Parliament to vote on Budget today
- VAT reduction remains bone of contention
By Gary Eleazar
The House will today conclude consideration of the budgetary allocations while in the Committee of Supply before moving to a vote on the $192.8B budget even as the opposition threats to make cuts continue to loom.
The cuts, however, are proving to be more of a negotiating tool as was expanded by Opposition Leader, David Granger, who along with his counterpart, Carl Greenidge and Alliance for Change Khemraj Ramjattan, informed media operatives that the opposition was not looking for a “slash and burn operation.”
The trio gave the briefing following yesterday’s round of meetings at Office of the President, where the AFC for the first time, joined in on the talks.
It was revealed that one particular bone of contention where there seems to be no common ground, is that of the reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Greenidge described the tax as “regressive,” and contends that the Government’s argument that a reduction in VAT will not ease the suffering on the poor “does not hold water”.
Asked if APNU would be seeking a place on the Tax Review Committee which was established by Head of State Donald Ramotar, Granger said that to the best of his knowledge this body has never met. He further opined that what is required is a more expansive Tax Review Commission.
Greenidge contends that there are enough studies and documentation to implement a reduction in VAT.
Granger told media operatives that measures being employed by APNU are meant to bring down the cost of living for the average Guyanese.
He said that his party is pushing for measures that will promote economic growth and deal with some of the problems afflicting the ordinary people, and “improve the quality of life for the vulnerable.”
He stressed that every step taken thus far by the partnership has been based in principle, and “as the saying goes, serious diseases require serious remedy. We are now proposing serious remedy to ensure that the Guyanese nation is not left with a budget which does not bring about significant change in their lives”
Ramjattan told the media that his party had indicated from a very early stage that it will not accept the budget without some amendments. He stressed that one issue that the AFC wants addressed is to have all of the revenues reflected in the budget.
The AFC Chairman stressed that this was not the case with the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited and several other organizations.
He said that an accurate reflection of the nation’s revenue would lead to a better allocation of the scarce resources of the country.
“We feel that a lot more money ought to be put in the Consolidated Fund from a variety of sources. Should a budget be prepared that is more accurately reflective of the nation’s revenue, then a lot more can be done for the poor and vulnerable in Guyana.”
“We are not going to know anything about the Marriott Hotel because it is not in the budget, yet government monies to the tune of about US$25M is going to be poured into that project,” Ramjattan asserted.
And Opposition Leader Granger, in speaking to today’s continuation of the talks prior to the vote on the budget, said “we expect that some agreement will be reached, once the government is prepared to understand that we are serious about bringing about development in the country.”
He added: “This is not a slash and burn operation we have made recommendations for reform and restructuring.”
Granger spoke to fact that a positive indication from the government as it relates to the Guyana Power and Light Inc. and the $4B subsidy would result in no cut to that programme.
Greenidge had earlier drawn reference to the fact that when the $4B subsidy for GuySuCo came up for consideration in the House, certain assurances were provided, hence there was no objection and the combined opposition voted in favour of the subsidy.