VAT on utilities is good mathematics but not good politics

Dear Editor,

People are looking but in vain expecting to find something that would inspire confidence and renewed hope in the 2017 APNU+AFC Budget. Even as the economy continues along its downward path, even as violent crimes continue to rise, we are yet to see the proactive measures to arrest this downturn and point us in the direction of the good life that was obviously intended only for a few. This 2017 Budget will inflict more hardship on the Guyanese people. To them that have much, more is being added. Ask Mr Hamilton Green. From them that have little, even that little shall be taken from them by the government by way of taxes and by the criminals by way of increased violent crimes.

I ask the government: what about plans to create wealth and jobs and for fair and equitable sharing of this additional wealth and jobs if indeed they materialise? Not just for the ‘comrades’ but for our Amerindian folks, many of whom this government dismissed from their jobs or whose contracts of employment were not renewed when they took office in May 2015.

People are looking. Young people are still waiting. They were enthused by the coalition’s encouragement that they continue to attend the tertiary institutions which the PPP/C government had provided them and that they study diligently and qualify themselves for the many jobs which had been promised them. Well many of them have since qualified themselves, more recently from the University of Guyana. What about jobs for them?

During 2017 the government plans to stimulate the economy through major infrastructural works. How would they ensure that the procurement procedures are followed and contracts for the supply of goods and services will not find their way into the hands of a particular set of Guyanese, to the exclusion of other diligent, qualified and industrious Guyanese? How do they plan to ensure that companies based on insider information available to the government will not be formed with the intent of bidding for contracts for specific projects? What about the D’Urban Park project?

I am particularly concerned about the young professionals. They too want jobs and money in their pockets. They too want to experience the good life. The 2017 Budget does not specifically and in any depth address their concerns.

If the coalition’s 2016 performance is anything to go by, where there was a dismal economic performance and poor agriculture returns, tell me on which of their 2017 Budget measures do I premise any renewed expectation or revived hope of a better life during 2017? Increased taxation I guess. The budget does not encourage or facilitate the creation of investment opportunities in the private sector.

The government boasts of the largest budget ever for Guyana. But budget size means nothing unless the projects to be funded by that budget and the concomitant benefits are of great significance and create an economic impact by reaching and benefiting a significant number of the Guyanese people across our country. Can Budget 2017 guarantee that or even move us in that direction?

The coalition has criticized the PPP/C budgets. Have they ever examined our budgets carefully? The PPP/C budgets aimed at promoting growth and reducing poverty; at closing the development gap between the rich and the poor, and between the hinterland and the urban/rural communities of our country.  That is why PPP/C budgets always arose out of countrywide meaningful consultations  with residents, trade onions, private sector, etc, thus reflecting the concerns and needs of the ordinary men and women and youths of our country. The PPP/C budgets were not merely a reflection of the views and wishes of a few selfish politicians with their own selfish political agenda.

Is the coalition proud of the $800 per month addition to our pensioners?

So while they reduce VAT by 2%, they place it on utilities, viz, water and electricity. Good mathematics perhaps, but certainly not good politics. How does this help householders and businesses? Will it not result in increased prices for some goods?

Why doesn’t the government include representatives of the unions representing sugar workers and the political opposition on the Commission of Enquiry in any discussion on the way forward for sugar in Guyana?

The government’s focus on increasing revenue through mainly taxation is ultimately at the price of increased hardship for the people who are already suffering. What about the private sector and their exclusion?

Budget 2017 could have at its best been presented under the theme ‘Abuse of public trust, confidence and state resources … the way to the good life.’


Yours faithfully,

Norman Whittaker

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