Budget 2017 is being dismissed as a proverbial ‘pie in the sky’ since not only does the Minister’s projected growth rates not match reality, but is absent of a clear strategic plan to unleash the new foreign direct investment needed to achieve what the Minister has set as a target for 2017 – 3.8 per cent.
This is the position of respected Accountant and Project Management Professional Sasenarine Singh, a former Alliance For Change (AFC) member.
Singh, in a post-Budget analysis for the Guyana Times, questioned the minister’s projections since none of the sectors Government seems to be relying on will return the projected outcomes.
Speaking directly of the mining sector – which has in recent years served as the only pillar of positive economic growth, bringing in substantial and greatly needed foreign exchange while keeping the economy buoyant with sustained growth – Singh pointed to the price for gold which is not projected to increase significantly in 2017.
According to the former AFC executive, the two large-scale mining investments, “that were incubated and brought to Guyana under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), are already at cruising altitude.”
Singh explained that in such a situation, “the contribution to 2016 economic activity is not to expand by much in 2017 from these mines.”
He drew reference to the fact that latest forecast from the French bullion bankers (Natixis) predicts that the price of gold will average in 2017 approximately US$1,180 per ounce. The price today is US$1,177 per ounce, according to Singh, adding, “Even the prices are working against new hard cash.”
Singh said that in such circumstances, “Guyana’s macroeconomic situation cannot be described as stable.”
Turning his attention to what many have called an imminent influx into the economy in the form of oil and gas sector, the former AFC top brass said, “the oil sector, which can unleash a lot of resources in 2021, will not have any significant impact on the economy in 2017.”
He is of the opinion that Trinidad and Tobago, “is benefiting much more from this investment today than Guyana because of their core skill set at supporting pre-harvested oil activities…Those who are close to the happenings will tell you that Trinidad’s experienced oil-servicing industry is being tapped for all sorts of services that goes along with an oil investment at this stage of its development.”
According to Singh, Guyana is seeing none of this money as yet.
Speaking of the traditional pillars of the Guyana economy, Singh noted that there is not much allocation for resuscitating the Agriculture Sector.
He added that a brutal broadsiding of the industry was unleashed by the David Granger Administration when it adopted a position that “the rice industry is privately owned and the Government has no responsibility to the farmers.”
Singh posits that the situation in the sugar belt further compounds the disregard for the agriculture industry, on the part of the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government.
According to Singh, “it is a grave fallacy to think the people in the sugar belt are all supporters of the PPP and thus destroying the livelihood of this critical rural economic centre will undermine the PPP. In 2011, it was a charge by Dr Veerasammy Ramaya, as part of an AFC pitch that peeled away thousands of votes in the sugar belt from the PPP… So much so that the AFC won 35,333 votes in those elections.”
He has since suggested that the Granger Administration stands in power on the backs of some 8000 people in the sugar belt and without them would have been in opposition, “therefore to treat them so poorly today is nothing but a great betrayal.”