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…Harmon says in criticisng budget
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon said the key policies and measures included in the 2021 National Budget are intended to reverse the economic, social and other gains made by the country, under the stewardship of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Administration but this he warned, will only return Guyana to the state of a tattered legacy left by the Bharrat Jagdeo Administration in 2011.
He said while the Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh outlined Government’s vision and objectives during last Friday’s budget presentation, the allocations were detached from the objectives. “Budget 2021 is mostly vacuous and meaningless. Budget is meant to be a template for development but is a testimony to the disarray in the Government,” Harmon said as he turned his attention to objective one, which treats with the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said while the Government has allocated $750M for achieve herd immunity through its vaccination programme, it failed to addressed other challenges posed by the pandemic.
“What we are still to see is a clear plan for tackling COVID-19 – at best it has been a hodge-podge approach, taking a little from CARICOM, a little from the USA, a little from India – but nothing from our own experience here,” the Opposition Leader said.
He added: “So we are still to understand how this vaccine will get to the ordinary man and what confidence building measures are being embraced to get to herd immunity. If the Government handling of the COVID-19 household grant distribution is any measure to go by, this again will be business for the friends of the PPP and damn the health of the population.”
Further, he said distribution of the household COVID-19 cash grant has been nothing short of disgraceful. Reports suggest that households are yet to receive their cash grant, though the 2021 budget makes no provision for additional finances.
“There has been little or no public accountability; there has been no audit yet by the Auditor General [and] hundreds of households [are] still to get and they will allocate more money in 2021 to be squandered away,” Harmon said.
Secondly, the Opposition Leader turned his attention objective 5 which treats with the Public Service. He said the Finance Minister provided little detail on how Government will transform the Public Service, instead it has moved to close the Bertram Collins College of Public Service as it attempts to undo the work done by the APNU+AFC AFC Administration.
“What is it that they will do now that they did not do in their previous 23 years that would ensure a noticeable improvement in services provided by Government agencies? Seventy-seven (77) pages and not one paragraph on the importance of public servants to the development of the country.
No recognition of the important role public servants must play to ensure the implementation and execution of Government plans. This statement comes days after this said administration saw it fit to close the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service, an educational institution that was created to resolve one of the myriads of problems facing the public service prior to 2015,” the Opposition Leader said.
He said over the last six months, Guyana has witnessed the dismissal of highly qualified and experienced public servants without cause.
“Improving the quality of Public Services require a systematic approach. It requires looking at the commission of inquiry that was done into the Public Service in 2016 and utilizing the findings and recommendations of said COI to properly plan for the short, medium and long term. Improving the quality of Public Service require a mental and policy shift to the humane management of the human resources that would be called upon to provide these services,” he reasoned.
Further, Harmon said that the budget gives scant treatment to the environment and harks back to a Jagdeo hobby horse, the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), though Guyana, under the APNU+AFC Administration, embraced the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).
“The GSDS is prepared after over 1800 community consultations were done with expert guidance. The people said this is what they want, not what Jagdeo wants. LCDS has passed its expiry date,” he said. He said the scant treatment of Youth empowerment, women and the elderly and other vulnerable categories of persons is given in the budget has not gone unnoticed, and will be addressed fully when the Budget Debates kick off next week.