Right to cut budget enshrined in law – Finance Minister
The right to cut budgets is enshrined in the law, Minister of Finance said yesterday, but he nevertheless castigated the opposition for utilizing that right and chopping this year’s budget by $21 billion.
The government has been fuming about the budget cuts, with suggestions that jobs will be lost and agencies would be closed down.
However, Dr Singh wavered on that position when he hosted a press conference at his Main Street, Georgetown office.
He said that with certainty that some jobs would be lost. But that suggestion was made even with his indication that no decision on job cuts has been made, since the government is considering what will be the future of those agencies that have had their budgets cut to “zero.”
A majority of the funding that has been blocked in the budget is for the Low Carbon Development Strategy – a total of about $18 billion.
A number of programmes were budgeted for such as Amerindian land demarcation, the digging of a new canal to drain water so the East Coast would not be flooded if there is too much rain and the East Demerara Water Conservancy cannot take off the water, and a programme to give poor families one laptop.
The government has been insisting that these programmes are threatened, but the Minister of Finance was not so sure yesterday.
He said that there were a number of legal and administrative dimensions to consider, and added that he would shudder to think that those programmes will not go forward.
Dr Singh’s press conference could have been part of the government’s attempt to “educate” the population about the opposition cuts.
The Minister sought to dismiss suggestions by the opposition that the cuts in the 2011 budget could be readily reversed.
The opposition has been saying that if it can find common ground with the government and is satisfied in its questions about the budget cuts, it would approve the funding later if the government brings these as ‘Supplementary” provisions.
Dr Singh said that was like a customer going to the shop and asking the shop keeping to “trust” that he will bring the money at the same time.
He said that the budget cuts and the opposition’s attempt to use its majority in the Parliament as a show of power, was not a good basis for trust. Further, he argued that it is the opposition that has argued against the government bringing supplementary financial papers to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Dr Singh said that the budget is not a document that is grounded in certainty, since the government cannot know for sure how much money will come from revenues, or how much will come from loans and grants and other sources of funding.
Dr Singh said that the budget cuts were unjustified and are unjustifiable.
He said that the cuts were ridiculous and were but a vulgar display of power by the opposition.
He said that the budget cuts were for programmes that are in the interest of national development. The Finance Minister said that the government was very deliberate in its attempts to answer all the questions by the opposition on the programmes and that they exhausted all such questions.
While he said that the right to cut the budget is enshrined in law, Dr Singh said that in his opinion, the budget had no “fat” which could be cut.