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Speaker’s appeal of High Court budget cut ruling wouldn’t prevent slashes- Ramjattan

House Speaker, Raphael Trotman

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman’s appeal against a High Court ruling that the House could not cut the National Budget is not expected to prevent the opposition from slashing portions of the 2014 estimates.

Trotman’s lawyer, Khemraj Ramjattan, said he did not request any stay of execution of Chief Justice, Ian Chang’s ruling handed down in January.

Ramjattan said in light of Chang’s ruling, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would not approve some line-items including monies budgeted for the government-controlled National Communications Network (NCN).

“What he (Chang) ruled as being constitutional was that the Supply Committee can either approve or not approve the Estimates. The AFC consequently will approve most line items and not approve others,” Ramjattan, who is also the AFC’s leader told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).He noted that the successful non-approval would depend on APNU’s concurrence.

Already, signals by APNU that it would vote against the GUY$6 billion bail-out for the ailing state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco) has caused jitters in the government. Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy accused the opposition of engaging in irresponsible behaviour by threatening the livelihoods of 18,000 direct jobs and 120,000 indirect jobs. “We must also take into consideration that on a weekly basis, GUYSUCO’s payroll amounts to about $500M and almost $25B per year. With this inflow into the economy, it would be foolish and downright irresponsible for anyone to seek to leave  GUYSUCO without any support,” he said in a statement.  Figures show that Guysuco contributes 4% percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 10% to 20% of sugar growing regions.

The sugar corporation, Ramsammy said, was also a major provider of health-care, drainage and 8.5 MW of bagasse-generated electricity to the national power grid.

Management has blamed bad weather, industrial unrest and Europe’s 36 percent cut in the price it pays for the sweetener for the industry’s bitter fortunes in recent years. On the other hand, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has cited bad management, excessive rainfall and poor tillage as major factors for the downturn of sugar that had one time been responsible for as much as 14% of GDP.