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The A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament Devin Sears in his debate contribution on the 2023 Budget said the Government’s focus is not on improving the lives of citizens and is insulting the populace in its poor attempt to show care.
“Let me state at the outset that it is my intention to focus my contribution on improving the lives of every Guyanese, to highlight inconsistencies in the 2023 budget and make recommendations of which should be considered on its improvement. In areas where I do not go into details, I am sure my colleagues will elaborate in their contributions,” said M.P Sears.
He mentioned, “No reasonable person would dispute the fact that indeed this is the largest budget in our history, a budget that should have created room for equality, bridge the gaps of poverty and embody generational wealth that would ensure our great grandchildren don’t have to fall into the plight of hardship, but this budget failed to do so; instead, this budget averts to address the growing economic crisis that Guyanese are facing on a daily basis.”
He noted his disappointment, in the Government’s side of the house for their poor attempt to convince Guyanese that they care, as they constantly insult the Guyanese populace, attempting to distract them with chicken feed handouts and hog wash.
He continued by saying, “Mr. Speaker there is no substance in the arguments they are bringing to the fore, instead my colleagues on the other side of the House are commentators on ball-by-ball play and fly by night historians; instead of considering the recommendations highlighted by the Opposition.
“Might I remind the Government that we on this side of the house represents more than 50% of Guyanese electorate, we are dually elected and represent a wider constituency called Guyana; and yet they continue to vigorously ignore the concerns of the people. Could political maturity prevail in consideration on reasonable grounds to the benefit of our people.”
“The World Bank, in its updated fact sheet on Guyana, said Guyana’s national poverty headcount is the share of the population living below US$5.5 a day (GUY $1,100), is among the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean region at around 48%. It noted that poverty rates are highest in the sparsely populated interior or hinterland, where communities have limited access to economic opportunities, healthcare and public services. The World Bank said the country experiences high emigration and brain drain, with 39% of all Guyanese citizens currently residing abroad and roughly half of all Guyanese with a tertiary education having emigrated mostly to first world countries,” he argued.
He added, “In order to effectively address such reports, the non-oil sectors such as tourism will have to play an active role.”
He continued by stating, “Tourism offers great opportunities for emerging economies and developing countries. It creates jobs, strengthens the local economy, contributes to local infrastructure development and can help to conserve the natural environment and cultural assets and traditions, and to reduce poverty and inequality. This can be achieved, in particular, if local people are able to benefit from the income opportunities arising from tourism.”
“Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Member Dr. Ashni Singh in his Budget 2023 presentation
lauded the tourism industry for, its contributions to the GDP; 83.9 % increase in tourists against 2021, new airlines that are coming on stream, 3200 rooms that will be made available through massive investments, big spending for Event Tourism. Guyana has been named the #1 “Best of Ecotourism” destination in the world in 2019 and continues to hold a pinnacle place in sustainable tourism,” he mentioned.
“Mr. Speaker, if indebt research is done, I’m sure that the Tourism Sector is performing better than some traditional industries. So why isn’t the government not spending more in the sector that is working? Mr. Speaker, things are not looking too sweet with the tourism sector, based on this year’s budgetary allocation,” he posited.
“The Training and hospitality school while good and welcomed; the location might be a deterrent given the fact most of the major brands of hotels and the larger part of the population resides in the capital and coast. Maybe the long-term goal is to establish similar in all the regions.
The APNU+AFC with its great vision of transforming this sector, created Regional Tourism Committees, with the aim of having greater inclusion and bipartisan cohesive effort geared towards regional development. These committees need funding, and subventions now more than ever are needed. The criterion can be determined, and funding be channelled through the local organs, if necessary,” he mentioned.
“A Tourism Officer with office was appointed to serve Region #10 under the APNU+AFC (I am pleased with such); but what about the other regions? Every village, every community, every town have some form of tourism product that needs developing and that cannot be effectively done from central government. This will likely open doors for the decentralisation of tourism related services and inquiries. Guyana now is a big player on the world market of tourism and all sectors needs to be on board, including security.
“Mr. Speaker, Guyana according to the U.S State Department is ranked Number 3 on their travel advisory (Second to last) which means “Reconsider travel”. We need to create new or rebranded image for Guyana and need to embark on an international campaign to sell destination Guyana with key markets in North America, Europe, Africa and Latin America. More needs to be spent of placements in magazines, adverts on leading airlines, promotional seminars and social media.”
He noted that in anticipation of a boom in tourism, it is expected that investors who disguise themselves as tourists will come again with the intent to invest; that is why now more than ever he believes that the Government should establish regional Investment Portfolios are necessary.
“The government needs to work with the local and regional governance organs to ensure that such potential investments fall in line with the vision of the people. The Industrial Estates will occupy approximately 20 acres of land at Millie’s Hideout, good project [but] one flaw: no consultation with the local organs and the residents.
“Let me make myself clear Mr. Speaker, myself and colleagues are not against any form of development in the country but the PPP continue to make a crucial error a communal buying to these projects: The area where the Industrial Site and even the 1000 homes projects is slated to be sits on approximately Millions of tons of commercial grade bauxite; which now deprives this industry of billions of dollars; this could have been brought out through consultation.”
“Mr. Speaker my position on tourism is simple, based on known performance allocate more.
UPPER DEMERARA/BERBICE (REGION 10)
“Upper Demerara/Berbice more specifically Linden, has enjoyed a long history of bauxite, a sector that has contributed handsomely to this country GDP; the government lauded the industries performance largely owed to First Bauxite and Bosai Minerals (US$18.9 million in bauxite earnings). But the government is doing nothing to represent the employees.
- Who only benefited from a mesial 0.5% increase the latter part of 2022 as a bonus;
- The Honourable Member Dr. Ashni Singh boasted that the industry employees almost 1,000; let me fact check really quick (588 Bosai, 140 First Bauxite and what remains at Russal, Auroma 45 who are mainly security) amounting to 763…
“Mr. Speaker, the Math isn’t Mathing.
“Speaking of Rusal, the PPP needs to admit that they are doing nothing to resuscitate the Arorama bauxite industry, which supported economically the Hururu, Ituni and Kwakwani. Fact checks, for 3 years no engagements on updating residents on the industry and no taskforce, let the people of sub region 2 know that it is your intent to cripple the industry there. Bring people to their knees begging for crumbs,” he argued.
Again, he quoted Dr. Ashni Singh, – “Furthermore, the investment outlook for the sector is promising amid additional discoveries of world class deposits, especially at the Tarakulli deposit in Berbice, as the Government continues to seek additional large-scale investors for the industry. Notably, the number of persons employed in the sector increased steadily, rising from 438 in 2020, to 905 in 2022.” Current (588 BOSAI) (First Bauxite – 200).”
“Mr. Speaker the budgetary allocation for Upper Demerara/Berbice, which spans the three main rivers, the largest housing scheme in the Caribbean (Amelia’s Ward), 16 Indigenous villages, one Neighbour Hood Democratic Council and Township is grossly underfunded.
Sadly Mr. Speaker the budgetary allocation only increases by 12% and stands at 5,989,270 billion Budget (Capital 835,390 | Current 5,530, 881); Employment (3,032,622) 2,121,258 (other charges).
“Mr. Speaker, the hard-working staff at the RDC, the Regional Chairman and Councillors submitted for consideration a 9.2 billion budget for consideration; disappointing to note that the very region which they parade themselves every week, slashed their 3.3 billion further hampering development.
Fact: Region #10 2022 Capital 99% and Current 98% for 2022)
Omissions from 2023 budget included:
- Better health care,
- Mobility to serve the people
- Better education delivery
- Regional Democratic Office (which was catered for in 2018)
- Roads and bridges
“The RDC currently hosts 100 staff and is a fire hazard. Roads and bridges… speaking of bridges; The construction of the Wismar/Mackenzie Bridge was striked from the budget again. This is a new bridge across the Demerara River at Wismar to replace the existing old bridge and provide synergy with the Linden-Mabura corridor and onwards to Lethem. Mr. Speaker, the just last year the government forked out over $1Billion on emergency work to the Harbour Bridge, in one instance spent $1 billion in 5 days,” he pointed out.
“’Negotiations regarding financing are well advanced.’ The Honourable Dr. Ashni Singh stated. Advance? This bridge is over 50 years old, and in a terrible state; a catastrophe waiting to happen.
- “Where is the much-needed Fire Station – Wismar Station (Land already been identified).
- Where is the primary school at Wisroc constantly expanding (Land already been identified).
- Speaker the Government has a vice grip on leased lands along the Linden/Lethem Road…2 miles in on both sides, reserved. Reserved for who? Friends of the PPP.
“Grounds at various locations, conducted rehabilitation works at the National Stadium and completed the synthetic tracks in regions 6 and 10.”
“Fact checks; the Linden Synthetic track is no way completed (I’m not sure why the Honourable Minister Dr. Ashni Singh seems misguided). Emanuel Archabal, a decorated national athlete and Olympian trains on dangerous Linden/Soesdyke highway; such a disappointment.”
Roads and Drains
“In 2022 the Honourable Minister Edghill made a bold announcement of 800 million dollars for road development under the Ministry he serves, Urban Development; Mr. Speaker we want back Patto, bring back the Honourable Member Patterson. The road has a short expiration date, the roads are without drains, the roads are beginning to deteriorate.
“Just like the PPP who will be out soon!!
“Mr. Speaker in advent of investment and infrastructural work being done in Tacama and Ibini along the line of agriculture, there needs to be a holistic approach that will address the expected growth in population and access to health care, schooling and affordable transportation. In Ibini (60 Household) for example, pregnant women and the elderly have to travel for miles just to be serviced, the residents want to see the return of a health centre there, and at Calcuni a full complement of teachers and a furnished hostel.
“Mr. Speaker, food security is important, and every region must be self-sustained and this could only be done many times with the guidance of professions through the agriculture department but given the vastness of the region, mobility is needed (why hasn’t any vehicles been approved?), three years no vehicle. I will tell you why, this government is not serious about food security; no funding for the continuation and upgrade of Millie’s Hideout to Sandhills Road.
“Despite of the fact that the cost of living is going up.
“Mr. Speaker, there is a sudden surge of vegetable and fruits coming from Brazil which potentially could put local farmers out of businesses; yet alone put our citizens at risk to unknown health related treat. The RDC #10 is proposing the establishment of a National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO).
WAR ON BOARDS AND CO-OP SOCIETIES
“Mr. Speaker, there is an all-out war against boards in the region; years have passed an no LEN and Linden Hospital Board; and the Board of Guardians which was highjacked took hundreds off of public assistance.
“How sad it is to note Mr. Speaker, the government talks about empowering citizen when there is a clear attempt to disband co-op societies in this country (case in point, LUSCSL); the don’t support independence but wants Guyanese to be dependent.
“Hijack of the region resources
“The PPP seem to believe that to address the unemployment problem is by providing temporary part time jobs (Its better than nothing, the other side of the house might say) … I cannot wait to see the day when those under paid temporary workers take away your jobs, boot you out of office.
“You are having no respect for Guyanese; you are treating them like Dankey Chowmein.
“Mr. Speaker, Guyana faces the worst human development indicators in the last 30 years and instead of making budgetary allocations that will address the needs of the people they turn a blind eye to echoing cries,”
He used the following as Reference:
- MIDAS BPO – debunk employment in Linden (turnover rate is high) farce about persons working for 90 thousand
- Part time jobs: – Temporary (not effective) not working out.
- Linden hospital: doctors (30) have asked to be reassigned and nurses (close to a hundred) have migrated.
Sears sad he hopes political maturity prevails and the Government side of the House considers the following:-
- The economy is not functioning how it should.
- Only oil has seen an impressive growth.
- Increase subvention to the municipalities.
- Have a full revaluation of boundaries.
- Part time jobs cannot be the solution for long term growth of our economy.
- Now more than ever money should be poured into traditional sectors, so that Guyana does not become dependent on the oil which we glorify.
- We have to take into account the Quality and quantity of spending.
- This budget does not effectively address the homeless and more needs to be done for mental health.
- SBB (grants needs to be much larger) 500K can’t work (no real business could be created.
- Limited increase in wages (Rental to own schemes)
- Agriculture: – we should look at productivity. (No update on production); need self-sustained regions. Agro processing.
- 13% 2022 12% 2023 on education 20% was promised
- Specialist Hospital (Link that with training of nurses, doctors etc.)
- Government services that is available but not accessible makes no sense”
This budget should have focused on the underprivileged, Mr. Speaker which it does not, said Sears
In expressing his non-support for the Budget Sears made known if Guyana is to grow and develop, all of us must be committed to a strong Guyana economy and society, grounded in credible, practical plans and solutions to the social and economic challenges we face.
“With hands and hearts joined together in this great experiment we move forward to build a nation of prosperous citizens. To live out those fundamental principles enshrined in our Constitution and we the opposition remain dedicated to the enhancement of our nation.”