Mar 05, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – A period of five days was allocated for the parliamentary House Committee of Supply to consider the 2021 Budget Estimates. But just mere hours later, on the third day, yesterday, the Committee was able to pass the National Budget, four days ahead of its schedule, following consistent disruptions by the A Partnership for National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) opposition.
The day began with coalition supporters gathering outside of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) at Liliendaal. Those supporters called for the removal of Member of Parliament (MP), Kwame McCoy, following allegations that he had assaulted opposition MP, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley. McCoy has since denied those allegations and a complaint by Sarabo-Halley has been lodged with the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
When the Committee reconvened at 10 am yesterday morning, Opposition MPs made it clear that in order for them to proceed with the consideration of the estimates, MP McCoy had to first be removed. Chairman of the House Committee of Supply, Manzoor Nadir indicated that the opposition would first have to submit a motion in order for that to be considered.
Displeased by that decision, the coalition opposition got up, began banging on their desks and chanted, “Kwame must go!”
Despite a number of appeals for them to stop, the Opposition continued their behaviour, and Nadir suspended those proceedings.
When the Committee reconvened almost an hour later, Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, stood up and repeated to the Chair that their position on the removal of McCoy remained the same. Nadir reiterated that the Opposition would first have to submit a “proper motion in line with the Standing Order for that to be considered.”
Displeased once again, all Opposition MPs, except for Deputy Speaker, Lenox Shuman, got up and began protesting while chanting, “Kwame must go!”
MPs Jones, Sherod Duncan, Amanza Walton-Desir, Jermaine Figueira, Sherwayne Holder, Natasha Singh-Lewis were all suspended from the rest of the sitting during the afternoon period after they continued to film the proceedings via mobile devices. This was done despite Standing Order 45 prohibiting the same.
Following the suspension of the sitting, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, indicated that any delay in the enactment of the National Budget is a delay in the delivery of services to the people of Guyana.
He said that the government is concerned by the actions of the Opposition to frustrate and obstruct the passage of the $383.1 billion Appropriation Bill, which will affect the rollout of transformative projects that directly impact the citizens of Guyana.
“I am extremely disappointed in this and I condemn it because every action that is taken and every delay in the passage of the budget result in the people being denied the benefit from the policies, programmes and initiatives that were included in the Budget,” he said.
When an hour had passed, the Committee reconvened to consider the estimates.
$353.8 billion budget passed
Dr. Singh had initially presented a $383.1 billion budget for 2021. However, only $353.8 billion was passed, with the remaining $29.2 billion used to service debts.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Singh had noted that much work had been put into the crafting of the Budget with major contribution from large sections of society.
With this, the Minister explained, “A lot of work went into preparation of the National Budget and this work reflected the input of many, many people. It reflected the input of non-governmental stakeholders- the wide range of stakeholders who we consulted with and whom made contributions to the preparation of the Budget. It reflects the hard work of literally hundreds of civil servants who work in the various Ministries and in the various sectors who spent a lot of time preparing their respective Ministry or Agency Budgets, identifying projects or developing projects and initiatives for inclusion in the budget.”
The Senior Minister had also noted that crafting of the budget involved ‘tremendous work’ by the staff of the Ministry of Finance as well as Cabinet, which led ultimately to its conclusion prior to being presented to Parliament.
He recalled that many stakeholders following consultations with government and their perusal of the budget, had stated publicly that the 2021 Budget included a wide range of initiatives intended to move forward the development agenda in Guyana and that it was expected to benefit all sections of the country.
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