Jan 24, 2023 News
– says budget 2023 favours the rich, spending miserly on the poor
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Amanza Walton -Desir on Monday described the allocation of Budget 2023 as catering more to the business sector rather than responding effectively to the cost of living and developmental needs of citizens.
The Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister during her budget presentation slammed the Government for having the financial ability to bring relief to citizens, while lacking the willingness to do so.
The Member of Parliament (MP) said that the budget gives an idea on how the Government values people as it has “…nothing for the poor and working class in comparison to what is being done for big businesses.” The MP suggested that while Government boasts of the fastest growing economy, that
does not reflect development on the part of citizens. She noted that last year’s budget allocated some $218B for capital expenditure and Government was warned that even in partnership with the Private Sector that capacity was unavailable to adequately carry out such spending. And that is exactly what has happened, Walton-Desir said, judging by the roads being constructed where some look like footpaths and where wider ones are sliding into trenches. She continued that investment in capital projects, like roads, bridges and buildings increased by 600 percent since the Government took office, while capital expenditure outstripped employment spending by five percent. The MP charged that despite receiving about $338B from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) within last two years, Government spending has produced a 12 percent deficit.
The MP related that while the Government has acknowledged that sugar is in a bad place, the Government continues to commit billions of dollars into the industry with supplementary requests that are usually made during the course of the year. Walton-Desir continued that the Finance Minister during his budget speech related government’s willingness to “to invest heavily” in young people’s development yet committed only $960M for related programmes. She said there is still no free education for Guyanese and suggested that the announcement will come ahead of elections. The MP reminded citizens that the Government would be doing no favours to give free education, but just righting an historical wrong. The Opposition member supported the “Because we care cash grant” and the continued Coalition school feeding programme and the increase in income tax threshold, but insisted that “more is possible because we have more at our disposal.” She argued for Government to come up with policies to subside basic food items, and transportation for the vulnerable.
The common thread regarding these issues Walton –Desir said is that “…the ability of this Government to do more for the people of Guyana is present but their willingness is woefully absent.” She said this could be seen in the way the budget has been portioned and where the allocations are spent. The MP highlighted a few international reports from the World Bank, the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which highlighted poverty levels, and malnourished percentages among others. Despite this information Government has allocated less than 1 percent of the budget to relief issues, the MP said.
Standing as one
Speaking on her portfolio, Walton- Desir said the Opposition stands resolutely with the Government on the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. She has warned also about the “unchecked migration across the country’s porous borders” particularly in the Essequibo where settlements are being established by Venezuelan migrants fleeing hardship back home. She said that Government is unable or unwilling to recognise this existential threat. Apart from that, she said a clear and comprehensive immigration policy as well as a foreign policy. As it is, Guyanese are now victims of a carnival of inconsistencies. She said that Guyana is moving away from long standing positions and has derecognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADRS). The Opposition member opined that the Government has a problem in determining its foreign policy because it is unable to discern its private interests from the state’s interest. “So, the state’s interest is subject to their interest and the deals and kick backs.” Now, Guyana is seen as “day trader and no one takes us seriously anymore.” The MP submitted that Guyana boasts of being the fasting growing economy but warned that growth does not reflect development. She pointed to Ghana as a perfect example of that reality.
Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Kwame McCoy who spoke after the Opposition MP told the House that the Government will demonstrate how economic growth is benefitting citizens. He said as Government MPs give their budget contributions, citizens will hear how consecutive double digits annual growth translate into real term development and how it allowed the Government to abolish some 200 taxes, to reintroduce and rapidly increase school children cash grants, reemploy hundreds of sugar workers, how thousands of house lots are built in every region, remove tax on materials, reduce interest rates and provide stone, cement and steel among others.
“We will demonstrate to Guyanese how economic growth is allowing us to build brand new four land highways…” The Minister further continued by saying, “Because the Opposition Leader is incapable of explaining how growth is development…the Government will explain in its budget presentation how those are possible”. Minister Mc Coy also took some Opposition Members to task over statements made. Nima Flue-Bess, Opposition Member who was the first Speaker of the budget debates had highlighted how basic food items increased significantly using her community of Mocha as reference. Minister McCoy said that during the MP’s speech, he sent for basic items such as sugar and oil from Mocha and held up the items to prove that they were not as expensive as she claimed. He said to the Shadow Foreign Minister that while Government is yet to free tertiary education, the Opposition when in Government did not remove the tuition fee but rather increased it.
Flue-Bess had lamented the destruction of homes belonging to Mocha residents at a time when cost of living is high. She said that even with the grants and public assistance sums that Government would have put in the budget, they are inadequate since calculating the over seven percent inflation rate would show the real value of the sums citizens received. The MP added that Government acts as the new “Massa” of the day as it continuously fails to consult with stakeholders.
Mc Coy has warned the Opposition however that Government must be “prudent” in its management of funds. He said, “it’s not just about having money and spending it.” The Minister holds the portfolio for Media and Communication, but information was not related for this area.
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