In a move touted by the Guyana Government as grand history in the making, and regarded by the Opposition as an opportunity to evade scrutiny, the country’s National Budget 2017 will be presented to the National Assembly by Finance Minister Winston Jordan today.
Stakeholders have already weighed in their expectations and are adamant to hold the Government to task to ensure measures are put in place to address pertinent issues affecting the various sectors of the economy.
Today the Finance Minister will stand and detail, without disruptions, the policies and programmes the Government has budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year 2017.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, though his party did not participate in the budget consultations hosted by government, outlined a number of initiatives he expects to be provided in the Budget.
In essence, he explained that these expectations are based on the promises and pronouncements made by President David Granger in his most recent address to the National Assembly.
“We hope that the Budget will address or put in place measures to address the problems of our society that will enhance social welfare, increase public safety and improve livelihoods – that is, the creation of jobs and income for people. We will support any measure that does this, that will meet anyone or achieve any one of those objectives,” he stated.
Jagdeo wants to see comprehensive programmes to promote a green economy, for instance, how will Iwokrama be transformed into an international institute for biodiversity; the process of reclaiming mined out lands, the establishing of protected areas in each administrative region; planning units in all the ministries; internet connectivity to Government buildings; development of towns, expansion of agriculture; and venture into non-traditional agriculture like spices, coconuts, and aromatic rice.
According to the Opposition Leader, these are initiatives the public should expect based on the Head of State’s speech.
That aside, Jagdeo said he has some expectations of his own, including the restoration of certain PPP programmes the Government quashed, like the water and electricity subsidies for pensioners and the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant for every student.
He also wants Government to reinstate the one-month tax-free bonus that was traditionally given to the Disciplined Services and for this to be further extended to all public service employees, including those working in the sugar belt.
Jagdeo also expects significant assistance to be offered to miners, loggers, and sugar workers.
Particularly, he hopes Budget 2017 will outline a detailed plan for the future of the Wales Estate: “We’re in favour of help for the sugar industry. We want a clearly defined plan with how the Government intends to move forward with the sugar industry. The Government is yet to clearly lay out how it plans to move with the industry. Do they plan to close factories, privatise factories, and scale down production? What diversity? Who did the studies? Are they economical viable social sector? We’re hoping that the Budget brings clarity.”
The Private Sector Commission also made some demands of its own, including for a permanent reduction of the Corporate Income Tax rate, over 10 years to 20 per cent; Reduction of Personal Income Tax, over 10 years to 20 per cent; increase income tax threshold to $100,000 per month; make all overtime earnings tax free; relief on outstanding loans for the rice industry; among others.
Both Opposition and PSC have called for concrete measures that will stimulate the economy and pave the way for Guyanese to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
Alluding to the fact that Guyana’s economy is currently “not performing at its optimum level”, the Private Sector Commission believes that there are several measures which would stimulate the economy and lead to balanced growth, as well as have a positive impact on Government revenue in the medium and long term.
As such the PSC has outlined several proposals and recommendations, ahead of Government’s planned presentation of the National Budget (today), which it believes should be adopted. Increasing the income tax threshold to $100,000 per month and making all overtime earnings tax free are just two of the standout recommendations which the Commission believes should be adopted.
Fiscal measures which the Commission believes should be adopted:
- A permanent reduction of the Corporate Income Tax rate, over 10 years to 20%.
- Reduce Personal Income Tax over 10 years to 20%.
- Concessions on income taxation for the creation of new employment in all value added sectors.
- Tax breaks for new tourism assets.
- Tax breaks for companies which set up operations in depressed communities.
- Concessions on export tax for businesses which export.
- Relief on outstanding loans for rice industry.
- Make security equipment free of all taxes.
- Increase income tax threshold to $100,000 per month.
- Make all overtime earnings tax free.
ENFORCEMENT OF TAX LAWS:
- Compulsory VAT registration.
- Enforcement of VAT collection on all businesses which currently do not collect this tax.
- Implementation of all PSC supported infrastructure projects.
- Urgent approval of a harbour finance model.
- Speedy implementation of all Government projects to release Government spending.
- Commence design and building of Lethem Road for completion over a 5 year period. Raise capital on international market with tolls being used over 25 years to repay loan.
- Implement plans for alternative East Bank road.
- Dredge Demerara Harbour.
- Build an alternative Demerara Harbour Bridge.
- Facilitate the process of ensuring reliable energy is provided at US 12 cents per KWH.
- Appoint an Economic Council for Guyana. Legislate for a separate non-political Council.
- Legislate for internal audit departments in all government agencies.
- Enact mergers and acquisitions legislation.
- Introduce Bankruptcy Protection legislation.
- Finalise and table E-Transactions Bill.
- Revise Small Business Act, definition of small business.to be changed to turnover of $100m or more.
- Target a GDP growth rate of 8%; inflation rate of 2%; unemployment rate of 8%.
- Retain system of zero-rating for selected goods for relief of lower income persons.
- Sponsor workshops on corporate governance of state-owned enterprises.
- Contractors should be graded in tiers related to their past performance.
- Revision of trading rules to introduce odd lot system.
- Outline a statement on an Economic Strategy/ Plan for Guyana.
- Devise and implement plan for industrialisation of Guyana.
- Reduce the purchase of Treasury Bills by 20% from prior year to increase liquidity and reduce commercial bank interest rates.
- Liberalise telecommunications sector; implement regulations and enforce the new Act; allocation of spectrum.
- Regularise national solid waste management.
- Complete membership of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
- Utilise GGMC funds to commence set up of Sovereign Wealth Fund.
- Finalise Single Window System.
- Host investors’ conference.
- Increase spending on marketing of Guyana, especially for tourism.
- Improve Emergency Response and 911 systems.
- Fund and operationalise Procurement Commission; Integrity Commission.
- Uphold manifesto promise of increased salaries for public servants.
- Implement enabling environment to improve ranking on Doing Business index.
- Outline plans for diversification of economy away from traditional pillars of rice, sugar and gold.