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APNU details measures to avoid budget cuts

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(L-R) APNU MPs Carl Greenidge, Basil Williams and Joseph Harmon.

The APNU on Friday highlighted several measures it said would go some way in avoiding cuts to the proposed GUY$208.8B budget with consideration of the estimates set to begin on Monday.

Shadow Minister of Finance Carl Greenidge was asked at a news conference what could the government say between now and the start of process to convince them not to cut allocations specifically for NCN; GPL; GuySuCo; and contracted workers.

He responded that they would be looking at whether the allocations were justified and the institutional arrangements in place to safeguard the expenditures so any negotiation would have to look at those issues.

“In relation to GuySuCo and GPL we want a credible plan for the use of the resources and for the operational improvement in [them]. And in the case of GuySuCo we’re asking for a Commission of Inquiry into the workings of GuySuCo.

According to Greenidge, they would welcome an overnight resolution on that issue.

As regards NCN we would like a social and cultural audit of NCN to see or determine the extent to which it recognises it has an obligation to behave professionally in spending taxpayers money and in operating on behalf of the people of Guyana so that is the only way the NCN story could be fixed,” he stated.

Attorney Joseph Harmon, who holds the shadow portfolio for infrastructure and communication, also called on President Donald Ramotar to release the report of an investigation into financial irregularity at the agency from which the CEO resigned and the production manager was sent on leave.

“We need to know exactly what it is that we are putting this money into and I believe that if we were to at least have access to that report we would know what NCN is receiving and what it’s spending. It makes no sense to us to be pumping money into an agency again which can very well sustain itself on the business which it conducts,” Harmon said.

Meanwhile, Greenidge added that they want the government to cease employing contract workers until agreement could be reached on the professionalisation of the public service. He said the capacity of the public service was one of the main factors in Guyana’s low ranking on doing business in the world.

“The capacity of the public service is linked to the politicisation of the public service, that is the hiring of persons not on the basis of their capacity but on the basis both of ethnicity and political allegiance and this is a problem.”

Shadow labour minister Basil Williams, who was also present Friday, reiterated a prior position that the government was trying to create a parallel public service to undermine the traditional public service.

“They want to undermine it because they’re suspicious of it, they feel it’s a PNC public service and that kind of thing,” he said.

Williams contended that the salaries of contracted workers were way more than that of traditional public servants. Contracted employees receive a gratuity in lieu of a pension.

“We’ve been calling on them to desist and dismantle the contracted employees and ensure that people are employed under the various bands of the traditional public service and until the day they start doing that it means that we would have a situation where there’s no security of tenure in the public service because if you’re on contract they could refuse to renew it, the protection is in the traditional public service,” Williams said.

Both the opposition and the government have indicated that they remain open to dialogue on the budget ahead of and during the consideration of the estimates.