Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon is currently benefitting from a larger budgetary allocation than his predecessor Bharrat Jagdeo, who is now Vice President.
This is according to Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir who has debunked recent claims made by Harmon that the budget for his office has been cut.
In an interview with this publication, Nadir explained that the Office of Leader of the Opposition derives its sums from the Parliamentary budget. He noted that Harmon had wanted $92.2 Million, including $8 Million for janitorial services and $10 Million for his staff.
According to Nadir, the requests were untenable and the Opposition Leader got the more appropriate sum of $37 Million, an increase from last year’s sum.
He noted that had the Opposition Leader’s request been granted, it would have made his office the only one with a 260 per cent increase.
“I want to make a distinction between slashing a budget and not getting what you expected. A budget is slashed if last year you got $10 Million and this year, you’re getting $5 Million. So, I would say unequivocally that the budget of the Opposition Leader has not been slashed. This is politics playing out.”
“The parliamentary office sends a lump sum budget to the National Assembly for approval. And that budget is approved as a lump sum and it is then allocated to the various departments including the leader of the opposition. There is no single vote for the Leader of the Opposition’s Office,” Nadir said.
Nadir also pointed out that Harmon is getting more than the then Opposition Leader.
He noted that on average, Jagdeo received $2.4 Million per month for the functioning of his office for the first eight months of last year, while Harmon received $4 Million per month for the remainder.
“In 2018, the Leader of the Opposition got $34.9 Million. In 2019, it received $37.3 Million. In 2020, you had two periods, January to August which covers eight months, $19.2 Million and then you have from September to December, $16.1 Million. So, in all, the Opposition Leader’s office received $35.3 Million.”
“It is certainly dishonest observations. The National Assembly does not deal with the Opposition Leader’s office by itself… the Leader of the Opposition requested $92 Million for the running of his office, including $22 Million for local travel, $8 Million for janitorial supplies for one office and over $10 Million for his staff. So, you could see how inflated the request was,” Nadir said.
The Speaker further pointed out the Parliament Office was working within budgetary constraints having had its budget “On the capital side, the Leader of the Opposition requested $48 Million. For prado, for hilux, for computers. And computers allocated in 2020. Ten air conditioning units and so forth. But the overall capital budget for parliament for 2021 was $65 Million.”
“So, if we have to give $48 Million to the Leader of the Opposition, what would be left for the rest of parliament? So, every department budget had to be cut within reasonable requests… everyone has to be able to get a fair amount of the allocation,” Nadir said.