Tensions run high as Opposition hints at cuts; Gov’t defends spending in 2014 budget debates

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By Kurt Campbell

APNU Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge.
APNU Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge.

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Government is being accusing of ‘doctoring the estimates’ of the National 2014 Budget to show balance by Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge.

This comes as the debates surrounding the proposed spending measures by the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) commenced in the National Assembly, where the combined Opposition through its criticism of the $220B budget, has made its intent to reduce the estimates more pellucid.

The administration however, seems pretty prepared to challenge the disparagement of the Opposition, even as it faces the disadvantages of being a minority in the House.

Greenidge, who opened the debate, has warned the government that his Party is of the view that the manner in which the estimates have been formulated are not consistent with constitutional requirement. He said this concern was raised last year and reminded that there are consequences to this.

“The government has an obligation to honor the constitution and we, the opposition has an obligation to hold them to that,” the Opposition MP said. 

Greenidge added that the drafters have also deliberated ignored the legal and constitutional issues raised by his Party.

“I’m disappointed that our concerns were not taken into account and the inclusions of the same things we opposed are seen as contentious.”

The Shadow Finance Minister reminded the administration of the majority the combined opposition holds in the House.

In relation to the $6B allocated for a subvention to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Greenidge hinted the possibly of a disapproval.

He said “GuySuCo is important to warrant financial assistance but the government must show remedies to deal with the difficulty the agencies struggles with.”

Greenidge contented that the problem facing the agency has to do largely with the administration’s move to fill the Board of Directors with politicians as he recalled an analysis of the Union which criticized political appointment.

Taking the floor after Greenidge was Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali. He lashed out at the Opposition MP stating that he did not point to a single measure in the budget that his party would have liked to see that would improve the lives of people or offer alternatives for the ones he criticized.

Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali.
Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali.

Ali went on to boast of the attainment of eight years of consecutive economy growth under the PPP and the stewardship of Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh.

He said Greenidge during his tenure as Finance Minister under the then PNC government made Guyana the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

He opined that the economic performance of Guyana should make all Guyanese proud, adding that “When it comes to Ashni, his legacy in managing the economy is solid as a rock… but the Honourable member Greenidge stands on sinking sand.”

The Housing Minister rejected Greenidge claims that the estimates were not within the constitutional requirements and challenged him to prove otherwise.

Ali’s presentation engendered much heckling and even the call for an apology from one member.

Noteworthy is while Ali was speaking of massive investments for the citizens of Leguan that would in turn create jobs and improve the lives of residents, he was heckled by AFC MP Moses Nagamootoo, who said “Legaun people cutting cane, way the jobs deh.”

The Housing Minister rejected Nagamootoo’s statements. “How dare you reduce the people of Leguan to people that cut cane? I demand that you offer a public apology.”

Ali’s call for a public apology was supported by PPP MP Bibi Shadick.

The Speaker stepped in and called on MPs to have ‘thick skin’. He said heckling is how the House functions, while reminding of the request from a government MP to allow heckling during the budget debates. 

Ali went onto boast of the administration’s plans to ensure that citizen’s livelihoods are improved and national development is advanced. 

There are ten speakers, five government and five opposition members set to speak today.

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