Tied vote on budget bill would see gov’t fall

-PPP/C motion would need two defections to succeed

Ralph Ramkarran

The opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)  needs the support of at least two government MPs to ensure passage of its no-confidence motion but a tied vote on the  budget Appropriation Bill would also see the government fall.

Two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran stated in an interview with Stabroek News  “The PPP needs two votes. One would only neutralize the advantage but the other will see them winning the motion unlike in the passage of the Appropriation Bill. If there is a tie when the no-confidence motion goes to the floor then the Standing Orders state that the motion doesn’t pass. And by the same logic, if the Appropriation (bill) is put to the House and there is a tie then that doesn’t pass or it is defeated. That is very serious because what that means is that the government will fall”.

He added “The Appropriation Bill provides the authority for the government to spend. If they don’t have authority to spend state funds, not a cent, then that is end of the government. So forget the no-confidence motion down the road that needs two, just one person not there or vote against the Appropriation Bill, the government is finished”.

The 2019 Budget will be presented today to the National Assembly by Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan. Following the presentation of the Budget, members will then be given one week to do their analysis and scrutiny of it. One week of debates follows.

Consideration of the estimates will begin when the one week of debating is up and the House will transform itself into the Committee of Supply for that process. After the conclusion of the estimates, the House resumes and the Appropriation Bill is put before it. But unlike other Bills, the Appropriation Bill is a formal procedure as it is not debated but needs a majority for passage.

Ramkarran said that from much “word in the street” about the upcoming no-confidence motion and the opposition’s seeming confidence that it will have enough votes to pass the motion, much discussion has not been had on the passage of the Appropriation Bill.  He pointed out that while the opposition needs the support of at least two government parliamentarians for its no-confidence motion to be carried, only one vote, which will see a tie, is needed for the non-passage of the 2019 Budget Appropriation Bill.

Ramkarran explained that a tie in the current National Assembly makeup means a defeated bill since the current Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland cannot vote. Only an elected member of the National Assembly who is the substantive speaker is afforded voting privileges.

The coalition government is confident that all of its members will support it and this newspaper understands that Government Chief Whip Amna Ally has given “strict instructions” that all of their members be early as tardiness will not be tolerated. “Amna has sounded the warning and you know when Amna opens her mouth is what…she has given strict instructions that we be early for the sittings. She didn’t even have to say to present because that goes without saying,” one government parliamentarian told Stabroek News.

This newspaper also understands that at least one government minister will be out of the country during the debates but that all members will be present for consideration of the estimates.

Circulated

The Speaker has approved the no-confidence motion and a copy of the Notice Paper with the motion will be circulated at today’s sitting of the National Assembly.

Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs has said that after the Speaker’s approval of the motion, it is up to government to decide when it will be debated.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had been pressing for the motion to be debated before the scheduled budget today.

The Opposition Leader has charged that the coalition government is damaging the country’s future prospects.

“Clearly people are unhappy with the direction of the country; [with the] policies and practice of government…. Government has no vision. We are drifting, they have absolutely no plan for Guyana. They are using up our money on frivolous things, such as celebrations, food and rentals [and] they are borrowing a lot. They are damaging our prospects for the future,” Jagdeo told reporters while noting that the worst that can happen is that government uses its one-seat majority to defeat the motion.

If the motion passes it would require the holding of general elections in 90 days

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo last Friday said that that the motion will be debated after December 16th, the expected end of the budget debate and passage, and is confident that given the voting makeup it has no chance of succeeding.

“This motion, by the Opposition, has no reasonable prospect for any success in the National Assembly,” he said in a live feed address to the nation.

He believes  that the  PPP/C has moved a motion knowing that it has a minority of votes in the National Assembly to “harass the Guyanese people” since there is no way that party could reasonably believe that anyone on government’s side would vote for them.  “It is the government that has the majority. And, therefore, initially and on the surface of it, a no-confidence motion cannot succeed. It is a no-go. It is a no-no. And, therefore, you have an Opposition saying now that “Look, it is not that we want it to be approved, if it fails, we succeed.” What kind of logic is that? You start on the basis that your motion cannot succeed and you still believe it is a victory.  So, you want, psychologically, to harass the Guyanese people, to use a no-confidence motion to frustrate the work of the National Assembly.

“…It must have a majority of all elected members of National Assembly. Our National Assembly has 65 members. It means that the motion of no-confidence, in order to pass, must have 33 members who are elected as members of the National Assembly. The Opposition doesn’t have that. It is the Government that has 33 members who are elected and sitting in the National Assembly,” he declared.

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