At the convening of Guyana’s 12th Parliament, the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) approved $11.2 billion for a list of constitutional agencies but this, according to Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Raphael Trotman, constitutes a statutory breach as the requisite officials have not yet been appointed.
As the 2020 Budget Debates kicked off yesterday morning at the Arthur Chung Conference Center, Trotman told the National Assembly that “we have not started off on a good footing.”
Proffering an explanation, he said, “In its first appearance in the National Assembly, the PPP audaciously committed multiple illegalities or statutory breaches, if you will, when it purported to pass the budgets for the Constitutional Agencies in clear violation of the precepts of the Financial Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act of 2015.”
That Act, he said, pellucidly states that the procedure be adopted by the Finance Minister (presuming that one is appointed), the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
Trotman argued that at the time of presenting the estimates for those Constitutional Agencies, “to the best of our information and belief, there was no gazetted Finance Minister, no elected Speaker and no Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.”
Further, he pointed out that the law speaks of providing “sufficient time” for Parliamentary representatives to consider the estimates presented.
“It is well-nigh impossible,” Trotman added, “for Members to have taken the oath of office and within minutes thereafter, be able to sufficiently consider these vast sums for the numerous Constitutional Agencies.”
The former Natural Recourses Minister also added that it would be “futile and foolish” to argue that sending the Estimates out in envelopes before September 1 was “sufficient” time to review them, as before that date, there was not a single elected MP.
It is a worrying fact, Trotman said, that the PPP would “cast aside” the Constitution and laws of Guyana “so early and so blatantly”.
“The question remains as to whether, Mr. Speaker, you will find a way to remedy this situation before the Appropriations Bill is passed as per the letter and spirit of the law,” he added.
Turning his attention to the $330 billion Emergency Budget, the former Minister addressed contentions that his government, the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition, bankrupted the National Treasury.
According to Trotman, if this was accurate, the new administration would have failed to conjure such a large budget within mere weeks of being in office.
“No Houdini or illusionist could conjure up a $330B budget if indeed the treasury was empty. It is sickening to hear the untruth being repeated over and over that the APNU+AFC left the country bankrupt,” Trotman pointed out.
“Tell me where you found the money from to produce a budget in 30 days?” he asked, adding that “Guyana under the Granger-led administration, and with Winston Jordan as Minister of Finance, experienced five straight years of sustained economic growth at an average of 3.6 percent of GDP, with the highest being 2019 at 5.4 percent.”
The Opposition MP pointed out that the new administration inherited an economy, said to be the fastest growing in the hemisphere, if not the world. He explained that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in November 2019, predicted an 86 percent growth in 2020 – a figure that has since been revised due to the COVID-19.
“These are the fundamental and inconvenient truths that some among us don’t want to come out? We weren’t a “deh bad” country that we used to be or some are trying to make it out to be,” Trotman maintained.
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