Dec 04, 2016 News
Over the last few days the 2017 budget has received criticisms from various sections of society and the political divide. Believing that the measures outlined in the budget will be oppressive and offensive to poor people,
Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo issued a call yesterday for President David Granger to convene Cabinet and have the budget reviewed.
Jagdeo made this comment during a press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the budget which was presented in the National Assembly by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan is not the Minister’s budget.
He said that the budget is in fact the Executive’s budget and as such the President needs to take responsibility for the measures to be imposed, beginning next year.
“It would be unproductive to blame Winston Jordan because Winston Jordan has expressed the collective will of the cabinet.”
Further, he said, “Now that the President has listened to the many concerns expressed by society, I am urging him to convene his Cabinet and have another look at this budget. To withdraw it or if that is not feasible or not desirable on his part, to examine the concerns of our society and to remove some of the most offensive and oppressive measures that will devastate the lives of poor people.”
Jagdeo said that no President should want such measures to be implemented. He said that his party is prepared, if the process is initiated, to collaborate with the government to share ideas of how the objective of growing the country can be achieved. This include creating incentives for the private sector and enhancing welfare of ordinary people without implementing draconian measures as described by the opposition leader.
To make his case, Jagdeo highlighted a number of measures which he believes need to be reviewed. He addressed first, the greening of the economy.
“The President has indicated that the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is too narrow in conception; he wants to broaden it. But I’m sure that he did not intend that measures announced in his budget for the greening of the economy will come out of people’s pocket.”
He said that under the Low Carbon Development Strategy during his party’s tenure, the country earned money from the sale of forest carbon. According to Jagdeo when one views the budget, one will notice a number of measures aimed at greening the economy.
He said that many of these measures will not give up revenue because there are things yet to happen, for example a new water treatment plant or equipment for electric stations for battery operated vehicles to recharge and a reduction in excise tax for hybrid vehicles.
Additionally, Jagdeo said that the implementation of an environmental levy of $10 per container. He said that this will result in billions of dollars being collected from ordinary people.
“The companies will pass this onto families. So, if you buy a soft drink, you then end up paying for this. So we now, the people of this country will have to pay for this so called greening of the economy.”
He said that the levy is now a revenue raising measure on the backs of Guyanese rather than a concept that earned money for Guyana.
In going deeper into making his case, Jagdeo focused on the Information Communication Technology sector. “No ICT strategy, no knowledge based strategy that is based on the closing of the digital divide and creating new local carbon opportunities could be sustained on expensive bandwidth.”
He made reference to a Kaieteur News article titled “GTT to reclaim US$6M loss from consumers.” According to Jagdeo it is because of higher taxes that this money will be reclaimed from regular Guyanese.
Speaking on the application of 14 per cent Value Added Tax on consumers of water and electricity whose bill exceeds $1,500 and $10,000 respectively, he said that this measure will affect small businesses that were not required to sign up for VAT. They will now have a problem claiming a refund on the VAT paid.
Minister Jordan had said that based on his study only 20 per cent of GPL consumers would be affected. According to Jagdeo, “Assuming he is correct, is not a big concern even if 20 per cent of our people get affected by VAT payment and what he is saying to people? That you should not aspire to get anything else in your home?”
He said rather than Government moving to green the economy which will have persons pay less for power and allowing persons to have more amenities in the home, the measure being touted in this budget restricts people from buying products to raise their standard of living.
“If you are poor, and you have a microwave then you must not use it anymore. Stay below the $10,000 limit.” He said that it is natural for persons to acquire more things which will cause them to burn more electricity, so Jordan’s other argument that the tax is a conservation measure is nonsensical, according to Jagdeo.
Ultimately, the Opposition Leader said that he sympathises with the Finance Minister and reiterated his call for President Granger to have his government review the budget.
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