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Stick with budget or craft alternative- Private Sector

scissors-budget-cutOn the eve of talks between President Donald Ramotar and senior representatives of the opposition to avert a GUY$38 billion cut in the 2013 national budget, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Sunday night made a last ditch appeal for good reason to prevail.

“We are particularly concerned over reports of plans to reduce allocations for the vital security reform strategy, the road to the Amaila Falls project and the competitiveness programme for which the PSC has spent much time and effort to ensure changes to the business environment and is in fact a functioning programme that has brought tremendous benefit to the Business environment in Guyana.

We are extremely disappointed over the targeting of the airport development project to be totally eliminated from the budget. This airport project is vital to the safety of international air traffic into and out of our country as well as the continued modernization and expansion of the travel and tourism sector,” the PSC said in a statement.

The umbrella private sector body’s statement did not address any of the concerns by the opposition such as the need for greater access and fair coverage of the opposition by the state-run National Communications Network (NCN) and the Government Information Agency (GINA). The opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), which together hold 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly, have also clamoured for greater efficiency in the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco) and the cash-strapped Guyana Power and Light (GPL) before billions of dollars in subsidies are doled out to them. On the thorny issue of accountability and transparency- two opposition concerns- the PSC would only say that it welcomed continued improvements in those areas and encouraged the development of the institutions that must ensure same at all times.

The PSC noted that the threat of budget cuts has come at a time when the prices of commodities including gold are falling on the world market.

“It is essential that all steps possible are taken now to expand and diversify the economy. Parliament as a whole must act in concert to promote the best interest and longer term interest of the national economy,” the business body added.

Saying that it was  “deeply concerned” by the  reports  of plans by the political opposition to reduce the funding and in many cases to totally eliminate funding for important national development projects in the 2013 budget, the PSC urged that the budget be altered only in Guyana’s interest. “The Private Sector Commission call upon all concerned to ensure that, in consideration of the Estimates, any alteration to the Budget is done in the national interest.” At the same time, the PSC urged the opposition to come up with an alternative plan if they chop the budget.

Referring to the planned talks between government and the opposition, the PSC said it was heartened by the move to meet ahead of the consideration of estimates that is scheduled to begin at 2 PM Monday. “We are hopeful that the spirit of reasonableness of what is good for our country will guide these negotiations.”

The PSC suggested that a slow down in private sector activities could possibly be attributed to the constant hardened positions in parliament.

Both government and opposition teams have been deployed countrywide to convince Guyanese that the GUY$208.8 billion budget is either good or bad for the country.

Government maintains that budget cuts are unconstitutional based on a preliminary ruling by the High Court. That decision by Chief Justice, Ian Chang cannot be appealed until it is finalized.

House Speaker, Raphael Trotman has said that he might have to rule on whether the budget could be cut, while at the same time welcoming the planned talks.

The Guyana government has been hinting that Guyanese could go back to the polls ahead of the next constitutionally due year of 2016.