Apr 05, 2013 News Comments Off on Opposition’s preparations to cut budget likened to a child with matches
As the 2013 budget debates continued Wednesday evening, the parliamentary chambers came to life with deliberations from both sides of the house – the opposition seeking to highlight shortcomings and the government’s side insisting that the budget is yet another designed to be beneficial to the entire population.
Moreover, Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, in taking the spotlight sought to vocalise his convictions that an attempt to vote against the $208.8 billion budget in its current form could in fact have dire consequences.
He was at the time alluding to the deliberations of Shadow Minister of Finance, Carl Greenidge, who according to him “…from the first gong has attempted to lay the foundation to vote against the budget or to cut it.”
Dr. Ramsaran, in his contribution to the debate also asserted that “what was a bit more alarming in some other contributions, I recognised that some of the persons calling for cuts did not seem to understand the content of some of their own discussions.”
He made reference to moves by the parliamentary opposition to point accusatory fingers to projects such as the Specialty Hospital as well as retention monies for capital works in the health sector, adding “I shudder to think…it is like a child with a match; a match is a useful thing, but in the hands of a child unschooled and unaccustomed to systems it can do damage.”
Shadow Minister of Health, Dr George Norton, an ophthalmologist attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, was among those seeking to emphasise the shortcomings of the budget, adding that “let it be known that we are prepared to act as we have done in the past year and are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to do more to represent the interests of our constituents and even the constituents of the People’s Progressive Party Civic ,who are increasingly finding themselves disillusioned by the Government they elected.”
However, Minister Ramsaran in his deliberations did note that some of the contributions from some parliamentary opposition members were passionate and an indication that they were trying to grasp the material, but yet did not understand it.
“We need to recruit them because they have constituencies and the passion with which they approach their subject matter shows that we have made mistakes on this (government) side. We have not been able to get over to them for a year, because some of the said arguments that were raised are here again…”
As such he noted that in the coming week, when the budget will be examined line by line, more intense efforts should be made to bring clarity.
Buoyant health sector
The health sector in the 2013 budget has been allotted $19.2 billion – up from $17 billion in 2012 – and has thereby been classified as a “moderate increase” by Minister Ramsaran, who insisted Wednesday evening that “the Finance Minister and his team have recognised the good work that the Ministry of Health and the health sector has done…”
Although fraught with challenges such as “an outbreak here and a maternal death there” the Health Minister emphatically stated that “the health sector is buoyant. We are getting it right.”
According to him, the Health Ministry has continued to achieve in the face of significant challenges, adding that there have also been significant gains.
“Let’s speak about some of those and at the same time let’s take pause to reflect on the structure of the budget where I see not only in the health sector, but right across other sectors in the budget, that it is an all-inclusive budget,” trumpeted a confident Dr. Ramsaran.
He noted too that the moderate endorsement to the health sector is in fact a public recognition of the work done by the thousands of health care providers, who according to him, “we do not see on the front pages, we do not hear about, but whose work has done so well. I would like to recognise the work of this group of hard working Guyanese who are incidentally, predominantly women, who represent a significant group of our workforce.”
As such the Minister made ‘no bones’ to express pride in the health sector’s workforce even as he pointed to the fact that they are the ones who protect the nation 24 hours each day. “They protect the nation to such an extent that we have continuously won international accolades. Guyana has the distinction of being among the countries with one of the highest coverages for routine vaccines and antigens – that protect our children, that create the future, and this is only possible from the hard work of the workers who oftentimes perform their functions in difficult, challenging conditions.”
Even as he sought to commend the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and his team of technical workers who crafted the budget, Dr. Ramsaran amplified his belief to the National Assembly that the 2013 budget will allow all stakeholders to say “yes, this is my budget…Not only the Private Sector Commission can say that, my health sector workers, my patients, people needing Rehab services…it is all-inclusive.”
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