By Kiana Wilburg
In the event that Parliament is reconvened without a dissolution, which is still a possibility, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Financial point man, Carl Greenidge says that the Opposition will take up a number of unfinished matters, starting with the No-Confidence Motion.
He expressed that he is also aware that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh may seek to use the opportunity to lay the 2015 budget, so government can hopefully negotiate its way out of the current impasse by offering some “unbelievable goodies” in it. Greenidge however noted that as far as he is concerned, and the Alliance For Change (AFC), the opposition will not be supporting it.
The former finance minister also highlighted that the financing options under a prorogued parliament are limited. Greenidge said that the government cannot raise revenues to be spent beyond April 30, 2015. He said that the revenues raised can be spent to a maximum of 1/12 of the budget approved in 2014, and this continues only for three months.
On this premise, he strongly suspects that government will reconvene parliament to lay the 2015 budget. Another reason fuelling his suspicion on this front, he said, is that it is unlikely that the Guyana Elections Commission could even fund an election late into 2015 from funds already approved in 2014.
The APNU Shadow Minister of Finance said that there have been several proposals to address this kind of predicament, such as getting the President to assent to certain Bills, but extensive negotiations have proved futile.
The real problem in this regard, Greenidge said, is not that there are a lack of effective mechanisms, but the refusal of the People’s Progressive Party Civic to fully embrace substantive issues such as capping the benefits beyond a very generous pension that a former President can receive, and the need for a Procurement Commission, the work of which is unimpeded by political interference.
OUTSTANDING MATTERS: PPP AND OPPOSITION
With regards to the aforementioned outstanding matters, Greenidge pointed to Financial Paper #1 laid by Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh. The paper is a request for a supplementary estimate to cover excess expenditure totaling $4.554 billion incurred during the period January 1 to June 16, 2014. This sum represents part of the amount of $36.7 billion that the National Assembly had declined to approve in the first place.
Greenidge emphasized that this will not be given the slightest consideration until certain explanations specified under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act are fully met and included.
He then pointed to the Privileges Committee’s consideration of motion on censure of the Minister of Finance. He reminded of the Motion on the President and the censure motion on the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, which has not been laid but is in draft form. He reminded too, of the Procurement Amendment Bill #17 of 2013 which is still to be assented to by the President, the Telecoms Bill #18 of 2012 & Public Utilities Commission (Amendment) Bill # 17/2012 which are yet to be completed.
While the Parliament remains in a state of suspension, the government has and continues to, display its commitment in following through on a number of developmental projects. But the Opposition, on several occasions said that such projects will be subject to being reopened and if need be, scrapped, for it will be deemed inherently tainted and illegal.
On the other hand, Greenidge said that the chances of the PPP persuading a significant proportion of the populace that it is struggling with an Opposition clearly bent on stopping or undermining the Government’s so-called transformational projects are small, because the claims are both fraudulent and risible.
Significantly, he sought to remind at this stage that the National Assembly has certainly opposed many proposals by the PPP Government, and to suggest that this is anti-developmental is “absurd to the highest degree”. He added that the PPP’s largest projects and programmes, prior to and during Donald Ramotar’s presidency, have been mostly colossal failures and a public embarrassment.
He reminded of some of those very failures; the Skeldon Factory Expansion, the East Coast and East Bank Demerara road projects, the $500M clean-up of Georgetown and the coastal areas, Flood control including the Hope Canal and the Georgetown Cemetery Clean-up programme.
He insisted that those projects failed because of corruption and poor conception, kleptocracy and political arrogance.
Greenidge said too, that the projects blocked totally or in part by the House have similarly been disasters, having been pursued “illegally” by the PPP in defiance of the House. In most cases, the nation’s worst fears have been justified.
“Let’s not forget the controversial Amerindian Development Fund, the Specialty Hospital being built for Indian Doctors to provide medical services to US-insured patients, the Surendra pumps fiasco, the Amaila Hydro-road and the Hydro Dam – a road already over $35M and already breaking up even though it has never been used, the GuySuCo subsidy and sugar is still below target, and the packaging plant is operating far below its rated capacity.”
The APNU Parliamentarian asserted that the problem as seen by the Opposition is equally simple; the Government is required to win over a majority of Parliamentarians in order to obtain passage of its legislation.
“In a most remarkable approach, Mr. Ramotar has decided that he will not agree to a package of policies with anyone other than PPP Members of Parliament (MPs). Having done this, he has decided further to implement legislation even if it has not been approved by the Assembly.
“In other words, he (Ramotar) is insisting that although he does not have a majority of the MPs in the Assembly, he must be treated as though he does and PPP legislation on Money Laundering, annual Budgets and the like, should be passed by the Opposition as though the PPP has a majority. With typical PPP insensitivity, the expenditure associated with the Government programme is almost, to the last one, associated with some form of illegality,” he firmly expressed.
He said that the choice of prorogation is about a Government that believes it has a right to steal and misappropriate state resources and believes by any measure, it is a legitimate tool to achieve its ends, whatever the implications for democratic practice.
“We are also aware that the Government has in the past taken advantage of Constitutional lacunae offered by the absence of the National Assembly scrutiny, such as dissolution of the Assembly. Prior to the 2011 elections, former President Bharrat Jagdeo awarded broadcasting licences to privileged foreign companies and members of the PPP and their relatives. Licences for gold and other mineral exploration along with exceptional fiscal concessions and tax holidays were also awarded in the same way.
“Being aware of this propensity for illegality, I want to stress that we will overturn everything that is not transparent and everything that does not adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability, and respect for the law,” Greenidge concluded.
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