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Budget “trouble” rooted in Guyana’s politics – Ramjattan

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Tuesday’s sitting went past midnight

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan says the “trouble” that will befall the 2013 budget when consideration of the estimates begins stems from the turmoil within Guyana’s politics.

His remarks on Tuesday came in the wind down of debate on the GUY$208.8B budget estimates presented by the government.

“We can talk all we want, we can talk about we have great budgets but if we at this level and the politics, culture and norms of the community cannot have a handle on how we are to govern ourselves, how we are to see that there is greater citizenship by participation from the community around us we are not going to have any progress made,” he argued.  

Ramjattan also defended the opposition’s right to amend the budget despite a preliminary ruling from Chief Justice Ian Chang which stated that they could only approve or disapprove the estimates.

“When we say that we would like to make whatever is the alterations and amendment to the budget understand that in the context that we are thinking of the people here. But no says the other side, absolutely no. They say that we want to damage the budget of this country; that is the last intent we would have ever had,” he stated.

“We have to do what we have to do, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that that government across the floor comes to its senses. When it starts tightening up, we gonna start lightening up,” he said.

Leader of the Opposition David Granger Tuesday night delivered a scathing condemnation of the 2013 budget estimates, characterising it as a “cardboard budget” which had been painted to look like concrete.

According to the APNU Chairman, it was glossed over with a “few goodies” but lacked substance. The tenor of his comments prompted Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh in his rebuttal to express surprise and disappointment.

Granger said the APNU shared the vision for a developed Guyana but added that the minority government could not exclude the contributions of the majority of the people’s representatives to the national budget.

“It has only been through the contributions of the majority side in this debate so far that the executive has been made aware of the real situation on the ground affecting the majority of our people.

Guyana under the present budget despite the promise of “Overcoming Challenges Together, Accelerating Gains for Guyana” is more likely to continue to face the same challenges for another year as it does today. The budget is worse than a mistake, it’s a blunder,” the opposition leader declared.

According to Granger, they were on the ground speaking to the people and when they spoke they did so with the voice of the people.

In his rebuttal to wrap up the debate Dr. Singh stated that the budget contained many of the elements the opposition had promised the people and he had expected that to be acknowledged instead of the caustic attack from the opposition leader.

“Even if the last speaker on the opposition side wanted to be critical and didn’t see it fit to be magnanimous at the very least sir I would have expected some honesty and acknowledgement that there are some initiatives that the APNU themselves promised to the people of Guyana and the PPP is now delivering to the people of Guyana,” he stated.

According to the minister, to do otherwise would be an attempt to “hoodwink” the people. He highlighted initiatives from the APNU’s such as enhancing education institutions; providing high speed internet access; expansion of the agricultural base; facilitating access to credit; and major infrastructure development. Those initiatives, he said were all addressed in the government’s 2013 budget.

Turning to the AFC’s Action Plan, he noted that ideas such as the upgrading of technical schools; job placement programmes; micro-credit for youths; and free lunches for primary school children were already part of the government’s plans.

On Ramjattan’s remark about the impending “trouble” for the budget. Dr. Singh said they should be able to set politics aside and agree on some things.

“Even if the competition for political space behoves us not to agree or praise overtly, surely we must be able to be guided ultimately by that which is good for Guyana and even if we are in a political contest for space surely we must be able to set that aside and express views and exercise our vote guided by that which is good for Guyana,” he said.

The parties are set to meet again on Wednesday to overcome a deadlock and decide on when consideration of the estimates would begin. The government had been pushing for that to begin on Wednesday while the opposition was in favour of beginning on Monday. However, the opposition could not utilise its one seat majority because the replacement for ailing APNU MP Richard Allen is yet to be sworn in.

Region One representative Renita Williams is expected to take the oath of a new member on Wednesday.