Budget needs to be reworked– APNU’s Bulkan
“We were not sent here to be appendages, to rubber stamp any and everything presented by the Government ”
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) parliamentarian, Ronald Bulkan, has pointed out
that while the Government continues to implore that this year’s whopping $192.8M national budget be passed, there is much work left to be done by the opposition parties.
During day two of the budgetary debates (Wednesday), Bulkan explained that although many Government officials are/will continue to “regale” the opposition with much data suggesting that the country is on the right path and that much progress has been achieved in recent years, the opposition will not sit idly by and allow such an exuberant sum to be passed without their involvement.
He alluded to the speakers who “sought to lecture” during their budget presentations and stated that Member of Parliament, Reverend Kwame Gilbert, was the most pointed.
“According to him we must put aside political posturing and pontification and pass the budget. He urges passage in its entirety. This is not what we, members of the opposition are here for and this is not what the majority of citizens who voted at the last general elections want.
“We were not sent here to be appendages, to rubber stamp any and everything presented by the Government…So regarding the budget, it will have to be reworked, we will have to bring out the scissors to excise inappropriate spending, cut out waste, etc,” said Bulkan.
The APNU Parliamentarian continued to say that while the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, made his budget presentation he lacked the “self assuredness” that was usually displayed in earlier sittings of Parliament.
“I was also told of that very quality being characteristic of his previous budget presentations and that was noticeably missing. This is instructive and it tells a story I believe. It suggests to me that the Honourable Minister at heart does not believe the optimism he sought to project in his presentation,” Bulkan explained.
He posited that there were many valid and underlying reasons which would be responsible for the lack of belief in many of the “rosy statements proffered” however, Bulkan suggested that it was the “illegitimacy” of the process itself that caused the Minister to lose the conviction which is usually present in his contributions.
“The illegitimacy to which I refer has to do with the Government’s rejection of the will of the people as expressed in the elections of 28th November, 2011 which calls for consensus Government. While it is true that we, the combined opposition, now have the opportunity and the power to agree to or to recommend modifications or to reject outright individual measures, how much better it would have been if consensus was sought before bringing these proposals to this House.”
While focusing on Regional Development, Bulkan stated that the total budgetary allocation for Region Eight (Potaro/ Siparuni) is $823,688,000 with current expenditure amounting to $681,425,000 while the capital expenditure was $142,263,000.
The Opposition representative compared this figure to a number of projects undertaken by Government that have been suggested as a waste of large sums of money.
“Let us ignore for the time being the fact that the paltry sum of $142M is allocated for total capital expenditure in this entire Region, a sum that is less than 1/3 of what has been spent so far on a building a few corners due south of where we are, a building that threatens to be decrepit and derelict before it has ever been used and we get a sense of the misplaced and cruel priorities of this Government.”
He stated that the opposition is aware that the sum of $310M (Capital project number 31) is being sought for modification of a building, purchase of furniture and equipment and provision for institutional strengthening for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The total project cost is given at $654M and according to the documents, apart from the modification of a building which location has not been given, the project provides for a diagnostic study of the trade transaction environment in Guyana in order to implement the single window automated processing system, said Bulkan.
“Another $300M is to be set aside for the Skeldon Sugar Factory and this is apart from the $4B injection, $60Mfor upgrading of playgrounds (Capital project 33) with the executing agency being Ministry of Finance and not local democratic organs, and another $100M for capital project 34, for which all we are told is that it is for strengthening public financial management and financial sector reform.”
According to Bulkan, the $142M total capital expenditure for Region Eight is less than half of what has recently been announced to be spent to repair roads in Mocha, East Bank Demerara.
“I hope the repairs are not like the repairs to roads in Lusignan that were done on the eve of last November’s elections. Recently I was in Lusignan and these very roads are back to being full of craters and potholes. Waste, incompetence, corruption.”
He explained that the point he wished to make was that $823M is the total allocation for Region Eight and of this amount, the sum of $172M is for health services, made up of $137.6M for current expenditure and $34.5M for capital expenditure.
In his address, Bulkan further explained that much work is to be done in reviewing this year’s budgetary presentation to ensure that the country as a whole benefits.
In some regions, the health services are limited and there is even a lack of drugs due to the small allocations, meanwhile in some areas, too much money is being spent and wasted.
“There is a lot of tomfoolery in this budget. $235 million is budgeted for something called the Competitiveness Programme. The total project cost is given at $1.8B, of which $891M has previously been spent. This project we are told is designed to improve the competitiveness of businesses and to enhance exports
“The forestry sector is in shambles, having regressed to primary production. Very little value added production… log exports now dominate the sector. In manufacturing it is no different, and it is the same in the sugar industry. Fishing is down 5.3%, therefore the economy is structurally unbalanced and it remains driven by primary production.”
While Government has themed this year’s budget to begin with the words ‘Remaining on Course”, Bulkan deems a more appropriate title to be “Cash for Cronies and Contractors.”