APNU+AFC Member of Parliament (MP) Audwin Rutherford on Monday described the proposed 2018 National Budget as a “masterly crafted projection” while Opposition MP Neil Kumar charged that it will bring more hardship.
“The citizens of this trendsetting Region have demanded that I say thank you to APNU+AFC coalition Government. They are pleased with the delivery over the last 30 months but continue to request more, some of which are in Budget 2018”, Rutherford, Region 10’s representative told the House during day one of the budget debate.
Rutherford presented in great detail the works done in the various sectors this year. “A quick glance at the analysis of the region’s 2017 work programme will see a common entry under status -100% completed, a few have lower figures or work in progress and I was told that within weeks all will be completed”, he informed.
He stated that in the proposed 2018 National Budget the region will get a whopping $3,418,578,000, $280M more than what was allocated in 2017. Based on his examination, every sector in the region will see an increased allocations.
Rutherford said that in an effort to enable the optimal use of the region’s resources, it is imperative than staff of the Regional Democratic Council work in a safe and comfortable environment and as such a $33.016 M will cover the cost for the construction of a new regional administrative building. He highlighted the allocations for other areas to improve the environment that regional staff operate in.
He noted that as the region continues to focus on road improvement, $322.5M has been allocated for public works. Some of the major road upgrades include Stanley Road, Wismar Hill Primary School Road, and Teacher’s Compound Main Access Road for a combined $68.5M, he said noting that this will bring relief to more than 5,000 residents directly and over 10,000 indirectly. He said that there is also an allocation for the upgrade of the drainage system at Stanley Road, Dakama Circle and Determa Street which will benefit thousands of residents. With regard to agricultural development, he said that this is overdue.
In 2018, he said, it is proposed that $15M be used to construct additional farm-to-market roads in West Watooka and the provision of revetment, erosion control structures and desilting of creeks in Mackenzie. In the meantime, he said the region’s agriculture will continue to benefit from programmes in the Ministry of Agriculture, Public Infrastructure, Business, Social Cohesion, Natural Resources, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
Rutherford added that much has been done to enhance the region’s education sector since government took office. As such, next year it is being proposed that $133M be spent to construct a Nursery and a Primary school at Bamia, $14.5M for the purchase of a school bus and $14.5M for school furniture and equipment inclusive of much needed lathes and science kits.
According to the MP, the proposed budget makes provisions for the continued transformation of the Health Sector in Region 10. $64.5M, he said is budgeted for the rehabilitation of the Upper Demerara Regional Hospital and provision of Health Centres at Mabura and Amelia’s Ward to benefit over 30,000 residents. Further, he said attention is being placed on improving health services in the riverine areas. River ambulances, he informed will be purchased for $19.4M bringing overdue relief to over 8,000 residents in the region while a further $15M will spent for other essential supplies inclusive of solar systems which will tremendously benefit the far-flung areas.
Meanwhile, Opposition MP Neil Kumar during his contribution said that he was in sympathy with the poor working people particularly the pensioners, youths and students who continue to face hardships under the current administration.
Noting that he listened carefully to Rutherford’s presentation, he reminded the House about the numerous times he expressed concerns about the disastrous state of the Kwakwani waterfront, to no avail. “The crime situation in Region Ten is alarming… The Health Centres and the schools in the riverain area…Berbice River desperately need attention”, he posited before questioning Rutherford on the state of riverain transportation in the region. Pointing out that this is the fourth National Budget produced by government since it took office, Kumar stated that Guyanese have had “to work harder and pay more taxes (than any other time) in the history of this country while we are experiencing serious declines in the precious productive sectors, rice, bauxite, sugar, forestry, fishing and agriculture, livestock industries; they have all declined miserably”.
Kumar stressed that history has confirmed that government is incapable of effectively and efficiently managing and administering the basic support required by these critical industries. “The unsustainability of such measures will have long lasting effects, the impact will be an indictment on the previous gains that were made under the PPP/Civic government. As a result our people are being forced to pay more taxes. At the current rate there will be very little to tax as this coalition government has proven that they cannot stimulate production and productivity which is
essential to the continuous development of our nation”, he said, adding that while this 2018 budget is the biggest produced by this administration, “it will bring greater hardship to our people. We are certainly on our way to pre-1992 …our people’s expectations is continuously being shattered with every consecutive APNU+AFC National Budget thus far”.
He argued that this budget lacks the social content to address pressing issues. He made mention of the calls for better community roads and bridges, the call for street lights and police protection through increased police patrols and the construction of outpost in wake of rising crime and the call for potable water supply and cleaner burial grounds.
“Mr. Speaker the APNU+AFC must stop making foolish promises. The coalition must put in place a real programme that will bring relief to towns and villages, to the hinterland and to our indigenous communities”, he stressed before calling on government to stop stymieing the development of those communities they lost in the Local Government Elections.
He argued that the coalition government inherited a solid and functional constitution, a fat treasury, strong foreign reserves, bonuses for the security sector and nine consecutive years of economic growth.
“The approach by the government is only squandering the treasury…with four vice presidents and a number of ministers which never existed in Guyana…fat cat salaries increases. Twenty million vehicle for a man who couldn’t afford to buy a donkey cart …Five hundred thousand dollar house rent for ministers …Advisors galore at the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Millions on forensic audits and CoIs”, he said as he turned to look at several empty chairs on the government side of the House. He said that while this is happening there is “zero” meaningful bonuses for the security and public sectors.
“What a shame! Yuh pay yuhself big money and our hard working security and public sector will get nothing. In fact you are breaking up the police force and that is why we are gonna get much more crime”, he shouted.
The local government system, he said is in chaos. “It is a travesty that the 2016 local government elections are still incomplete. Several NDCs are experiencing serious political interference from the Regional Executive Officers”, he posited, turning to the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan.
He accused the government of “blatantly discriminating” against persons living in the local government areas they lost following the elections.
Kumar, a former Director of Sport, charged that sports has not been a dominant feature in any of the four budget presentations.
“…I am challenging this coalition government to tell this nation what they have done and what they intend to do for the further development of sports”, he said, adding that in 2016 the budgeted sum for the National Sports Commission was $301, 310, 000 and for 2017 it was $536, 979, 000. He said that he was reliably informed that less than half of this year’s allocation was spent.
“It is impossible for them to go through the procurement and everything that is legal to spend 70% of the money that was allocated to them. These people cannot even run a rum shop and they are sporting with sports. Now for 2018 the budget is $300, 949, 000. It will be interesting to see how they will continue sporting with sports”, he declared.