Government has so far ruled out calling early national elections due to a more than GUY$37 billion reduction in the 2012 National Budget by the combined opposition.
“Elections are not at the top of the list where the solutions and the arrival of compromises an te action to be taken to rectify this situation,” said Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon. “I for one feel that this issue-the non approval of funding can indeed be addressed without resort to elections,” he added.
Some observers believe that the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) is in no hurry for elections because it is not entirely certain that it would regain its parliamentary majority which it lost at the November 2011 elections.
While admitting that the cuts in this year’s budget are worst than those in 2012 and 2013, Head Luncheon brushed aside suggestions of calling fresh general and regional elections two years before they are constitutional due.
He said government would try to broker a political solution with the opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) that together hold 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly. “Never forget that you’re dealing with politicians and the cut and thrust of the political process and indeed matters more profound have been resolved without resorting to extremes,” he said.
He declined to say whether government would take back those proposed expenditures that are not contentious to the House for approval.
At the same time, he said government could explore whether to take the matter to the High Court again, particularly since the work of the Executive would be disrupted by the budget disapprovals.
President Donald Ramotar is yet to assent to the Appropriations Bill 2014 that contains the budget reduction.
This year’s budget reductions have been made complex by a High Court ruling that essentially rules out the reduction of any allocation by the House but the approval or disapproval of any line-item.
At this year’s consideration of the estimates of expenditure by the Committee of Supply, the opposition did not approval several items because they contained projects and programmes that did not find favour with them.
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.
The opposition has also voted down GUY$355 million for the proposed Amaila Falls Hydropower plant and GUY$170.1 million for Community Projects in Amerindian communities.