- says fresh approach needed to restore confidence
Addressing the National Assembly to signal his support for Budget 2016, Minister of State Mr. Joseph Harmon has called on the Parliamentary Opposition to do likewise, and to stop the griping. He likened the former Government to being “very tired” after 23 years in office.
Harmon said a fresh approach was necessary to restore the hope and confidence of Guyanese who were leaving these shores by any available port, either legally or illegally. The Minister of State said the fact that many are now seeking to return is an indication of their newfound confidence in the coalition Government, especially in this ‘Year of Renaissance’.
According to the senior government official, unlike the previous government, the present administration is listening to the people. He referenced Ms. Anisa Thomas who met him at the recent interaction in Anna Regina, as an example. The woman, who vends at the community’s stelling had asked about being allowed to continue plying her trade once planned repairs were completed. He had assured her of this, and welcomed her to the National Assembly to observe the proceedings, and she accepted his invitation.
He reminded all Guyanese and Ms. Thomas that, “This Budget is for you.” Responding to a question put to the Parliament by Opposition Member, Joe Hamilton, who asked “Where is the beef?” Minister Harmon said that by time the Coalition Government took office, only bones were left.
According to a report from the Government Information Agency (GINA), the minister also chastised the Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo for “pandering to the public and griping” instead of making an effort to actually consult with the new administration, with regards to the Wales Estate closure.
GINA said Harmon also gave an analysis of Guyana’s geo-economic position with its neighbours, explaining that Brazil’s economy had contracted for the last three years and was projected to experience five percent less GDP growth for 2016. He also highlighted the economic woes of Venezuela with its high inflation and Suriname which is said to be experiencing an ‘economic shock’.
Trinidad and Tobago, he added, is also forced to scale back its spending, and in the words of its Prime Minister, “make do with less”. Guyana is competing in this neighbourhood for scarce foreign direct investment; hence prudent financial management was needed.
Minister Harmon highlighted that potential investors examine rankings on corruption and Guyana’s continued low ranking on such indexes, over the last decade was highlighted. This ranking declined in 2015, thus Minister Harmon said he was hopeful that the Government’s initiatives would see even lower rankings, obtained.
The need for a better public service was also touted by the Minister of State. The recommendations of the Public Service Commission which are due to be presented on February 29, would guide the coalition Government in its considerations to improve the sector.
Reference was also made to the Public Service staff college which potential applicants will have to attend. Minister Harmon explained that the cadets will have to undergo six months of theoretical work and a similar period of attachment. At least 500 cadets in this programme will be trained over the next five years, he said. Additional training in various skills and auditing will be done to realise a better and more efficient public service. This division, he added, will also receive significant funding to deliver its mandate.
Guyana will also have assistance from Canada via its Department of Foreign Trade and Development, formerly the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Minister of State revealed that the 6th forum of the Caribbean Leadership Conference, capitalised at US$20 million is to be hosted locally, and at least 12 senior public servants will benefit from this exposure.
More scholarships are to be offered, in a transparent manner with applicants vetted by a review panel, the minister said. The department is currently responsible for 574 awardees studying locally and overseas, with some 254 recipients returning home in 2016. The sum of $920 million, an increase of $147 million compared to last year, has been earmarked for this initiative.
The State Asset recovery Unit (SARU), with international assistance, will continue its operations with the StAR project, as the Government continues its anti-corruption drive for the people’s benefit, Minister Harmon stated as he called for all to fully support Budget 2016.