Dec 30, 2013 News
…Opposition warns of increased scrutiny
Opposition parliamentarians are once again accusing the government of sidelining them from budget preparations.
According to Opposition executives, next year’s budget, which at this time is more than likely completed or is in its final stage, saw no input, advice or concerns of the one seat majority Opposition.
A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) front bencher, Joseph Harmon, along with Alliance for Change’s (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan have both explained that absolutely no tripartite talks were held in putting together the national budget for the upcoming year.
Both parties have expressed that this move by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) led government is only a recipe for deeper scrutiny of budget figures and its allocations.
It is against this backdrop that the opposition side has indicated that travesties like the poor increases for Public Servants exist.
While the AFC, in an earlier report expressed the party’s commitment to questioning every seemingly questionable sum earmarked in the budget, APNU has noted that given the government’s actions in past budgets, they are in a better position to eye and point out doubtable figures.
Harmon said, “We will be giving a much harsher look at the issues in the budget. The government will be hard pressed again to deal with issues of transparency and accountability. We are going to be very, very detailed and precise about the questions we can ask now, because we have had since 2011, two budgets and I think we are in a better position now to be able to debate the government on these issues. We are going to ask for much more details as we are better prepared with questions because we have details and facts on where the Ministers have been silent and where they are trying to hide things”
Harmon explained that, “budget arrangements are usually completed by this time of year. The 2014 budget is presented no later than March of 2014. At this time, (December 2013), there are hardly many changes that are made. A budget cycle starts sometime within June of the old year for the new year. We are already in December and by now all Ministries and Government Departments would have submitted their budgets after meetings and so on. And there would be a fair idea by now what the 2014 Budget would look like.”
However, Harmon stated, “the fact of the matter is that we have actually submitted some proposals to the government in relation to the Tripartite Budget Committee, which really has not come off the mark as yet. The work which should have been done in the Tripartite Committee has not been done, and I believe Mr. Carl Greenidge, who is our Shadow Finance Minister, wrote to Dr. Ashni Singh, basically stating that ‘the commitment which we were given by the Leader of the Opposition and the President, cannot be met because you have not done what you are suppose to do and it is already late into it.’ We are in December going on to January.”
Following the first cutting of the National budget, Opposition Leader David Granger and President Donald Ramotar had agreed that the Tripartite Committee would be formed for the input of all sides.
The Leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan is also of the view that it is too late for tripartite talks. He said that he is also not convinced that any talks will be held at this time.
The Opposition has noted also that before any drastic moves, they will examine what is placed into the next budget. Harmon said parliamentary members sometimes have some two weeks to peruse the budget ahead of the debate.
“What we will do, is examine all these figures when they come when estimates are presented in the National Assembly. Against this background of the Minister refusing to provide relevant information, we will be paying very close attention to all these things. When the Committee of Supply meets; where the Minister has to give explanation for things done, we definitely will seek to have more answers for unanswered questions,” Harmon indicated.
In the past, the Opposition has given advice on the National budget, but had no real input into the spending framework and has thus resorted to cutting funds where it was felt necessary. This has landed all parties before the court where it is still to be determined what powers the Opposition has.
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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