Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh yesterday said that despite the lack of dialogue with the political opposition,
preparations for Budget 2015 which are constitutionally due by the end of the first quarter of the year are continuing.
This, however, depends on the evolvement of the Parliamentary situation. Whatever the outcome, the Finance Ministry will be ready to produce a budget when called upon to do so, Minister Singh said.
Speaking on ‘Political Scope’ on the National Communications Network with Wanita Huburn, Minister Singh agreed that in Budget 2014, the many positive outlooks for Guyana’s economy and projections were boosted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) predictions which balanced the country’s performance over the past eight years.
Commenting on the 2015 Budget presentations, Minister Singh explained that the cycle begins early each year. The private sector continues to display confidence in the economy, and other contributions towards the budget come from workers and householders, a Government statement said.
The Minister also observed that a commitment by Government to the country has seen a lot of technical work already done. This includes meetings with Ministries and other units with the budget preparation team working towards the expectation of the requirement to produce a budget.
With the ruling party maintaining its commitment to dialogue, engagement and consultation, Minister Singh explained that the President has remained consistent in making himself available for this purpose, but the political opposition has consistently rebuffed this, as their most recent move has indicated.
The Minister pointed also to the opposition rejections of talks before the 2013 budget, and rejection of talks on the Amaila Falls project which met the same fate after an initial meeting. “The unavailability of the opposition for talks is beyond dispute,” he stated.
However, this unwillingness by the political opposition to engage the government does not hinder the preparation of the 2015 Budget.
Minister Singh said that Government is aware of the requirements of the opposition through various means such as public statements, and calls made in previous budget debates all leading to an accumulation of information on what are their views.
Observing that the Opposition has cut every budget presented in the tenth parliament, Minister Singh noted that they have never presented any alternative which the administration could accept instead. He highlighted the ‘bundle of objections’ which were laid without alternatives and adjusting priorities. Reiterating the need for the Amaila Falls project, he noted the abundance of criticisms without any credible alternative being put forward.
The administration has had continued engagements with various sectors and stakeholders which allow input into the Budget preparation. He said that there is significant input from non-governmental sectors including the private sector and labour groupings. These bodies bring forth national priorities for the country’s economy.
All the national policy documents have benefited from national consultations and the administration will remain close to those stakeholders who contributed, he stated.
While hesitating to put a figure forward, Minister Singh observed that the growth prediction for Guyana’s economy is positive.
He said that with regards the sugar sector, the administration will continue to support it and assistance through the national budget will continue as necessary.
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