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‘The national budget is a document that authorises the government to raise revenues, incur debts and effect expenditures in order to achieve certain goals.
The process of allocation of resources to different institutions and purposes is essentially a political, rather than purely technocratic one. Any attempt to address the content of budget allocation without looking at political process is therefore unlikely to be helpful’ (What’s behind the budget? www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/
The politics process and more specifically the budget process determines who gets what, when and how in a manner that best serves the interest of all stakeholders. Stakeholder involvement is not merely the sharing of information but is also meaningful exchanges that ideally leads to co-creation and shared ownership of the process and its outcomes. However, flush with Guyana’s oil resources, the PPP and its fellow travelers have constructed a budget without meaningful sectoral or institutional inputs from much of the country. It has not been on speaking terms with the official opposition; has rejected most of what the Guyana Trade Union Congress proposed and has made little effort to consult with ethnic, gender and other groups. Its persistent claim that the budget will accomplish its manifesto promises is extremely weak. Its margin of victory in the still disputed 2020 elections process that brought it to office is miniscule!
Historically, the parliamentary process is not intended and does not provide serious levels of consensus, particularly not for a deeply ethnically divided society like Guyana. And the absurdity of 65 MPs in the Committee of Supply (a committee of the whole House) attempting to properly scrutinize the entire budget in 7 days requires serious reform! It is well known that ‘without an effective role for committees … the ability of parliament to change the Budget is limited.’ https://www.
Generally a government budget should contain two self-reinforcing focuses: growth and development of the economy and poverty reduction (‘Handbook on Poverty and Inequality (2009) World Bank). But in a country such as Guyana it should also frontally recognise and adopt transparent processes to ensure that economic policies and budgets are directed towards equitability: closing the social and economic gaps that exist between social groups. However, this is not happening in Guyana as a debilitating kind of ethnic blindness that frowns upon approaches that seek to frontally address ethnic, gender and other disparities pervades the society and also serves to camouflage many instances of ethnic discrimination.
The following discourse in the press that criticizes the content of the school text ‘Atlantic Reader Book One’ and the process that brought it into being exhibits another dimension of this tendency. ‘The drawings of our children should also depict the beauty of their physical appearance. Why do these Readers present to them, drawings that show children and elders who are de-raced? Are our children being conditioned to think that this is the ideal and that, therefore, there is something wrong with their particular physiognomy. Do these readers not present us, rather, with a grand opportunity to have our children like who they are, and to have them extend that feeling to their neighbours and playmates, all of which would develop pride and confidence from an early age? Could this not be a vital first step in dissuading suspicion of differences and help create the unity needed to have Guyana move forward and away from the racial strife of the past?’ Since there is a suggestion of conscious or unconscious ethnic bias on the part of the designers ‘the Reader must be redesigned (by) ‘a group of educators who reflects the diversity of our nation. This should definitely include educators such as Mr. Akram Hussain, Principal of ISA. The Islamic School; Swami Aksharananda, Principal of Saraswati Vidya Niketan; and a teacher, educator and/or leader from among our First Nations’(SN: 03/02/2022).
Who can disagree with the principles in the previous paragraph? For years we have been hearing that the First Peoples are the poorest ethnic group in Guyana, but apart from creating a few hundred low level bureaucratic jobs where is the evidence-based government policy to directly and transparently address this problem? Africans, Indians and women also have complaints having to do with the wealth gap, business and employment participation, social protection, etc. that should also be directly addressed. Trickledown economics will not solve these problems and the government’s ad hoc handing out of resources to help develop the private sector, small business, etc., might increase inequalities!
Let me say here that the resources the PPP/C is throwing about without adequate consultations belong to the citizens of Guyana: there is nothing for which they should be grateful and there should be no political obligations. What is at present before the National Assembly is not a national but a PPP budget that will emerge from that chamber more-or-less exactly as it entered! The entire budgetary process should be reformed to take proper account of the socio/economic nature of Guyana.