- Opposition Leader blasts Gov’t on ‘shot in dark’, incoherent economic policy
By Kristen Macklingam
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has blasted the APNU+AFC administration for a number of glaring deficiencies in its lacklustre and anti-poor 2016 national Budget, and said while there is much talk about the dreaded ‘Zika pandemic’ in Guyana, the country appears to be now suffering from a new epidemic of “make-believe” stemming from an incompetent Government.
“I have heard a lot about the pandemic of the zika virus that is sweeping across Latin America and the Caribbean and about its possible affliction of Guyana. But it seems that as though we do not only have a zika pandemic to deal with in this country, we have an epidemic fast becoming a pandemic, an epidemic of ‘make believe’ in this Government…an epidemic that is sweeping across the Cabinet and many of those who hold offices today, a cocoon-like behavior of thinking that because they live the good life, because they are there, then everyone else must be living the good life too,” Jagdeo declared.
The Opposition Leader said the characteristics that accompany this ‘new virus’ which is presently being swept across the country is “boastful, bombastic, pompous language” and that the manner in which the coalition Administration is operating feeds this ‘virus’ and causes it to thrive.
“Government says ‘it is our time now, we are here, we are here, we suspend the Standing Orders of Parliament to pass Bills willy-nilly; we will avoid tender process and we will take away your subsidies from the pensioners…they should be grateful because we have removed the licences for them to drive, they don’t have to pay any dollar, we know better for you… and this is the attitude that seems to be developing in our country as we talk about the good life…,” he chided.
The Opposition Leader, in addressing Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s guest from Region Two, Aneesa Thomas, made reference to the survival of her county and the importance of the rice industry towards that Region’s economy.
Jagdeo alluded to the fact that the main economic activity on the Essequibo Coast (Region Two), is rice cultivation and that a substantial part of that community and the entire Region’s disposable income comes from rice production.
However, at present Region Two is suffering tremendously from the hardships which rice farmers and other businessmen are facing since the Administration does not see it fit or important enough to assist the struggling rice farmers of Essequibo, he also explained.
According to the Opposition Leader, the market vendors and taxi drivers are crying out and pleading for help since they “cannot get business anymore” and also many workers in Region Two have already lost their jobs “because of this government saying rice industry is not their business.”
Dr Jagdeo went on to say that many persons in the country are presently worried about their future and the future of their children since a majority are now wondering whether or not they can afford to continue sending their offspring to attend school and become educated in today’s society.
“People are worried about their future…the future of their children whether they can send them to school, worried about their jobs…,” the former President lamented.
‘SHOT IN DARK’ ECONOMIC POLICY
The former President also blasted the Government on its glaring lack of any articulate economic plan to insulate Guyana from global negativity.
In his much anticipated contribution to the 2016 Budget debate, the former President noted that low inflation and deflation are problems. “ It harms investments…it’s a big threat…first time for a very long time we heard the Finance Minister (Jordan) said we had a deflation…is it a structural type of deflation?” questioned Dr Jagdeo, a Moscow-trained Economist who was also a Minister of Finance before he became the longest serving Executive President of Guyana.
“It is a shot in the dark (economic) policy. It has no bearing on reality,” Dr Jagdeo declared. He pointed out that if the analysis is absent or flawed, one cannot then have a coherent plan. Guyana’s economic growth was three percent in 2015, a reduction after several years of consistent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due mainly to prudent fiscal management of Guyana’s economy by the PPP/C administration.
‘WHAT GOOD LIFE?’
Dr Jagdeo also chastised the Government for its actions of cutting the water and electricity subsidies for pensioners, as he reminded them that while touting the phrase of “a good life for all” these elderly individuals are now suffering more with such decisions taken by the Administration.
“They recognise that they are in a worst off position in the net basis…do you think they are happy and the good life beckons to them? The answer is no,” Jagdeo declared.
He pointed out that while in the 2016 budget the coalition made provisions to allow persons above a certain age to be free of charges for acquiring a driver’s licence this does not substitute what the APNU+AFC government has taken away from the mass of pensioners.
In relation to the paltry increase in pensions for the elderly it was also pointed out that this cannot replace the subsidies and benefits which the pensioners once enjoyed and therefore in providing ‘a good life’ for all, the Administration should have given more to these elderly Guyanese.
The former President also reminded that since the coalition Government has taken office in May last year, there have been many employees who lost their jobs as a direct result of the actions or lack of action by this government.
“Many companies had to lay off workers because sales cannot meet the cost of their wages bill…,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, he referred to the fact that the APNU+AFC said it will engage in collective bargaining with regard to any increases in wages and salaries for workers.
“I hope the unions ask for a 50 per cent increase in wages/salaries, because if ministers can raise their salaries by that amount …I hope when they (Unions) come to the table to make that argument they would not be told that such a proposal is unrealistic,” the Opposition Leader told the National Assembly.
He also strongly urged Government make the necessary changes to ensure that all those living in Guyana do indeed benefit from a good life and not just a selective few.