In her contribution to day three of the Budget 2018 debates on Wednesday, Opposition Member of Parliament, Africo Selman slammed the coalition Government for what she described as a “useless” Budget.
Selman wasted no time in criticizing the Government, and quickly placed the spotlight on the education sector.
According to the Opposition member, millions of dollars were wasted on the Education Commission of Inquiry (CoI).
“The final report has not yet been submitted. This, I dare say is deception. Millions of tax payers’ monies were spent on this inquiry held in 2016. We are at 2017 and yet the final report is missing in action and a single man is $4.8M richer. Where are we heading?,” she questioned the House.
The Opposition MP expressed her belief that the money expended on the education CoI could have been better utilized in several key areas in the sector, which according to her, demands urgent attention and are in dire need of resources.
She also urged that the final report be delivered and made public in the shortest time possible while asserting that an investigation should be launched to determine the factors for the chronic teacher absenteeism in schools.
“I dare say Mr Speaker, if the Honorable Minister of Finance is serious about giving life to the Budget theme ‘the journey to the good life continues’, then establish a training line for teachers in all ten administrative regions. This will be the start of a good life.”
Selman, who is also an educator, said aside from training, focus should also be centered on improving salaries and enhancing teaching environments, especially for those working and living in the hinterland regions.
“Can a teacher in the hinterland, who has to walk miles to get to the classroom be on the journey to the good life? Can a teacher [who] teaches in a classroom with a leaking roof with little space and no ventilation be on this journey to a good life?”
The MP advised Government to adopt the CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy which Heads of Government approved in July of this year.
This Strategy is intended to prioritize the construction by 2030 of a globally competitive innovative and integrated education system to drive growth and development in all CARICOM states.
Selman said Guyana’s goals are not unrelated to the goals of the strategy, so instead of wasting money on a COI that may never deliver they should use the funds to begin the roll-out of the CARICOM Strategy tailored to the needs of Guyana.
Local extractive industry
Meanwhile Junior Natural Resources Minister, Simona Broomes in her presentation said that Budget 2018 caters for the needs of those working in the local extractive industry in addition to it including the continuation of several bold initiatives that commenced under the Coalition.
“This Government is looking to have a sector that will be transparent, that will have accountability, a sector that will have a level playing field…a sector that will fight free of human trafficking,” she said in her contribution to the Budget 2018 debates on Wednesday morning.
Broomes gave a commitment to work with all stakeholders in the industry to put together a policy that will guide the sector for future years to come.
“Within that framework for visual, one of the things that we have inherited was the fact that there is no oneness in the sector. The small miners cried out…bullyism and all the ism and we know that we inherited but we are on the fixing business so it is this Government with a vision that brought about the syndicate,” she said.
As she sought to provide an update in the National Assembly, the Minister asserted that to date, there are 13 syndicates and out of this amount there are 339 members, with the employment of over 10,000 people.
“It is because of vision that come 2018, all miners in this sector can look forward to the good life. Mr Speaker, in this year, Budget consultation, the miners came together and we are happy to report that we are not dealing with a divided sector that we inherited. All miners came together, unite themselves and called themselves a united movement which deals with small, medium and women” the junior Natural Resources Minister remarked.
In 2017, the Government had imposed a 20 percent tributor’s tax on medium and small scale miners. However, this initiative was rejected and saw protest demonstrations being held against it on several occasions.
As such, on November 27, 2017 during the Budget 2018 presentations made by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, it was announced that the tax would be reduced by 50 per cent.
“Following strong representation by the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), I propose …a reduction in the Tributor’s Tax from 20 percent to 10 percent, with effect from January 1, 2018,” he had said while noting that Tributors will continue to file annual tax returns and pay any taxes due or be refunded as appropriate.
Broomes however, maintained that her Government will continue to place focus on promoting better health and safety standards in the extractive industry and will continue to work to make mining fatality free.