The opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) Shadow Finance Minister, Irfan Ali on Monday charged that the David Granger-led coalition’s promise of a “good life” amounts to a “good lie” based on his mid-term review of Guyana’e economic performance.
“It’s not OK. It cannot be OK for us when the people of this country are suffering. It cannot be OK for us when the economy is in decline. It cannot be OK for us when people are losing their jobs. It cannot be OK for us when farmers are not getting any support in Budget 2018, nothing is OK about that, Mr Speaker,” he told the House in kicking off debate on the package of revenues and expenditures.
Ali, a former official of the Ministry of Finance, said contrary to the APNU+AFC’s election promise that the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) would have been reduced from 16 percent to 14 percent, the reality is that Guyanese will from next year pay GY$3.1 billion more in that tax, bringing the amount from that measure to GY$40.4 billion. “Failed promise; this is the reality and it’s not getting better,” he said.
The PPP frontbencher further charged that there are now more than GY$32.2 billion in new taxes and fees, while government has yet to reintroduce the GY$10,000 cash grant to needy families.
In addition to a decline in spending on immunization in the 2018 package, he said the budget offers nothing to farmers, nurses, teachers, public servants, and members of the police and defence forces.
The PPPC parliamentarian further observed that no provision has been made for any of the 61 percent of small and medium sized businesses which cannot repay their loans to commercial banks. “Budget 2018 is devoid of any measure to help people in any category,” he said.
Ali flayed Finance Minister, Winston Jordan for presiding over less than satisfactory Guyana’s economic growth since the coalition came to office in May 2015. “Since 2015, the economy has limped along to the elusive good life concept,” he said, adding that figures show a pattern of sub-optimal economic growth.
He said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had forecast economic growths of 4.07 in 2015; 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.79 percent in 2017 but the actual performances were 3.9 percent, 3.4 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.
Ali said Guyana’s economy also registered a total loss of GY$3 billion in income in 2017. He singled out sugar losing GY$3.8 billion; forestry GY$4.2 billion; rice GY$740 million and bauxite GY$792 million. “Decline, decline, decline decline and this government can tell the people of this country that they are satisfied,” he added.
“It was a good lie and not a good life” he said, questioning why would Guyanese trust the coalition again.
Budget debate would continue for the remainder of the week, followed by detailed questioning by the opposition of various allocations in the Committee of Supply.