and government should take action. He said that despite the budget cuts last year, nothing has changed in terms of government taking action to do what they should do.
Meantime, Ramjattan said that he does not know of any impacts from this year’s budget cuts. “These were deferred approvals largely,” he noted citing the Amaila Falls hydropower project as an example where they will approve the expenditure once the project receives the green light from the Inter-American Development Bank.
He said that it is mismanagement in some instances that precipitated the cuts but government does not want to change this. Furthermore, he said that the cuts have exposed the serious situation facing some of these entities. “We are finding out the ineptitude and incompetence of these bodies,” the AFC leader said.
He said that the cuts to the allocations for these agencies ensure that they do not have extra money to spend extravagantly. “We want them to tighten up,” Ramjattan said. He used NCN as an example and said that they want it to be run better. He said that the state broadcaster should ensure that the majority of elected representatives have their views aired, noting that it is being funded with taxpayer’s money.
He defended the budget cuts saying that they have produced pressure.
“We will be having changes because the (administration) is being pressured,” he said. He said that the pressure comes not only from the opposition but from the PPP’s supporters who have seen the things exposed. He said that as a result government has been reaching out to the opposition parties. “You think they would have called us if they were not pressured,” Ramjattan asked. “People are now seeing that and changes will come,” he said, adding though that this will occur slowly.
The AFC leader said that the PPP is discredited across the country including in their sugar belt stronghold where disenchantment is strong. “I believe they are starting to crack up at corners that matters plenty,” he added.