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– Trotman tells House FMAA breached multiple times in presentation of budgets for constitutional agencies
Former Minister of Natural resources, Raphael Trotman on Monday said that while the Opposition was absent for the presentation of the 2020 Budget last week, they will be present at the budget debates for the sake of exposing the false narrative that their years in office were a disaster.
As the first debater to the take the mic, Trotman informed the Government that it can expect to see the coalition give its unreserved support to social cohesion, racial and ethnic unity and the protection and preservation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
However, he was adamant that the coalition will place permanent fire at the feet of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which it believes has already started off on bad footing and has presented a budget that has fallen short of the expectations of the average Guyanese.
“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,” Trotman began in his assessment.
Contrary to the Act, he said that at the time of the presentation of the Estimates for the Constitutional Agencies, there was no gazetted Minister of Finance, no elected Speaker and no Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Furthermore, he said that while the law speaks to providing “sufficient time” to enable Members to consider the Estimates, none such was given.
The former Minister said: “It is worrying 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.”
Moving on to the budget itself, Trotman highlighted that though it was presented amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the social upheaval and tension within the country, it fails to address these two immediate crises.
He said that he finds it disingenuous that while it was announced that “frontline” workers will be given $150,000,000 to share amongst themselves, who is considered a “frontline” worker has not been defined.
“Are we speaking of all nurses and nurse aids and assistants and auxiliaries in every hospital and clinic, public and private in all ten Regions? Are we speaking of the taxi drivers and bus drivers who take them to work? Again, for all the hard work and dedication of the disciplined forces over the past months, two-weeks bonus? What of the one month that was promised?” Trotman sounded out.
While the PPP claims that it inherited an empty treasury, Trotman pointed out that even Houdini or an illusionist could not conjure up a $330 billion budget in just a few days if indeed the treasury was empty.
He said that what the PPP inherited was a strong economy on its way to unimaginable development. He told the House that the Party inherited an economy that was described as the fastest growing in the hemisphere; which experienced five consecutive years of sustained economic growth; which increased its transparency index ranking from 119 out of 180 in 2015 to 85/180 in 2019 and moved 11 ranks up the Press Freedom index.
He also highlighted, in the gold and bauxite sector, that Guyana recorded its highest gold production figures in its history, during the period 2015-2020; thousands benefitted directly and indirectly from the Mining Syndicates and Lottery initiatives and a new entity, First Bauxite, was brought on board.
“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,” the MP said.
In the area of forestry, he pointed out that Kanashen, the largest Amerindian area of 600,000 hectares was brought under the protected area system; Amerindian communities saw governance structures at the village level; the National Forest Plan and Policy was revised; Guyana successfully met all its commitments under the Guyana/Norway agreement; the forestry sector was diversified and more.
While he commends some of the emergency measures introduced to assist the forestry and mining sectors, he cautioned that authorities must be mindful of the health implication of the pandemic and the high cost for monitoring and regulating sector should there be gold rush.
In his criticism of Budget 2020, the former Natural Resources Minister said that it barely mentions the importance of protecting the environment from climate change and has failed to mention the PPP’s campaign promises of free university education; $50,000 ‘Because We Care’; 20,000 online scholarships and the reversal of 200 taxes.
He told the House, “In the end, we must conclude that this budget has fallen woefully short of everyone’s expectations. It has taken good and special care of some interest groups, but left 90 percent of the people out altogether – particularly the working class and poor seeking to elevate themselves out of poverty…at the end of the day, the budget is a knee-jerk reaction and lacks vision. Revenue is declining, expenditure is rising and the deficit, which stood at a moderate $17 billion in 2019, is now a whopping $75 billion! This is four-fold increase that is a major cause of concern. How is this deficit going to be managed outside of borrowing?”
Trotman also questioned why, though there is enough fiscal space to reduce VAT to 11 percent that this wasn’t done; why pensions were not raised to be half of the minimum wage as slated for; why public sector workers were not given their increase as slated for and why the Income Tax threshold was not increased as expected.