Apr 11, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – An opinion poll, which I conducted found praises for President Irfaan Ali-led government for its latest budget presentation and handling of the economy that has taken a hit from the pandemic. The NACTA conducted survey of “Budget 2021-22” presented by Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance within the Ministry of Finance, Ashni Singh has revealed an optimistic picture of the economy. The Senior Finance Minister and Vice President Jagdeo have pulled together a set of economic policies that is seen as being very good for the economy and better than any previous budgets presented by the Coalition over the previous five years.
It is an expansionary budget that focuses on urban-rural infrastructure and not unexpectedly, many rejoice over it. The presentation of the budget comes in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and its repercussion on the global economy, with the world facing the worst contraction since the Depression of the 1930s. Respondents praise the government for not proposing new direct taxes and for reducing or removing many of the taxes and fees and for increasing welfare benefits to the less fortunate. This ‘spend now’ budget has received a broad welcome from voters from both sides of the political divide. It is considered as a lifeline for an economy still battered by a partial lockdown, a continuing emergency COVID relief to the nation. They also feel it is a far better budget than any from the APNU+AFC coalition. Most people feel they should be better off from the budget. However, they complain that prices have not dropped in the shops in spite of lowered VAT. One other complaint is that respondents feel that the government should have raised the income tax threshold so they can have more take home money.
A majority of those polled said the Finance Minister has delivered a fair, good, or better than expected budget. The government gets kudos for direct intervention to deal with issues of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. But concerns were raised over inadequate money for State companies. Respondents praise the government for its handling of housing, infrastructure development, support for agriculture, social support, and Covid. However, respondents complain of joblessness and inadequate income that is not sufficient to meet rising expenses and lagging local development of communities. They also continue to express fear of crime. Parents complain that their children are not receiving adequate education during the year-long pandemic without access to equipment (computer) or Wi-Fi to tap into long distance learning. In addition, the nation feels more needs to be done to address the recent surge of maternity and infant issues at hospitals and health clinics.
The NACTA poll was conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bisram from late February thru March with a sample size of 600 respondents reflecting the demographics of the population.
When asked what is the most important issue facing the country, respondents express concerns over unemployment, crime, pandemic, infrastructure, health, blackouts, drugs, among others. They describe all these problems as important.
Overall, people praise the government for the budget saying it puts more money in their pockets. They describe the budget as mature, transparent, people centred, and growth oriented as compared to earlier ones.
On being asked if they approve of the budget, 64 percent said “yes” with 20 percent saying “no” and 16 percent not offering a response. Asked if the budget will produce a better life, 63 percent said yes, with 21 percent saying no and 16 percent not sure. Some 66 percent said this budget is better than the previous APNU+AFC budget; 19 percent say it is ‘worse than’ and 15 percent did not respond. Respondents from the bigger business community feel very optimistic and cheer the budget while respondents from the small businesses were more reserved in their view of the budget. The big business persons gave a high rating of ‘A’ while small business gave it an average rating of ‘B’. Some concerns were raised by respondents over household expenses and inadequate income to meet them. The biggest fear is inflation (rising prices). COVID-19 pandemic has contributed greatly to this worry. Some voters feel there should be more economic support for COVID and another stimulus package like the one given out in November and December.
Voters expressed displeasure and disquiet over some responses to the budget. They also don’t endorse the opposition boycott of Parliament. Respondents feel the opposition should be present in Parliament to hold the government accountable.
Among those presenters who scored exceedingly high in budget presentations were: Anil Nandlall, Deodat Indar, Susan Rodrigues, Juan Edghill, Charles Ramson, Zulfikar Mustapha, Vickram Bharrat, Hugh Todd, Ganesh Mahipaul, and Sherod Duncan.
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