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Govt signals spending of $$ disapproved by Opposition

In the wake of the opposition’s more than GUY$37 billion disapproval from the National Budget, government on Wednesday signalled that it would be finding ways of spending the money.

“There are ways and means to which we can find mechanisms to restore that which has been disapproved but the fundamental point,” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall told a news briefing immediately after the National Assembly’s Committee of Supply concluded consideration of the estimates of expenditure.

The opposition-controlled House has erased a total of GUY$37,461,340,000 from the GUY$220 billion package.

Just before the Committee of Supply wrapped up consideration of the estimates Wednesday night, the opposition voted down GUY$355 million for the proposed Amaila Falls Hydropower plant and GUY$170.1 million for Community Projects in Amerindian communities.

The Attorney General could not immediately say whether government would again go to the High Court or rely on internal advice by government’s battery of lawyers.  House Speaker, Raphael Trotman has already appealed a High Court decision that the budget could not be cut but rather parts or the entire budget could only be approved or disapproved.

Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh reiterated that there was no sinister motive by government to bunch contentious projects and programmes with those that the Opposition would most likely have not supported.  “This issue about delinking and about bunching is to introduce a red herring to distract from the grievous consequences of what they want to do. There was no opportunistic bunching by government. These entities were placed exactly where they have always been,” he said.

Because of the way the budget has been structured and given the High Court’s ruling, the opposition’s targeting of the National Communications Network and the Government Information Agency (GINA) meant that subventions and contributions to other entities in that category such as the presidential guard, Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Commissioner of Information and the Office of the First Lady were not approved. Monies for regional hospitals and a number of other proposed expenditures in the health sector were similarly voted down in the same bunch with the Specialty Hospital.  Similarly, GUY$450 million that were going to be set aside for the University of Guyana Student Loan Facility were not approved because that item was in the same category as the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) that includes the Amaila Falls project.