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The Alliance For Change (AFC) in a statement said as a matter of first principle it will only support Budget 2023 if it includes provisions that would benefit all Guyanese and not just a select few. Reminding that without the Coalition’s strategic planning and management of the economy, while in Government, Guyana would not have seen the swift emergence of the oil and gas industry and first oil by December 2019, the party stated:- “Today we give credit where it is due and note that this nation would not be reaping the economic benefits [and] we are therefore proud of this achievement.”
In preparation for the Budget, read Monday, the AFC announced that for the first time in Guyana’s history earnings and deposits into the National Resource Fund is providing an opportunity to transform Guyana and ensure that all her citizens can benefit directly.
Last year Guyana earned more than US$1.1 Billion in oil and gas revenue and US$150 Million in royalty. Given Guyana’s wealth the party said the benefits from the inheritance must be equally shared by all sectors of the citizenry.
The party announced, “It is time to put the people First.”
The AFC said the Budget must be people-centred in focus because it will be the largest ever, given the increased earnings from the oil and gas sector. The Budget came in at GY$781.89 Billion, an increase in spending of more than 40 per cent compared to 2022.
Pointing out that already some $209 billion was deposited into the Natural Resource Fund during 2022 and is available for spending this year, the party made its expects the Budget, at a minimum, to include the following:
- Free Education at the University of Guyana.
- Full subsidy for all types of vehicles on all bridge/pontoon crossings, including Berbice Bridge, Demerara Harbour Bridge, Wismar Bridge, Kurukupari, Madhia crossing, Bartica crossing and the introduction of free speedboat services to all school children and medical personnel from the Vreed-en-hoop to Georgetown, Grove, EBD to Georgetown and Rosignol – New Amsterdam. These subsidies will reduce consumer costs, resulting in more families’ disposable income. It will also reduce traffic build-up due to eliminating waiting time to pay tolls, particularly on the Demerara Harbour Bridge. It is anticipated that these proposed subsidies will cost 1.4% of the 2022 NRF funds but will benefit ordinary working-class citizens.
- An increase in the minimum wage to $150,000 with corresponding adjustments to personal income tax would see persons earning minimum wage not paying income tax and a staggered schedule that would reduce current income tax payable.
- An increase in Old Age Pension to $50,000
- An increase in Disability benefits to $40,000
- A monthly electricity subsidy for all categories of consumers; $5000 for domestic consumers, $10,000 for commercial and $15,000 for industrial.
- Reduce VAT to 12%.
- Provide duty-free concession and VAT exemption on equipment and machinery for all businesses involved in Agriculture. The private business sector proposed this.
- New shelters across all Administrative Regions for women seeking respite and to escape abusive relationships. These shelters would support the victims of domestic violence to restore their lives.
The government has provided no such relief in the Budget which was read by Dr. Ashni Singh, Minister with responsibility for Finance.
However, the AFC stated that it is time all the people of Guyana enjoy the benefits and not the unequal allocations Guyana has seen which makes the rich richer. “The cries of our ordinary citizens of the high cost of living confirms that they are not seeing the improvements directly in their pockets.”