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….Datadin contends consultation took place, opposition stayed away
By Lisa Hamilton
Being among the first set of speakers to debate Budget 2021 on Monday, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Geeta Chandan-Edmond told the House that the PPP/C Government breached the Constitution when it failed to consult the main APNU+AFC Opposition in the crafting of the 2021 Budget.
“They [the PPP] have failed to consult with the major Opposition party that represents more than half of the Guyanese population. Consultation should not be limited to the subsets of the PPP, this is a Constitutional requirement. By not consulting with the party that represents more than half of the Guyanese population, I say to you that you have breached the Constitutional provisions which are sacred and sacrosanct,” Chandan-Edmond said when she stood to speak.
She presented the case that had the APNU+AFC been consulted, the budget would not have turned into a document of “propaganda over performance”.
However, when Government MP, Sanjeev Datadin spoke subsequently, he contended that the Opposition was consulted on the crafting of the budget.
“That is simply untrue,” he said. “There were consultations with all sectors including other political parties. They consulted a wide range of the private sector, the labour movement and other political parties. If the Opposition does not want to attend the consultations, Mr Speaker, then how can they be consulted?”
The main opposition said they were not invited to any consultation and Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira had said that the opposition has not recognised the Irfaan Ali- led government as legitimate.
However, Chandan-Edmond, in her presentation,had put forward that had the Opposition been consulted, the Budget would have better reflected the needs of Guyanese.
Some of the issues she highlighted were insufficient allocations for frontline workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic; no salary increases announced in two consecutive budgets; the ‘gutting’ of the public service and inefficient plans to increase access to justice and national security.
“The PPP’s budgets are tailor-made for the rich but they throw a few crumbs at the poor to get them excited..this elitist and anti-working class budget during a pandemic is dangerous business. You cannot have a society where friends of the Government are feasting stake, guzzling on champagne while the poor people suffer with dry bread and sugar water and this is the reality,” the Opposition MP stated.
In rebuttal, Datadin disagreed that Budget 2021 does not cater to the COVID-19 pandemic and frontline workers. He said that comparing what was inherited by the PPP/C Government when it took office to what is currently being done to address the pandemic, one would see the proper positioning of financing and resources.
Much criticism has come to the current Administration on its management of the virus since taking office in August 2020.
Guyana recorded its first COVID-19-related death on March 11, 2020 under then APNU+AFC Government. Data show that from March 11 to August 2 when they demitted Office – a period of six months — the previous Administration recorded a total of 21 COVID-19 related deaths.
However, from August 4, 2020 to February 12, 2021 – seven months — the country recorded 165 additional COVID-19 deaths though, arguably, the APNU+AFC coalition managed the virus during its initial stage.
In other presentations on the floor and on matters of the international front, Chandan-Edmond highlighted that Guyanese are still awaiting full disclosure on the Shiprider agreement signed between Guyana and the United States (U.S.) to allow for maritime cooperation between the two countries. She said that neither the Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon nor the National Assembly has been briefed on the agreement which points to the Government’s lack of transparenc.
Added to that, she said that since the PPP/C took office there has been a rampant increase in interpersonal violence, robberies, and white-collar crimes; an unspeakable number of attacks by pirates; Guyana’s association with the largest overseas drug bust worldwide; and several prison breaks.
“I leave the other members on that side of the House with good advice: the hype will fade, the propaganda will subside, the storm of promises will disappear and Guyanese will return to the harsh reality of life under this Government and they will remember how they failed on Budget 2021 and the judgment shall be rendered at the ballot box,” Chandan-Edmond said.
“If I were to lend support to this budget in its current form, it would be the complete abdication of my Parliamentary responsibility and duty to the people.”
Rebutting these sentiments as well, Datadin stated that it was the APNU+AFC that burdened Guyanese with taxes while the PPP/C, in the people’s interest, removed them.
He told the House: “This is the largest budget in the history of this country — $383.1 billion dollars. Even more remarkable is that it is done during a pandemic, and, Mr Speaker, if that is not remarkable enough, it is done with no new taxes.”