While accusing the government of being unkind to those operating in key sectors, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday said that the proposed 2018 budget brings burdens and offers no plan for the future.
The former president was making his presentation on the final day of the budget debate and devoted a small part of his three-hour speech to highlight what the previous PPP/C administration did for Linden, a PNCR stronghold.
Shouting above banging and heckling, Jagdeo while looking at empty government benches said that the budget presented by the Finance Minister contained lots of unnecessary information and offered nothing that could advance the country’s economy.
“We hope that next year when the minister comes, and speaks about Guyana and the plans again we are not going to be regaled with studies…to be completed and the work towards creating a plan for Guyana”, he said.
Jagdeo listed a number of issues in the public domain which according to him points to “cracks” and “tensions in the coalition government including differing views on severance of sugar workers. In launching an attack on the performance of Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, Jagdeo told the House that neither the government nor the minister has been “a friend” to those operating in the various sectors particularly mining and forestry.
While criticizing the contents of the 2018 budget he said that based on his observations “this government will be collecting $56B more from the taxpayers of this country from businessmen, from cleaners, from other workers, from our citizens…when they promised that the tax burden in Guyana was too high and they would reduce it, they are collecting $56B more….and that is what is sucking the essence out of the economy too”, he said.
According to Jagdeo, the current expenditure has grown by $60.9B for 2018 when compared to 2014 under the PPP/C government. “So they are collecting more and spending an enormous amount of money”, he stressed.
He questioned, “Where is all of this money going?” and later added that is an enormous increase in other areas which raised further questions. According to Jagdeo, based on what he is seeing the government doesn’t have its priorities right. “That is why I can never buy into the excuse that there is not enough money for our productive sectors. Mr Speaker we on this side can take that same framework and we would find $30M to spend on productive activities and welfare enhancing activities without harming any of the development objectives that are now stated”, he assured.
He said that government lacks transparency and used a number of examples to support his argument inclusive of the controversial renting of a Sussex Street building for use as a medical bond. He said that the government’s behaviour is shameful and that its members live in a “make believe world”.
As he dissected the budget, Jagdeo stressed on how hard the PPP/C administration had worked to remove depression from the mining town of Linden and to improve the lives of the persons living there. “We spent billions on the housing schemes, Amelia’s Ward and Block 22…water treatment plants, investing in power, new hospital, (and) several schools…We gave…water subsidy, electricity subsidy and loan. Over $30B in that community on electricity”, he stated as some of his colleagues nodded in agreement. He also spoke about the creation of Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) and the government’s contribution to the development of the town’s bauxite sector.
He said that the previous administration also provided assistance to other areas of Region Ten even though it was a PNC stronghold. “It didn’t matter. It was our job as the government to take care of the people…regardless of who they are”, he said as his colleagues banged on their desks.
As expected, Jagdeo touched on the scrapped Amaila Falls Hydropower Project and the government’s approach to renewable energy. He expressed his disappointment and later opined that government’s decision not to go ahead with the project was politically motivated. He noted that the previous government decided to go ahead with it after conducting several studies. With regards to renewable energy, he contended that government is pursuing a natural gas plan without conducting a feasibility study.
When Jagdeo ended his presentation, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock was the only government MP sitting in the House.