Former president Bharrat Jagdeo has criticised the size of the proposed national budget, saying that while the APNU+AFC administration has been claiming that the former government left the country bankrupt, it is now planning to spend more than what was spent last year.
“For the past two months, they have been making the case that the country is bankrupt, that the country is totally bankrupt…,” Jagdeo told a news conference at Freedom House yesterday, one day after Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s budget presentation.
“The big bad PPP was so corrupt it squandered all the money… and so I was shocked at the budget. That this same Minister of Finance, who had been making that case, has now proposed a bigger budget than we had in 2014,” he said.
Jagdeo, an economist and former Finance Minister, accused Jordan of attempting to “dupe” the citizenry by choosing his words carefully to blur the reality of the situation.
“He cleverly did something—he said that the budget is $221B versus the $244B returned in 2014. That was not, $244B was not returned, $244B was budgeted. The actual figures are more like $218B… but he did not want to say that they have a bigger budget than the 2014 budget,” he charged.
“They have a bigger budget. I would have expected, since about 30% of it is fraud, that is, money that the PPP would steal in the budget estimated by [Anand] Goolsarran, that they would have cut the budget by 30% because they are not going to steal. Either they were lying about us stealing or they put $40B in the budget to steal,” he added.
He added that because of the PPP/C’s policies, the fiscal deficit in 2014 was 5.5% of the Gross Domestic Product and will come down to 2.9% this year. Jagdeo stated that if there was no money left in the treasury, this would not be possible and he called on the public to realise that while the government was stating one thing, it was far from the reality.
He said for the remainder of the year, the government would spend roughly $97 billion, or close to $800M daily. As a result, he stated that when the PPP/C enters Parliament, it would be advocating for the speedy setting up of the Public Accounts Committee which one of its MPs will chair.
Jagdeo also said that although Guyana did have a slowing down of the economy, the reality was that Guyana still outperformed every other country in the Caribbean. “Now, I heard Jordan said the economy started slowing down before they got into office. What he did not say [is] that in Guyana’s case we have had nine consecutive years of positive growth,” he said.
“They can’t produce and that is the big problem here now. So, this whole thing about growth rate and slowing down is Jordan has it absolutely wrong,” he added.
Jagdeo stated that the world economic outlook showed global growth of 3.3%, with advanced countries growing by 1.8% and Latin America and the Caribbean growing by 1.2%. Guyana had a growth rate of 3.8% in 2014, with the Finance Minister predicting the economy to grow by 3.4% in 2015.
Jagdeo also charged that there is a public “crisis of confidence” with people and especially elements of the private sector, who believe the government is incompetent and which has seen a significant contraction of spending after the coalition assumed office.
Jagdeo said while the minister recycled numerous PPP initiatives, such as the ‘One Laptop’ project, the school uniform voucher programme and the Hope Canal Project, during the budget presentation there was no real substance as it relates to job creation and tangible plans to develop Guyana.