Gov’t invites opposition to consultation on 2014 budget

Finance Minister Ashni Singh has invited the opposition parties to take part in consultations on the 2014 budget.

“The invitation, though delayed, has now come,” AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan told reporters at a press brief yesterday.

Work on the budget began since July 1 and Ramjattan said he had requested that his party be allowed to contribute to its drafting since then. The invitation never came until last week.

But “we will not make big bones about the invitation,” he explained, while adding that the AFC will be more than happy to make its contributions once the consultations commence.

APNU MP Joseph Harmon yesterday said that the main opposition has also been contacted by the finance minister on the matter of a tripartite budget consultation.

He told Stabroek News that Singh has exchanged correspondence with the party’s finance spokesman Carl Greenidge and they have already identified a number of party members who will represent APNU once a date for consultations has been set.

With three months passed since the Finance Ministry commenced its work on the budget, it is uncertain how influential the opposition parties’ input can or will be at this stage.

However, with government lacking a majority in the National Assembly, the support of the opposition is critical for the approval of the budget estimates.

The AFC and APNU complained of inadequate consultations on the first two budgets presented by the Donald Ramotar administration ahead of cutting “unnecessary expenditure” on both occasions.

Had they been included in the consultations prior to the budget being laid in the National Assembly, they parties argued, they could have raised the issues of the unnecessary amounts at that time, therefore avoiding being forced to make the cuts.

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