“The government seems to be looking for a catastrophe rather than a clash now” – APNU Member
By Kiana Wilburg
While Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh has already announced that preparations for the 2015 Budget have commenced,
the political opposition has disclosed that they have not been contacted to have any related discussion.
Given some of the well-known “clashes” over the budget in the past, opposition members told this publication yesterday that it would have been expected that the government would be wise enough to ensure consultations this time around.
“The government seems to be looking for a catastrophe rather than a clash now,” one senior member of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) opined.
In a brief interview, Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan expressed that his party has not received correspondence of any sort from the Minister of Finance to participate in discussions on the Budget 2015 preparation process.
APNU’s Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge also confirmed that neither he nor the coalition’s leader, David Granger, was contacted in that regard and as such, he believes that there is no interest on the government’s part for this to occur.
The coalition’s General Secretary, Joseph Harmon stated that APNU has made its position “crystal clear” on this particular consultation process.
“When the last budget came, that being Budget 2014, we had some problems with it, and even the citizens of this nation… and when we objected to certain aspects, the Minister of Finance went ahead and he spent money without the permission of the National Assembly. Let me make it very clear, it would be contemptuous for Minister Singh to proceed with the Budget 2015 preparation in this manner.
“Yes, the government has a job to present the budget and to put it together and what’s not, but I think that we are all aware by now that where this government is concerned, it has a serious expenditure problem, and Dr. Singh is before the Privileges Committee for such related matters. The government has no respect for procedures but certainly that time has come to an end,” Harmon stated.
The General Secretary said too, that unless there is a change to the manner in which the consultation process over the
budget is conducted, then there will be another “budget catastrophe.”
In addition to Harmon’s view, Greenidge expressed that Dr. Singh was expected to provide the political opposition with some material and its agreement to certain conditions on the consultation or discussion process of the general budget. To date, the former finance minister said that this has not been met.
He maintained that in the absence of that, there would basically be no point in the Opposition’s meeting with the Finance Minister.
“It takes two to have a meeting and at the end of that, we have to ensure that those talks were productive and that they are reflected in the budget. We outlined a process and Dr. Singh was supposed to send the opposition some material and say whether or not he agrees with the process we outlined for discussions to take place on the budget.
“That has not been met, so how can we have a meeting without this first being established. We cannot have a meeting without a structure, or else it ends up being useless or ineffective. So Dr. Singh has to agree to this and given the current parliamentary make up, it speaks to or underscores the need for consultation in the best interest of the people we represent,” Greenidge explained.
He said too that government promised to have a Committee review and make recommendations on the VAT and the equitable sharing of the tax burden, as well as ensure the submission, by November 2012, of recommendations to prevent the collapse of the National Insurance Scheme. But these promises are yet to be honoured.
Greenidge insists that if any fruitful discussion is to take place, then the government must honour its financial obligations
and promises, as well as agree to a proper framework which was outlined by the opposition, and which will facilitate meaningful consultations on national budgets.
AFC Leader Ramjattan also stated that based on his observations of Dr. Singh’s budgets, it seems to be exposing a most worrying factor that Guyana’s economy is perhaps too reliant on its extractive resources, rather than it pointing its economic future in a direction that showcases transformation in other sectors.
“When you examine the budgets brought by Dr. Singh, they clearly indicate that Guyana is heavily reliant on the extractive industry; forestry, gold, bauxite etc., and while profits are made on these, the citizens are being heavily taxed. In fact, Guyana is the highest taxed country in the Caribbean and his budgets also show that we are not benefitting fully from the monies made in the various sectors. It’s all because of the kickbacks, backdoor deals and corruption that is taking place…but it will all end for them, very soon,” Ramjattan concluded.
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