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Budget preparation, streamlining of revenues high on agenda of new govt

The Ministry of Finance

President David Granger hopes to appoint his Cabinet within a fortnight and have the firsts session of the 11th Parliament “by the early days in June”, after which his Executive will seek to, among other things, devise a budget for the remainder of 2015.  

These appointments, however, will have to wait until persons from the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) coalition list are chosen to serve as Members of Parliament (MPs).

“I hope that we can in a week’s time complete both the transition from the PPP/C administration to the APNU + AFC administration and the appointment, but we will not be able to appoint persons as ministers until they become Members of Parliament (MPs),” he told Demerara Waves following his swearing-in ceremony at Parliament Building this afternoon.

The transition team, which he said has been approved by outgoing president Donald Ramotar, is expected to orchestrate the handing over of  the more important sectors, including security, finance, and foreign affairs. The team has reportedly already commenced its work.

The President expects the team to complete its work within a week and further shared that the “coalition intends to work simultaneously to nominate the persons who will be members of the National Assembly and are likely to be ministers.”

Asked of the prospect of inviting the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) into the new Executive, Granger said “I am obliged to have discussions among my own APNU + AFC first…and we will see what goes from there, but as a matter of principle in our campaign we have said that we will extend the offer of inclusion to the people.”

Noting that the now Opposition PPP/C represents 49%of the electorate, Granger said “I have to include 49 percent….I will approach them,” while adding that “the level of inclusion depends on the willingness of the PPP itself.”

Granger sought to allay any existing fears that his government will be biased in the execution of its functions. “I am now President of all the people. Yes, I am leader of the PNC (People’s National Congress), I am leader of APNU, I’m leader of the coalition, but I am President of all the people and that is the overriding factor.”

One of the first things the new Executive must seek to do once all appointments are made and Parliament is reconvened is work out a budget for the current year. As parliament was prorogued the last year, then dissolved subsequently, there was no opportunity for the presentation and passing of Budget 2015.

Granger said that working out a budget for the remainder of the year is a priority.

“This is a priority for us. We have somebody in mind who will be Minister of Finance and he will be part of that transition team and he will be in talks with Dr. Ashni Singh (the outgoing Minister of Finance). The 2015 budget had been already prepared by the previous administration but its tabling and parliamentary had been stalled due to the threat of a no-confidence motion and eventually the suspension and dissolution of the parliament to make way for general elections. The National Assembly has not met since July, 2014.

It is important to note that Guyana may finally see an aggregation of the various funds which hold public monies. Granger Saturday told members of the press that he intends to bring funds currently being held by National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and the Guyana Lottery Fund under the Consolidated Fund so as to ensure public scrutiny of these funds.

“We’ve got to find out what the PPP/C did with all the money that’s coming from gold, diamond, timber lotto. We got find that and bring it into the public treasury…that is a matter of policy,” he said.

Both APNU and the AFC have, for years, called on the PPP/C to place monies held under the above-mentioned funds under the Consolidated Fund as neither of them are subject to scrutiny by the National Assembly. It is unclear what lies in the future for NICIL, other whether the entity has a future at all.

Finally, Granger, when asked if his administration would have an issue with rehiring Elisabeth Harper to her former post of Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “I have every respect for Ms. Harper… it is unlikely that she will get her post back (by appointment), but were she to re-apply to rejoin the (foreign) service it would be considered. I have no animosity toward Ms Harper,” he iterated.