Jan 17, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo is outraged by the new government’s use of tax dollars to fund multimillion
dollar city clean ups and “old year’s night bashments.” The former President said that the government should look to be conservative at a time when it is presiding over a slushy economy.
But on the other hand, Jagdeo has vowed that he will vigorously pursue the court case to secure his unlimited benefits from the state.
President David Granger, in his most recent address to the National Assembly, called on all elected officials to lead by example.
Given his new stance on government spending, Kaieteur News contacted the Opposition Leader to find out whether he was willing to set the example by just accepting capped benefits. But the former President said that he will not relent in his pursuit to secure what he labeled as “rightfully” his.
He said, “When I speak about conservative spending, I speak of the spending in the city; while the cleanup is good, there is no transparency.”
The former President added, “(Opposition MP, Juan) Edghill has shown how the increased salaries for cabinet members will cost the country close to $1B in the five years they will be in office.”
Jagdeo said that the government is hiring all sorts of “foreign firms to celebrate Independence and these big splurges like Old Year’s Bash and all these things, and they made such a big issue with the PPP spending.”
“That is what we are arguing against. If the country doesn’t have resources, why are we going along this path?”
Jagdeo said that in light of all of that, he is fighting for his “right.”
“Now, all I am fighting for and other former Presidents are fighting for, is our right. The big issue has been the pension but my pension is 7/8 the salary of the President. But if Nagamootoo leaves office now and has to receive pension, it will be larger than mine.”
Jagdeo continued, “It is about a rights issue; that is what we are fighting for. I do not have a problem sitting down and talking to them but they made a big campaign issue about my pension, that was the key thing.”
Jagdeo pointed out the fact that he has served Guyana 12 years and Nagamootoo who has “served a few months is receiving a salary of $1.7 a month.”
The former President said, “We will remain resolute in pursuit of our right, especially in light of the wanton wastage and extravagance displayed by this government.”
Jagdeo and former President Donald Ramotar moved to the courts last year to secure unlimited benefits.
The former Presidents have caused the writs to be filed in the High Court since November 11. But there was silence over this action.
Attorney General, Basil Williams announced that the former Presidents are seeking to “in effect, receive the large sums of money” in benefits and other facilities that were capped on the recent passing of the Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act of 2015.
The other former President, Samuel Hinds has so far not complained about the capped benefits.
The Bill to cap the benefits was unanimously passed in the National Assembly during the time when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic refused to take up its seats.
The explanatory memorandum of the Bill says that it will repeal the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act of 2009, and replace it to provide greater specificity.
The burden that the lifestyle of former President Bharrat Jagdeo placed on the Treasury was the focal point of speeches presented by those who spoke to the Bill.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, had told the National Assembly that the size of the economy and the ability to sustain such open-ended and uncapped benefits, were ignored when Ramotar refused to assent to a similar Bill.
He said that that showed narrow self-serving interest.
Jordan made reference to the fact that over the period December 2011 to February 2014, Jagdeo racked up in excess of $45M on transportation, security and electricity bills within 27 months.
Jagdeo’s total electricity bill for the duration amounted to over $9.8M. His average monthly light bill was $365,766 at the time. For transportation, he utilized over $15.2M. The State spent over $20.3M for his security over that 27-month period, an average of $752,649 monthly.
Jordan pointed out that Jagdeo’s electricity bill is 8.7 times the minimum wage and his security bill is 17.6 times the same and 1.7 times the salary of a sitting Minister of Government
Former Presidents will now be given $25,000 per month for electricity, a further $25,000 for water and another $25,000 for telephone. The new Bill states that former Presidents will be given services of personal and household staff, including a gardener but, the total number of such staffers cannot exceed three persons.
There will be a limit of $200,000 per annum for reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by a former President for himself and his children below the age of 18 years and his spouse, provided that the money was not spent on medical attention and treatment obtained abroad or at private health facilities in Guyana, and were available in Guyana at government institutions.
Former Presidents will be given full-time personal security, not exceeding two persons, including those at the place of residence.
They will also be entitled to the provision of not more than two motor vehicles owned and maintained by the State; toll free transportation; and an annual vacation allowance equivalent to the cost of two first class return airfares provided on the same conditions applicable to Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature.
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