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Reaction to the Budget by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton
This budget, in my opinion, is a marked failure. The most critical thing at this stage is inflation, and what inflation is doing to our country, and there are absolutely no measures in this budget to deal with inflation.
While I agree that there is need for assistance, one also recognises that if you are putting money into the system, without measures to deal with inflation, the cost of living will go up further. And so, in some regard this budget is a recipe for increasing the cost of living of the people. I also want to point out that the government seems to believe growth is development. Growth isn’t development, development is when resources are meeting people and it’s impacting their lives in a positive way.
In large measure, this budget is a very large budget that puts a lot of resources in the hands of the PPP elites, their families, friends and favourites. This is not a budget for the people. The main thing that is absent here, is a focus on the people. When one looks at the entire presentation, the minister was announcing billions in income from oil, but here you’re saying $10,000 increase in the threshold, you are saying ‘Because We Care’ cash grant, $35,000 an increase of $10,000.
Now you are raking in billions, and you are offering the poor increases in the vicinity of 10,000. In the case of old age pension, it is $5000 a month. That cannot impact positively the cost of living. Now public assistance is $14,000, you increase it by $2000 to $16,000 and you are celebrating it. What can $16,000 buy in this society?
And so, it is our considered opinion that this budget is a dismal failure. I’ve mentioned what it will do in terms of inflation, but most importantly the resources of this country they are not meeting the people.
I would have thought that in this circumstance he would have also been announcing wage increases for the year, because the eight per cent we know is inadequate and is a serious problem. Now, you are announcing the part-time employment programme. That in itself is an indication that the government had failed. The government didn’t promise people part- time jobs, they promised to reduce unemployment. And so, to come now and be celebrating that you’re adding some funds and a part- time job, you are celebrating a programme that is indicative of the fact that the government has failed.
Now, they are talking about sustainable development. What sustainable development? There are no measures in this budget to suggest that Guyana is going to develop sustainably. And in large measure this budget looks like it is inviting Dutch disease. It looks like it is inviting Dutch disease.
Critical to moving this economy forward is advancement in manufacturing. To talk about agriculture in pure primary product context will not help us. We have to have situations where we can move from primary agricultural products to processed agricultural products, and manufacturing should have been critical. And though the minister pointed out that there has been little or no improvement in manufacturing, you did not see measures in this budget to improve the manufacturing sector. And you know full well that manufacturing is dependent on cheap electricity and there is no evidence that there is going to be a reduction in cost of electricity.
Now, the thing that is most glaring here is that there is a heavy emphasis on infrastructure. That suggests to me the PPP intends to continue its corruption. This is a budget, at minimum 25% of the more than $700 billion will end up in corruption, apart from the incompetence. And so, this budget will give no hope to the people of Guyana. One would have anticipated that with these resources we would have heard of the return of free education to the University of Guyana. There is no such thing.
And so, we need to not fool ourselves when people say the fastest growing economy in the world; it doesn’t make any sense unless it impacts the lives of the people, and I submit it isn’t and it will not. So, there are a lot of issues here that we will have to look at.
Education to me should have had more focus, particularly developing the human resource capability to audit and monitor the oil sector. There is no evidence or suggestion in this budget that we are preparing to monitor and audit the oil sector properly and therefore increase what we get from cost oil.
This budget was a long speech that consumed a lot of time, but it cannot achieve what should be achieved, which is a higher quality or a better quality of life for the people of Guyana. It’s going to put money in the hands of the PPP elites and their cronies, but the people of Guyana will continue to face high cost of living and will not be able to make ends meet in Guyana today, and that is where the issue lies. The rest I will deal with in my budget presentation.
A very critical issue it’s poverty. All the reports, the IDB, every report is establishing that poverty is on the increase, and all you can get in this budget is something that suggests money to study poverty. I mean, it’s ridiculous. This budget has no programme for poverty alleviation nor poverty reduction. What should have already been done was for there to be people identifying the areas where property is high, and the budget should have had programmes to deal with poverty and reduce poverty.
And so, this budget is found wanting when it comes to the need for measures to attenuate, alleviate, and ultimately eradicate poverty. This seems to be a budget for the rich. There is no place in this budget to deal with the issues facing the small man and allowing him to progress. So, in some regard this is an anti-working class, anti-poverty budget. It has nothing to deal with poverty and to improve the lives of the working people of Guyana.