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—Fernandes raps Gov’t on poor management of the economy
—cites failure to meet 2021 budget targets
Opposition Member of Parliament, Juretha Fernandes, in accusing the Irfaan Ali Administration of poorly managing the economy, said notwithstanding Guyana’s booming Oil and Gas Industry, the country’s non-oil Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to be below expectation, with Government missing one target after another.
“The [Finance] Minister reported that the 2021 non-oil GDP growth was an anemic 4.6% after a projection of 6.1% and after suffering a contraction of 7.3% in 2020,” Fernandes said as she addressed the National Assembly on Wednesday on the $552.9B Budget proposed by the Government for 2022.
The non-oil GDP is projected to grow by 7.7% in 2022, however, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) MP is predicting another missed target.
“…the PPP continues to fail at economic policies to sustain or grow the non-oil economy, and thanks to their failure the non-oil economy today is still smaller than the non-oil economy of 2019,” she contended.
According to Fernandes, the situation is further compounded by the sharp increase in inflation. Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh had projected that there would be a 1.6% inflation rate in 2021, however, in presenting the 2022 Budget last Wednesday, he told the House that the inflation rate was actually 5.7%.
“Mr. Speaker, when this budgetary period ends, the PPP would have presided over a total inflation rate of over 11% in just 2 ½ years. That’s what you get when you compound 0.9%, 5.7% and the projected 4.1%. A cost of living increase of $11,000 on a $100,000 budget,” the Opposition MP said while noting that Guyanese are finding it difficult to cope amid the spike in living cost. She said Dr. Singh’s report to the House reeks of economic mismanagement.
Pointing to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Sector, Fernandes gave the Government ‘F,’ because the sector contracted by 9.1% in 2021 as against expanding by 5.6% as was projected. Notably, the Sugar Industry contracted by 34.7% in 2021 with a total sugar production of 58, 025 tonnes.
She said the drop in production was experienced after another failed promise. Fernandes reminded that in 2021, Dr. Singh said: “The restructuring of GUYSUCO, alongside the recapitalisation of sugar estates, will see improved production and productivity, not only in 2021, but over the medium-term. As a result, in 2021, the sugar industry is projected to grow by 9.6 percent.”
The Finance Minister said the decrease in production was as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the massive floods that rocked Guyana mid last year, but the APNU+AFC Parliamentarian said the excuses proffered is simply not acceptable as she gave the Government another ‘F’. Further, she rubbished the contention by the Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha that by injecting billions of dollars into the Sugar Industry, tens of thousands of jobs will be created. Fernandes said the contention is furthest from the truth, as she pointed to the Guyana Bureau of Statistics Report, in which it was stated that more young people are jobless now than when the APNU+AFC was in Office.
The Opposition MP also pointed out that rice production reduced by 20.5%, while bauxite mining dropped by 3.8% and gold mining 14.8%. She boasted that in just two years of being in office, the APNU+AFC Administration had increased gold production by 326, 000 ounces – an almost 85% increase.
“Mr. Speaker the report card as delivered by Ashni Singh, honorable member, a dismal report of failure, a report card that failed to reach any targets that was set by their own administration. A report card of failure presented to this nation. And yet Sir, they come to this house, and shout and scream with their incompetence. Empty barrels indeed make the most noise,” she told the House.
The Opposition MP said while the non-oil GDP continues to underperform, corruption is becoming rampant. She contended that while the while the Ali Administration boasts of removing the 2% withholding tax on resident contractors as part of its menu of measures for 2022, instead of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the money will be redirected into the pockets of the PPP/C Government and its associates. Such acts of corruption, she warned will be unearthed when the APNU+AFC returns to power.
Referencing to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Reports, Fernandes said while Guyana scored 40 in 2020 – a significant improvement since 2012 – the country dropped two points down in 2021 under the PPP/C Administration.
“The PPP’s track record speaks for itself Sir, they are corrupt!” she contended.