Nat’l Assembly roasts Govt. over $2B additional funds
– but gives divided approval
Despite heavy grilling yesterday in the National Assembly, the government yesterday managed to receive approval for $2B it wanted as additional monies for its work in 2012, some of which is still incomplete.
Financial Paper 6 of 2012 was for a total of $2B – $500M for the Ministry of Agriculture to meet expenditure associated with flood management and $1.5B by the Ministry and Housing and Water for development of new housing schemes and improvements to existing ones.
The $500M was first up for debate, but it was only approved after the Alliance For Change (AFC) sided with government, in a divided vote, despite heavy criticisms and questions about the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA).
According to Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, government needed the money to boost its fleet of excavators and bulldozers to help with the problems caused by weather, of which Guyana is suffering from one extreme to another.
He said that government had managed to reduce it costs by 60% now, not having to depend as much on private contractors.
NDIA has currently 61 excavators, eight bulldozers and 11 pontoons, but it was pointed out that these are not enough.
APNU’s Carl Greenidge was not convinced, insisting that the supplementary monies were supposed to be emergency in nature and a case was not made out to support this.
Another APNU MP, Jaipaul Sharma, was highly critical of the motives of the Ministry to want $500M, especially as he believes that according to his calculations, only $40M is needed.
Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, also questioned why the government did not wait and ask for the money in the Budget which is to be tabled in the National Assembly shortly.
The matter was voted only after a lengthy debate and approved.
Meanwhile, in his arguments for the $1.5B, Housing Minister Irfaan Ali said that the monies were already transferred from the Ministry of Finance to the Housing Ministry’s Central Housing and Planning Authority arm.
This immediately elicited a buzz from the Opposition.
Minister Ali noted that following the budget cuts by the Opposition last year, critical works were affected, including paving of the main access road to Uitvlugt and paving at roads at La Parfait Harmonie, Anna Catherina and Tuschen, in the West Demerara area, among other works.
However, the fact that tenders are still to go out on some of the contracts, prompted the Opposition to query whether the works were emergency in nature to warrant the Housing Ministry to request the $1.5B.
Sharma was also puzzled how 12 days before the end of 2012, the Ministry wanted money.
AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo, too, believed the Ministry wanted to mislead the National Assembly. He insisted that his party would back any moves to develop 8,000 houselots as was said by Minister Ali. He warned that government cannot come to the National Assembly for monies already spent.
The issue became so heated that there was a feeling that the Opposition was preparing to vote against the money.
However, the recess came and House Speaker Raphael Trotman signaled his intention to meet with the three parties.
After the recess, following the meeting, the matter was approved unopposed.