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….MP Walton-Desir proposes that the money be redirected to public servants, pensioners,
By Svetlana Marshall
Predicting that $89B of the $552.9B National Budget would be wasted, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Amanza Walton-Desir urged the Government to redirect the money to the poor and vulnerable, public servants, pensioners and Guyanese students from nursery to university, as she kick-started the 2022 Budgetary Debate in the National Assembly on Monday.
MP Walton-Desir explained that of the $552.9B Budget, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government sets aside approximately $218B for capital expenditure, an increase of approximately 109%. The issue that arises, she said, is one of capacity, contending that neither the Government nor the Private Sector has the capacity to execute capital projects to that magnitude. The Opposition MP said the situation is further compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely affected the global supply chain, which has thus far affected the completion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Project and the Mandela Avenue Road Expansion Project among others.
“The IMF in reporting on Guyana’s Public Investment Management Assessment, states that Guyana has an estimated efficiency gap of 41% which means that out of the $218B that is allocated for Capital Expenditure, $89B of that will be wasted due to the weaknesses in planning, budgeting, appraisal, selection, procurement and execution of capital projects,” MP Walton-Desir told the House.
She said if the Government was serious about proper development, it would have expended efforts on decreasing that efficiency gap to minimise wastage.
“They would focus on investing in our human capital, on training and development to bring the necessary competencies to bear in order to efficiently and effectively manage massive capital spending. And not only training but providing competitive remuneration so that we are not training our people to leave,” she reasoned. Given the anticipated wastage of $89B, MP Walton-Desir submitted that the Government should reallocate $36B or 6.5% of the budget to regular Guyanese people to cushion the impact of the deep rise in cost of living.
According to her, the $36B could be used to give 50,000 public servants a pay increase of 10%; provide free tuition for the 11,000 UG students; allocate $2.5B more to the University of Guyana for its operations; give the 9,200 frontline healthcare workers an average of $250,000; raise the income tax threshold to $100,000 per month; increase old age pension to $35,000 per month for 65,0000 senior citizens; increase public assistance to $20,000 per month for 18,000 Guyanese; allocate $3.5B to the Technical Vocational Education and Training and provide $2M in business grants to 2,000 qualified small businesses. She said too that $1.3B could be used to upskill 5000 sugar workers to properly equip them for work outside of sugar.
The APNU+AFC MP submitted that the proposed measures would significantly improve the lives of the poor and working-class immediately. She argued that while the Government boasts about setting aside $25B in relief measures, by and large the measures favour big businesses and are not designed to help poor people. “Mr. Speaker, it appears that the Government is hoping that by providing all of these tax breaks to big business that the benefits will trickle down to the poor and working class Guyanese. But Mr. Speaker we know trickle-down economics don’t wuk!!!” she told the House.
In making her case, she pointed out that in August 2021, the government adjusted the freight cost component in the CIF value used for the calculation of import taxes, the effect of which was to roll back frieght cost to pre pandemic levels. However, the very Government, in November 2021, had caused to flay importers and producers for not passing these benefits to local consumers.
“Despite the fact that the relief has not been passed down to the people, the government has decided to continue this measure until December 31, 2022 at a cost of 6 billion dollars,” she argued.
Noting that the Government must do better, MP Walton-Desir said She said Guyana has for all intents and purposes lost the battle with COVID -19. “Today as a nation of less than eight hundred thousand, we have 1,166 deaths, as of 353 new cases and a total confirmed cases of close to 60,000, and a whooping 11, 234 on home isolation,” she said, while noting that the situation has been further compounded by the rise inflation, which currently stands at close to 6% and a crime rate that is of major concern.
“…with each announcement of another oil find hardworking Guyanese seem to sink deeper and deeper into despair and discouragement,” she told the House.
The Opposition MP said while the 2022 Budget is themed “Steadfast Against Challenges, Resolute on building our One Guyana,” it is disrespectful, discriminatory and deceitful. “Mr. Speaker, my late mother, may God rest her soul, had a saying “show me where you spend your time and money and I will tell you not only what you value, but what your values are”.
The Minster with responsibility for Finance stood in this house and told the people of Guyana that in 2021 inflation was close to 6 % and food price inflation in particular was approximately 12%. Yet Mr. Speaker, this government has given to our public servants a meagre 5 percent after tax increase over a period of 2 years,” she argued. She much like the 2021 National Budget, the 2022 Budget lacks vision, and for that, Guyanese will continue to “perish” under the PPP/C Administration.