Jan 28, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The new budget is a good exercise in mathematics with lots of numbers thrown about either to impress Guyanese or to pull the wool over their eyes. There are percentages, statistics, comparisons and, of course, billions bandied about. We struggle to understand how Guyanese who still have their head on could take seriously and thankfully what the PPP/C Government put forward as the 2022 budget.
Comparatively speaking, this year’s budget is almost double that of last year’s with a staggering 43.4 percent increase. Similarly, national growth is forecasted to be 47.5 percent, also a fantastic number. It gives the impression that Guyana is on the move, and one where the man-in-the-street is the early beneficiary of this country’s oil wealth embedded in what is now fashionable to call the oil budget. As usual, truth is the first casualty of political scoundrels, long versed in couching serious matters in numbers that are supposed to inspire confidence, but fall short of that particular objective.
There are all this budgetary and growth increases in the air, and Guyanese still labour to figure out what is in it for them. Not well-established and well-provided for comrades in the bosom and the commercial sector, but regular citizens who are left openmouthed at the stinginess of the Government’s provisions for them in this sprawling budget. Certainly, the Government has earmarked billions for multiple sectors, but it is miserly and cheap to the point where run-of-the-mill Guyanese are forced to be content with nickels and dimes. For here it is in a time of plenty the Government’s budget left vital areas where it could have improved the lot of empty-handed Guyanese in a state of powerful disgust.
Old Age Pensions went up by a mere $3,000 a month, which is considered generous. It would be a rejected tip for a cup of coffee, where the big people sup in Guyana. The income tax threshold should have been doubled to aid lower income Guyanese workers and different tiers of them, but that was a scant $10,000 upward move; if the Government was really interested in prioritising the wretched in this country, those numbers have to have more bite. Instead, it is a few pennies for paupers, and plenty for insiders and those standing by to exploit the opportunities facilitated by Government’s largesse for them. There is GuySuCo receiving $6 billion in new money, gas to energy almost $21 billion, education $74.4 billion, and public safety and the security sector almost $48 billion.
All those areas offer rich pickings for the well-incentivized private sector to capitalise still more, at the expense of Guyanese who need more. More importantly, and as all Guyanese should know, those areas and those hundreds of billions present endless openings to rip-off taxpayers, and rob them blind. It has happened before, and now with corruption again on the rise, it is open season for siphoning significant amounts of those budgetary allocations, through the contract award process, and the public works that it is supposed to address. Somehow, those projects always end up on the shabby and sordid side, as in poorly executed, barely holding up, and little value for money.
We learned of increased grants for children, by itself encouraging, but which could have been better handled in advance tax credits, if only to stave off the corruptions that have been part and parcel of grant monies and relief monies. There is more money to feed the less than one percent people in this country, which means more skullduggeries and stealing. It also means that there should have been more for the little people who lose hope that they will get something palpable from this oil money. The Government is aggressive with projections for GUYSUCO and rice, with those almost doubling, and the fishing sector is given a boost with similar optimism dominant. Somebody is gaming these numbers, selling gullible citizens a pig in a poke, several of them. With all this paper wealth sloshing about, hard-up citizens should have received a fairer share. And with all that budget money in play, it is feeding frenzy time in selected PPP/C and private sector ranks. What difference is this oil making for those at the bottom?
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