― as stakeholders renew call for urgent talks
Government is being accused of deliberately ignoring immense public concerns as major stakeholders are forced to renew their call for an urgent meeting with leaders of the National Assembly before the 2017 National Budget’s imminent passage.
Chief trade union movements, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), along with the Private Sector Commission (PSC), on Thursday reiterated their desire to discuss the worrying contents of the budget before it gets the House’s approval, after government failed to respond to its request.
Consistent with Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution, the three bodies jointly dispatched letters to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo (Leader of the Government Business), Dr Barton Scotland (Speaker of the National Assembly) and Bharrat Jagdeo (Leader of the Opposition) regarding their request.
“Efforts to date to have audience with Messrs Nagamootoo and Scotland have been unsuccessful. Mr Jagdeo has committed to meet with us, though it remains our desire to meet with the three collectively, consistent with their shared responsibility and constitutional roles in government, and more particularly the nation’s highest decision-making forum,” the organisations explained in a statement.
The bodies strongly believe “deliberate efforts” are being made to avoid having the requested engagement on, “what is most evidently a matter of national importance that will impact on and carry consequences for our constituents.”
The Budget Estimates are currently being deliberated in the National Assembly and the Budget 2017 will be subsequently passed but the stakeholders are hoping that Government grants them the forum to express their views.
“Hope is held that in this new political dispensation, reiterated statements by President David Granger on his administration’s commitment to constitutional inclusionary democracy, that the Speaker and Leader of the Government Business who are elected by the group that he leads, will act in accordance. Similarly it is our view, which mirrors that of society that governance reflects the desire of the people which is in sync with the commitment made by the President,” the bodies stated.
During a brief press conference on Thursday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo commented on the issue, surmising that Government’s refusal to meet with the bodies prove that they cannot defend their own budget.
“The government is hiding from its own budget. It does not want to discuss its budget. That’s why you see all of this peripheral noise. From Jordan (Finance Minister), from Nagamootoo (Prime Minister), some of them came (during debates) and read their plans over the next five years without saying a word about the budget…no one has ever gone through the issue and told the people of this country why we are going to be taxing bread and flour at the same rates we are taxing chocolates,” he posited.
Jagdeo pointed out too that the situation is quite extraordinary because for the first time in the country’s history, the two labour movements along with the PSC have unified their efforts in the interest of their constituents.
The Opposition Leader asserted that this is not a matter to be treated lightly and lambasted the Government for ignoring the magnitude of the situation.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira also underscored the gravity of this development, describing it as a “phenomenally important political development”.
“The Government is being hard ears. It doesn’t want to listen and it doesn’t want to budge. And if you had sat in the debates, you would know that the Government is oblivious to the calls of the people…this is a phenomenally important political development in terms of the coming together of these bodies to be able to say to a Government ‘no, you’re not doing the right thing. You are damaging this country. You are hurting the people, particularly the poor people,’ ” she expressed.
Teixeira highlighted that the opposition voices in the country, political and nonpolitical, are “as loud we haven’t heard since 1985.” (Guyana Times)