by Zena Henry
The course of the 11th Parliament has been set with President David Granger outlining undone laws, border security, infrastructural development and empowerment of autonomous bodies, as key areas to be tended to.
Addressing the National Assembly Wednesday June 10, exclusive of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the President charged that this Parliament has the honour of taking Guyana into its 50th Independence Anniversary and charting Guyana’s future for the next five years.
He said in doing so, the House must combine to defeat the people’s real enemy, “crime, disease, ignorance and poverty.” In relation to laws, the President said, “We shall introduce Constitutional Amendment Bill to amend the Constitution of Guyana while certain entities such as service commissions and the Guyana Election Commission that ought to enjoy the financial autonomy as constitutional agencies.”
He said the government is committed to a well governed Guyana. “We reassert and reaffirm the integrity autonomy of the National Assembly. We shall ensure that this Assembly is granted administrative autonomy, institutional autonomy, political autonomy and financial autonomy.” “We intend to ensure that the 11th parliament is equipped with its own budget office and its own parliamentary counsel.”
“We shall introduce the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly Bill to establish the independent office of the Clerk of the National Assembly that will allow greater independence in the appointment of all staff to Parliament Office. We shall introduce fiscal management and accountability amendment bill that will ensure certain entities enjoy financial independence; freedom from executive interference in budgetary allocations…”
“We shall introduce former president’s benefits and other facilities Bill to cap benefits including tax free concessions and specify certain conditions under which the benefits are to be enjoyed.” A Constitutional Office Commission Bill to periodically review salary, pensions and other conditions for persons appointed to constitutional offices including members of National Assembly will be set up.
The Guyanese leader also announced plans to table amendments to the 2009 Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act that had been long a major source of dispute between the then governing PPPC and the two major political groupings that now form the government.
Also expected to return to the House are the Telecommunications Bill that would usher in the formal liberalization and competition-driven telecoms sector to be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) whose Act, the President said, would be amended to “allow equal treatment to all investors in this sector and to ensure better service quality to consumers.” The Granger-led administration also plans to amend the Broadcasting Authority Act “to allow for greater independence” of that decision-making body and “ensure standards of fairness balance, accuracy in matters of public interest.” The APNU+AFC coalition, while in opposition, had heaped criticism on the Act, saying that it was too intrusive in the day-to-day work of radio and television stations and that the composition of the Board was stacked with persons with little or no experience in broadcasting and heavily in favour of the then government.
The President said his administration would soon introduce the Local Government Amendment bill to allow the setting of the date for local government elections which were last held in 1994.”
President Granger said a long term national economic strategy will be crafted to ensure economic sovereignty and social security that will raise the productive potential of the economy and improve the quality of life for all. “We shall introduce amendments to appropriate laws to reform taxation; including the value added tax to give income tax concessions to wage earners and to offer fiscal incentives on equitable basis to investors.”
He spoke of a Green Guyana with economic prosperity, environmental security and social wellbeing. That involves cheap energy via wind, water and solar, while pointing to, “a comprehensive plan to improve or increase the quality of infrastructure assets.” This has impeded international competitiveness and investments; congested streets, old ferries, bad roads, weakened seas defenses must be thing of past, the President insisted.
“Your government will introduce a national infrastructural plan for the maintenance and extension of aerodromes, highways and roadways, stellings and bridges.”
Granger continued, “Your government will do everything within its power to secure its borders. We aim at playing a leading role in regional affairs, using our presence on the South American Continent and our membership of the Caribbean Community, the Organisation of American States, Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to re-engage our neighbours and resolve the major regional security and economic challenges;” strengthening friendly relations with Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname.
At home, the President said measures to reform security sectors to protect citizens and the territory will be addressed. Refashioning the police force by equipping them and offering better wages will help them be better at their jobs, while measures will suppress serious everyday crime; banditry murder and robbery among others. “These are the things that scare away investors, drive away the educated elite, strangle the economy; undermine growth and impede social cohesion.”
So far, at least 10 persons have been killed during robberies and altercations within the past two weeks.