Dec 28, 2015 News
The political opposition is concerned about the 2016 budget and if it will reflect any of the issues and projects it spoke on over the past few months.
At least, this is according to PPP Executive Member with some responsibility for the financial sector, Irfaan Ali.
In an interview with this newspaper, Ali said that his Party sent a document to the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, detailing that certain key documents must be made available to them before consulting. But the Finance Minister had made it clear on Saturday that his Ministry does not have these documents.
Ali told this newspaper yesterday that these documents being requested by the PPP include details on the statistical revenue collection and expenditure for the nation and the Public Sector Investment Programme.
“These documents are central for our understanding so that we can be able to determine the measures the Budget 2016 should address. The documents we requested are basic and the Finance Minister should have them. He should not be saying that he doesn’t have them.”
“Moreover, we are particularly worried as to how the budget 2016 will address certain critical sectors such as rice and sugar in light of the regional and international economic challenges we are seeing taking place.
“But with the Finance Minster announcing that the budget is expected as early as January, then one could safely conclude that there is no room for proper consultations with the Opposition. This is the same government which preached of inclusive governance and here we see again that the Opposition is not being allowed to have its projects and initiatives reflected in the budget.”
Minister Jordan had told Kaieteur News that he did invite the PPP to talks on the budget but they laid down terms and conditions which need to be met first. Jordan said that this is not how it is done but his door will always remain open to the Opposition.
Nonetheless, Ali said that he can only hope that the Finance Minister has taken note of their concerns and the initiatives which they would like to see reflected in the 2016 budget.
Ali recalled that government has a track record for showing no respect for the opposition’s recommendations in general.
The former Housing Minister had said, “We have made our views public and would have outlined many interventions. But they have been shown total disregard by the government.
“Take for example the rice issue. We presented nine recommendations to help the farmers in boosting the industry and safeguarding their livelihood. To date, we have heard nothing in relation to these recommendations from the Government.”
He said that this may be a very good indication of how seriously government would take its proposals for the 2016 budget.
Ali asserted that the PPP has called and will continue to call on government to deliver to the rice farmers, nurses and teachers and other public servants, what was promised to them in the 100-day plan.
As for the 2016 budget, the PPP executive member said that his party will lobby for the reinstatement of the “Because we care grant” and the water and light subsidy for old age pensioners. Ali insists that these are matters which must be addressed.
“We will call upon the government to implement all the projects we negotiated with the Indian Government in the US$50 million line of credit inclusive of the IT Centre of Excellence negotiated by the (former) PPP/C Government.
“The government must realize by now that they also blundered badly on the Amaila Falls Hydro project and we are convinced that they will have to implement this project if we want to expand our economy.”
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said that the PPP will also insist that government aggressively bring back on stream, the Low Carbon Development Strategy and implement the projects and programmes conceptualized under this programme.
Ali said that he will lobby the government to ensure that the Amerindian livelihood programme be reinstated immediately as well as the reinstatement of the almost 2000 Amerindian youths fired by the Coalition government.
He added, “The Hinterland airstrips that were cut out of the budget by this government must be completed and implemented immediately.”
The former minister said that “confidence cannot be restored with the continuous ethnic purge that is taking place in Public Service. The Loss of professional services and wanton firing of young people and experienced public officials based on political affiliation and ethnicity must be addressed as well.”
The gridlock between government and the opposition in this regard was also evident during the planning of the 2015 budget.
The Finance Minister recalled the challenges he encountered during his first interaction with the Opposition’s representatives at that time. He said that during that time, he found himself in a situation where he had to set the record straight on a number of allegations, particularly from PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee.
Some of these accusations had to do with the Petro Caribe Fund being empty and witch-hunting by the Granger administration. The Finance Minister said that he had addressed Rohee on each contention leveled against the government.
The Finance Minister said that when the delegation turned up at the Finance Ministry, he gave the floor to Rohee “who started right away with accusations of how we are witch-hunting, how we are destroying the economy and how they left a good economy.”
Jordan added, “All along I waited to hear what ideas they were bringing to the table. My letter to them clearly said an exchange of ideas on the 2015 budget. But I did not hear anything about that.”
The Finance Minister said that he had explained to Rohee, the framework of the budget as well as what was inherited from the previous administration.
Jordan said, “I told him what was inherited from last year in relation to rice and sugar and how the mining sector was shaping up. It is going to be a three-month budget and there is nothing much that can be done now.”
He added, “They could have even given ideas that could be used for the 2016 budget but I got nothing. Eventually he (Rohee) said he has to go back and consult with his party and then they will give us a response. Couple hours later, they sent what appeared to be extracts of our 100-day plan.”
The Finance Minister emphasized that the entire point of the consultations on the budget was for him to learn from the opposition what they would like to see within the budget and issues they may have with the framework.
But regardless of the troubles in the beginning, Jordan said that he remains willing to engage the opposition at any time on matters in relation to the economy.
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