Insisting that the opposition’s no-confidence motion against government will be defeated, government Chief Whip Amna Ally yesterday expressed confidence that the APNU+AFC coalition will also retain office at the next general elections in 2020.
“Bring it on! Bring it on! The APNU+AFC is a solid 33, you have an indecisive 32,” she shouted to those sitting in the opposition seats.
Government has a one-seat majority in the 65-member National Assembly.
Ally, who is also the Minister of Social Protec-tion, used her allotted time on day four of the debate of the government’s proposed 2019 national budget to not only highlight the work her ministry did this year but to hammer home the point that the government is not worried about the no-confidence motion, which has been lodged by PPP/C General Secretary and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The administration, she said, has a clear vision and is prioritising investments that would rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of Guyana.
“This is a budget for the people,” Ally shouted above banging tables and she later dismissed the utterings of opposition parliamentarian Nigel Dharamlall, who during his presentation to the House claimed that it would be the coalition government’s last budget.
She stressed that the coalition will “stand firm and that the electorate is happy because they have begun to enjoy the good life and look forward to even better days under the APNU+AFC.”
No good life
However opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira was adamant that the good life does not exist.
She spent her allotted 35 minutes painting a picture of hardship and bad government policies.
Noting that by the end of 2019 government would have spent approximately $1.3 trillion, she asked, “We have heard about this being the good life. So, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask ministers…Do you not see what is going on in the streets of our country? Do you not see the increase in the beggars? Do you not see the number of young people and women who are at traffic lights cleaning windscreens and selling water to make a living?”
Teixeira further questioned whether the now well-established dog food industry is a sign of the good life. “The people are suffering—Do you not see? Do you not hear?” she shouted before accusing ministers of not going out to meet vendors and other businesspersons but instead are driving around in their “big fancy land cruisers with security.”
Given the continuous loud outbursts during her presentation, Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland at one point had cause to warn the members to keep their voices down.
“We have tried by all means to put forward measures that can help. You don’t understand Minister Jordan that by coming up with these measures on how to improve the government [and] how to stimulate the economy, you’re taking a political risk as a party…? Were you to implement this, we wouldn’t have trouble getting into government in 2020 but thanks to this and what you are doing now, we will get into government in 2020,” she declared.
Teixeira addressed the issue of increased taxes, the removal of technical persons as well as the government’s abandonment of several projects and programmes since 2015.
Towards the end of her presentation, she noted that she agreed with a fellow opposition members that the 2019 budget will destroy the economy and disempower people. “I want to say, Mr Speaker, they (government) have lost a golden opportunity …to come out with a budget that would save our nation, stimulate the economy, improve the quality of life of our people. This budget will not do that sir. Unfortunately, this budget will take our country further back,” she stressed.
Ally informed the House that work has been done to reform the social services system and assured that the good results will continue in 2019.
She said that there was “measurable progress and increased visibility” in the execution of the ministry’s mandate in 2018 and described these as “solid achievements.”
Ally told the National Assembly that 1,264 women, young people and entrepreneurs benefitted from training under the Sustainable Livelihoods and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme in 2018. She said that $150 million was budgeted and 33 projects were identified for execution in various regions. Areas of interest, she said, included poultry and pig rearing, manufacturing, fruits preservations, making of jams and jellies, shade house cultivation, women empowerment training, block making, leather craft production and fish cultivation.
In 2019, the allocation has been increased to $250 million and according to Ally, government is investing more because of the positive impact on households and the transformation of people’s lives. “The figures and evidence are clear,” she stressed.
She dismissed the opposition’s claims that not much development is happening in Amerindian communities. She said under her ministry alone government has empowered people in many Amerindian communities. She also identified the “5Bs” Project, from which those living in the hinterland have benefited.
“We will continue to traverse the road of development because we believe in being the government of all the people and not a few cronies,” she said.
Minister Ally informed the House that her ministry has recognised the importance of good social services and therefore has done a lot of work in this area in 2018.
She lauded her government’s ability to increase old age pensions by 55% as well as the increased public assistance since taking office in 2015. Ally did not forget to mention work done on the Palms, the Night Shelter, and the Hugo Chavez Centre, the construction of domestic violence centres at Whim and Onderneeming and commencement of construction of a new Drop-in Centre.
The minister used the occasion to dismiss statements made by the opposition members about little attention being paid to women’s empowerment, before listing a number of initiatives from which women benefited.