Letter: Opposition’s input in Budget 2020

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Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance Dr Ashni Singh

Dear Editor,

Value Added Tax (VAT) on education, water, electricity, food and medical items; dismantling of the CSO programme which employed over 2000 Amerindians; and closure of GuySuCo estates, which saw over 7000 workers fired, were among the draconian budget measures delivered by the PNC-dominated APNU+ AFC Government; so, when Aubrey Norton says he has made budgetary suggestions to the Government for consideration, I worry.

Given that Norton and his party have recently opposed the cash grant and uniform subsidy to schoolchildren; the flood relief grants to farmers affected by flood; the increase in pensions, and the supplementary cash grant to pensioners; and the compensation to GuySuCo workers who were fired, I find Norton’s sudden suggestions worrisome.

It is for this reason I would ask that Norton and the PNC put their ideas in written form for consideration. These suggestions should include specifics, such as who are the intended beneficiaries and the cost of the programme (no APNU maths, please).

Aubrey Norton became noticeably unhinged when reporters questioned if he would be installed firstly in Parliament, and secondly as Leader of the Opposition on those benches. It is clear that his election, in a process where only 1200 of 3000 registered delegates participated, has left lingering doubts as to Norton’s authority and longevity in the position. Aubrey Norton can cement his authority if he could produce the PNC/APNU/AFC’s copies of the 2020 Election Statements of Poll; such a move would demonstrate that Norton is indeed the new leader of the PNC, and not a placeholder with no authority or reach.

The PNC took a risk when electing Norton as their new leader. Norton’s penchant for intemperate remarks and his semi-permanent scowl were on display during his press conference on 21/01/22, as he refused to answer questions from the floor, then incredibly attempted to direct the reporters on what questions to ask. Norton’s character is more suited to the low-pressure environs of BamBam Alley (located in Orange Walk) than the intellectually challenging questions posed by news reporters working the high-pressure political beat. This is not far from what Norton’s immediate predecessor, David Granger, practiced. Granger, however, simply chose to do away with press conferences, and instead perform puppetry on his ‘In the Public Interest’ one-on-one ‘interviews’.

Contrast these men with the Founder-Leader of the PNC, LFS Burnham (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df9ZtaFj_KI), and one becomes appalled at how low the palm tree branches have sunk.

President Irfaan Ali does not need to consult with the PNC on budgetary suggestions to provide benefit to the people of Guyana. Ali is guided by a manifesto of promises made to the electorate, a manifesto with carefully-thought-out ideas, plans, policies, and programmes to benefit all Guyanese and to grow the nation’s economy. Citizens have already benefited by paying billions less in taxes in 2021, and we can do without the ‘tax and spend’ squandermania approach of the PNC and coalition partners.

Norton can put his suggestions in writing as suggested, and he is reminded that PPP/C Ministers do not need to eat 1.2 billion in take-out annually, nor receive gold bangles to perform their sworn duty to the people of Guyana.

Sincerely,
Robin Singh