“Where corruption, extravagance, wastage or political use of funds are suspected, other legislative mechanisms must be deployed to deal with them, not the haphazard and unsystematic slashing of the Budget Estimates.”
The Budget cuts of 2014 appear to consist of more slash and burn tactics, based not on high principle, but on political expediency.
This is the analysis of Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, who was responding to the defence arguments being put forward by the Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan and A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Financial Spokesperson, Carl Greenidge.
Ramkarran made public his views when he published his analysis on his conversationtree.org outlet.
He cited as an example, the disapproval of the Amerindian Fund.
According to Ramkarran, the cut to that fund was based on the suspicion, not evidence, that it was used for political purposes by the Government.
“I would have thought that when considering disapprovals, to use the word forced upon us by the Court decision, the Opposition would have considered a higher principle which has not been sufficiently articulated and given enough prominence in targeted discourse by Government spokespersons, even by Minister (Ashni) Singh.”
Ramkarran in his analytical piece noted that Guyana’s economy is on the move.
“This has been set out in the Budget Speech and by various international bodies and persons, including the President of the Caribbean Development Bank on a recent visit to Guyana.”
He said that a consistent growth rate of five percent, more or less, and low inflation figures need to be nurtured.
“Government spending on clearly beneficial projects such as the Specialty Hospital, the Airport, Tourism and general infrastructure, hydroelectricity and others, whereby money is fed into the economy, helps along the development process and increases economic activity, once inflation is being contained as is now the case. It creates or maintains employment, which the Opposition has severely criticized the Budget Estimates for not doing.”
According to Ramjattan, the Opposition cannot argue from both sides of its mouth, accusing the Government of doing nothing to create employment and disapproving of major projects at the same time.
Ramkarran noted that the Minister of Finance has outlined the challenges faced by the economy and announced that Foreign Direct Investment and exports are both down.
Ramkarran stated that investors look at the political climate, and what happens to the Budget is one factor, before deciding whether to invest.
The sugar industry needs revitalizing and capital infusion to restore export volume, according to Ramkarran.
“The tourist industry can do with all the help it can get…While gold price is down the use of mercury has to be gradually curtailed in keeping with international prescriptions, which might well affect production.”
Ramkarran posits that administrative capacity is needed to keep the governmental apparatus turning over, and infrastructure development is necessary to increase efficiency of both the productive and service sectors.
“The rationale for the Opposition disapprovals, based on suspicions and allegations, are not enough grounds to reduce the sums for whole items of the Budget even if difficulties are found with them.”
According to Ramkarran, where corruption, extravagance, wastage or political use of funds are suspected, other legislative mechanisms must be deployed to deal with them, not the haphazard and unsystematic slashing of the Budget Estimates.
“The Opposition has the creative imagination to legislative checks and balances and if they do not attract the President’s assent, they can go to the public or the electorate,” said Ramkarran.
He noted too that the Opposition has indeed argued that relief should be brought to the population by higher old age pensions, higher wages and salaries to public servants, more expenditure on training, more effort to create employment, increase of the income tax threshold and more.
Ramkarran said that their calls are admirable and justifiable, but they can only go up if economic growth is encouraged and increased while maintaining economic and political stability and Government’s budgetary support, “There is no other way.”
According to Ramkarran it is certainly not possible if the Government were to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT.
“The Government cannot be expected to reduce its income and increase its expenditure at the same time… This argument is therefore not scientifically credible, but of course it is politically popular.”
According to Ramkarran, if Guyana has to endure another two and a half years of this political gridlock, a frustrated population may well have something to say about it at the appropriate time.
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