Reprinted from Guyana Times
Late into the second day of the 2016 Budget debates, Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the House clashed on whether Budget 2016 offers the “good life” that Government has been touting.
The late session of Tuesday’s debate sitting saw the likes of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) members Jennifer Westford, Indra Chandarpal and Ganga Persaud taking on Junior Public Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson, John Adams and Rajcomarie Bancroft from the Government’s side.
In her presentation, Minister Ferguson outlined the plans Government has been pursuing to develop the country’s infrastructure. She mentioned the new bridge for the Demerara River crossing; works for several vessels and stellings under the Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD) and enhancements for the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
According to Ferguson, the previous Administration wasted tax payers’ money by investing in several “dead projects” that benefited only a lucky few. “If that money was invested in the (Demerara) bridge project, Mr Speaker, Guyanese today would have been enjoying the use of a bridge – a much needed facility that will serve the mass of Guyanese users,” she stated.
The Junior Minister noted that during 2016, her Government will bring to life projects that will make the lives of Guyanese better. “Our Government will undertake projects that will benefit the people of Guyana and not just a select few as practiced by the PPP/C Administration,” Ferguson stated.
But in her presentation, Opposition MP Indra Chandarpal stated that the 2016 Budget does not have what it takes to give Guyanese the “good life” that Government assured; instead, it will only bring poor people more poverty.
“I travel a lot with the taxis and every day taxi drivers have the same stories to tell, and every person in the Stabroek and Bourda Markets have the same story to tell. So it’s not a poor people budget… I was told, Mr Speaker, by a taxi driver to tell the Government that they deh pon stupidness,” she stated.
Chandarpal went on to say that while every Government will undertake a number of initiatives, it is expected of the others that follow to either make them better in order to improve the lives of the citizens. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to support the budget as presented by the Minister of Finance because we believe that this budget does not have the answers to move this country forward,” she declared.
Defending the ‘good life’
Meanwhile, the Government’s Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) representative, John Adams, maintained that this year’s budget, as the theme suggested “Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence: the Good Life Beckons”, offers a better life for the people of Guyana.
He reflected on the past eight months that the coalition Government has been in office, stating that during this time, Government has managed to stimulate growth and restore confidence. He further highlighted that Region Three has seen growth in every sector over the past months.
The parliamentarian spoke about developments in the infrastructure, agriculture, health and education sectors in the region.
“Mr Speaker, I am confident that the allocations stipulated for Region Three in Budget 2016, will see many new projects being completed in several parts of the region… Mr Speaker, the menu of measures stated in Budget 2016 will go a far way in making the citizens in this beautiful land of ours a better life,” Adams remarked.
However, PPP Parliamentarian Ganga Persaud in his presentation said that Region Three is still in much despair. He specifically mentioned the controversial closure of the Wales Sugar Factory and the effect it has on the lives of Guyanese.
According to the Opposition MP, members of the National Assembly can tell many tales and continue to have their imaginations run wild but the real judge of the budget is the public. Persaud noted that over the past few days, persons have been describing the budget as “a pick-pocket budget”, “a parasitic budget” and even “a vampire budget” based on what it contains.
Also presenting Tuesday night was embattled Opposition parliamentarian Jennifer Westford. She underscored the disappointment of public servants who did not get their salary increases. While she lauded the fact that Government has commenced the collective bargaining process, the former Public Service Minister noted this should have been done way before in time for the budget presentation.
Moreover, Westford pointed out that public servants are anxious, since many of them are unsure of their future in the public service. “Today our public servants are suffering from anxiety syndrome because they are unsure whether they will join the scores of their colleagues who were unceremoniously dismissed from their jobs,” she mentioned while adding that this may affect the morale of public servants.