by Zena Henry
Former Housing Minister and Opposition member Irfaan Ali kicked off the Budget debates 2015 with a hard slap to the estimates put forward last week by Finance Minister Winston Jordan calling it a “fluff” document with no policy direction.
Attacking the various projects and initiatives from the 2015 Budget, Ali pointed to what he claimed were several PPP projects allegedly hijacked by the government. He slammed the government for not fulfilling or partially fulfilling the 100 day promise; driving force behind the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government.
He said the old age pension increase, public service salaries, removal of monies from vehicle imports among others were the promises the government made “immediately upon their accesion to office.” He questioned how the government would be kept accountable if they will not honour “their own promises.”
The former minister slammed the government for claiming that the economy is bankrupted when they created a “big budget” along with finding $40 billion in commercial banks and another US$615 million in foreign reserves. Ali expressed disappointment in the Finance Minister for such statements claiming that the government inherited an economy “outperforming every single economy in the Caribbean,” and witnessed nine consecutive years of growth.
The opposition member claimed that government slashed allocations the agriculture sector but demanded that the government convene a “National Paddy Price Support System.” He urged that government should take steps to maintain a production level of above 600,000 tons of paddy and improve yields to 40 bags per acre.
He demanded to that the government give rice farmers the $9,000 per bag of paddy as promised. Ali claimed that instead of fulfilling the promises to rice farmers they have taken away sums for drainage and other agriculture activities.
Ali jumped on the government wanting to increase their salaries so early in office. “We never sought to increase government salaries by more than 100 percent,” Ali charged.
Ali alleged however, that Budget 2015 has taken away thousands of jobs and over $1b from Amerindian villages. He said the budget has taken away the $10,000 for poor families and further delayed the aspirations of Guyanese.
Ali said that according to various regional and international agencies, Guyana was projected to grow from over three percent to over five percent over time. He said, “That is the economy that the government inherited.”