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National Assembly of Guyana
GINA and the National Budget Debate
David A. Granger
1. Finance Minister presents whopping $ 192.8B national budget .GINA, March 30, 2012. 2. Domestic economy recorded growth for sixth consecutive year- Finance Minister. GINA, March 30, 2012. 3. Gov’t to invest billions more in sugar, electricity, public servants income in 2012 National Budget. GINA, March 30, 2012. 4. Gov’t to push for early payment of REDD financing, higher emission reduction targets by industrialised countries in 2012, GINA, March 30, 2012. 5. 2012 National Budget paves way for massive development in housing and water sector. GINA, March 30, 2012. 6. Budget allows for further social and economic expansion. GINA, April 4, 2012. 7. Put nation before partisan positions. GINA, April 10, 2012. 8. Physical infrastructure for continued transformation in 2012. GINA, March 30, 2012 9. Nadir defends 2012 budget estimates. GINA, April 10, 2012. 10. Budget Debate 2012 -Guyana is moving apace– Minister Alli Baksh. GINA, April 10, 2012. 11. Greenidge ignores 50% increase in public sector wages since 2006. GINA, April 11, 2012. 12. Minister Ali slams Greenidge - says he is in the wilderness on salary increases .GINA, April 11, 2012. 13. School feeding, uniform assistance programmes set to continue. GINA, April 11, 2012. 14. Budget 2012 created after much consideration – PM .GINA, April 11, 2012. 15. Budget 2012 premised on sustainability- Rev. Dr. Gilbert. GINA, April 11, 2012. 16. GuySuCo well-positioned to overcome challenges - Minister Ramsammy .GINA, April 11, 2012. 17. Opposition budget presentations lack content-Dr. V. Persaud. GINA, April 11, 2012. 18. Gov’t recognises importance of investing in people – Minister Webster. GINA, April 12, 2012 19. GPHC not whole health sector – Dr Mahadeo. GINA, April 12, 2012. 20. Minister Ramsaran slams Opposition for bigotry and misinformation. GINA, April 12, 2012. 21. Gov’t could not perennially subsidise Linden electricity cost- Minister Whittaker. GINA, April 12, 2012 22. Opposition budget presentations prejudiced and uninformed-Minister Whittaker. GINA, April 12, 2012. 23. Dr Gopaul slams Opposition for denying workers have been provided for. GINA, April 13, 2012. 24. More focus on creating Conducive learning environments. GINA, April 13, 2012. 25. Minister Sukhai deflates Allicock’s call for revision of Amerindian Act. GINA, April 13, 2012. 26. Health Minister defends bringing Indian nationals to man Specialty Hospital. GINA, April 13, 2012. 27. PPP/C will not dominate, not be dominated- Minister Rohee. GINA, April 13, 2012 28. Dr. Westford defends contracted workers. GINA, April 13, 2012. 29. Minister Nandlall dispels Opposition claims about Gov’t programmes. GINA, April 13, 2012. 30. Economic, social growth is a work in progress - PPP/C MP Chandarpal, GINA, April 14, 2012. 31. Gov’t will remain on course it charted – Shaddick. GINA, April 14, 2012. 32. Minister Ramsammy rejects call by AFC, MP to vote against capital budget
Finance Minister presents whopping $ 192.8B national budget. GINA, March 30, 2012 History was again made today in the National Assembly as Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh presented Guyana’s largest national budget; the first in the life of the Tenth Parliament. Presented under the theme, “Remaining on course, united in purpose, prosperity for all”, budget 2012 worth $192.8B, is fully financed without the introduction of any new taxes. Minister Singh in his succinct presentation said that with the new parliamentary dispensation, whereby the governing Party does not hold an absolute majority, beckons the country into a new political epoch and heralds an opportunity for the nurturing of a new political culture. “Budget 2012 comes to this House when the Guyanese economy is at its strongest in recent memory. Our productive base is showing increasing signs of resilience and dynamism and is more diversified than ever before, with real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years,” he said. In 2011, the domestic economy achieved real growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 5.4 percent (sixth consecutive year of positive growth in Guyana), inflation remained within acceptable norms at 3.3 percent, interest rates continued to trend downwards, and foreign exchange market remained buoyant and recorded a 17.7 per cent increase in activity The economy is projected to extend its six-year stretch of uninterrupted growth into a seventh year in 2012, with overall growth projected at 4.1 percent, with the non-sugar economy projected to grow by 4.0 percent. Sugar- at the start of 2012, the sugar industry set itself a target of 265,000 tonnes. Given developments since then, including industrial relations issues which now appear to have normalised, sugar production is currently projected at 250,000 tonnes, 5.7 percent above 2011 level of production. Rice- since 2008 has recorded higher output levels in every consecutive year and coming off the bumper harvest of 401,904 in 2011, the industry is now projected to expand further to 412,425 tonnes, a 2.6 percent increase in value added to the industry. Livestock- is expected to grow by a further 4.9 percent, while the other agriculture sector is also projected to expand by 4 percent. Forestry- is projected to decline by 8.2 percent reflecting the implementation of programmes to improve stakeholder capacity in areas of forest policy and sustainable forestry management. Fishing- is expected to return growth of 5 percent, supported by Government initiatives to combat piracy. Mining- the mining and quarrying sector is expected to moderate to 1.8 percent growth. Bauxite industry is expected to decline slightly by 0.2 percent to a production level of 1,716,261 tonnes. Meanwhile, gold production recorded a double digit expansion to more than 350,000 ounces in 2011; a more moderate growth of 2.9 percent is projected in 2012, even as price incentives continue to lure greater investment into the sector. Diamond declarations are projected to contract by 5 percent.
Manufacturing- is projected to expand by 3.9 percent in 2012, mainly attributed to the expansion in the production of rice and sugar and consequent increases in related processing activities coupled with some growth in light manufacturing. Services- the information and communication sector is expected to post a 3 percent growth, while the construction industry is targeted to grow by 6.3 percent, a recovery from the moderate growth in 2011. The wholesale and retail sector is projected to grow by 6.5 percent while the transport industry is targeted to grow 9.5 percent. Likewise, financial services, rental of dwellings and other services are targeted to grow by 8 percent, 2 percent, and 0.5 percent respectively. Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS)- this year, Guyana will continue to advocate and negotiate for the disbursement of early grant-type financing for REDD+ actions, and for an agreement on the role of carbon markets in generating REDD+ financing. The InterAmerican development Bank has already given approval for the first of the GRIF-funded LCDS projects valued at US$7 M, through which Government will strengthen the Guyana Forestry Commission’s capacity for implementing REDD+ activities. Agriculture- A total of $1.4 B was expended in 2011 on Government’s aggressive agrodiversification programme. This year, $1 B is allocated to advance efforts towards the diversification and modernisation of the sector. Tourism – this year, efforts will continue to ensure that this sector accelerates its growth towards realising the fullness of its potential with an allocation of over $200M. Small Business - the sum of $22 M has been budgeted to enable the Small Business Bureau to discharge its functions. In addition, over the next four years, Government will spend US$10 M to finance the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and more specifically to address bottlenecks that affect the sector. Roads and Bridges- in 2011, a total of $8.7 B was expended on the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of land transport network, of which $6.9 B was spent on roads and $1.8 B on bridges. This year however, $11.8 B is budgeted to sustain and improve roads and bridges network, of which $10.9 B will be spent on roads and $964 M on bridges. Air and River Transport- $4.5 B has been budgeted for the upgrade, expansion and modernisation of CJIA, $180 M for the rehabilitation of airstrips in Lethem, Imbaimadai and Ekereku Bottom and the ongoing maintenance of our country’s 43 airstrips in Regions One, Two, Seven, Eight and Nine. Additionally, over $717 M is budgeted for the docking of vessels and acquisition of spares. Sea and River Defence- $2.9 B is budgeted for the continued protection of sea and river defences. Drainage and Irrigation- $7.8 B has been budgeted for the continuation of work on the drainage and irrigation systems. Hydrometeorology- $391 M has been allocated for the continued modernisation and expansion of the hydrometeorological network through the acquisition of a satellite receiving system to provide real time satellite images of approaching and developing weather systems. 4
Energy- in 2011 over $11.7 B was spent in the power sector, this year $1.8 B will be invested for the installation of a submarine cable linking Kingston and Vreed-en-Hoop, $100 M to support capacity building, energy conservation and rehabilitation of the low voltage distribution network for the reduction of commercial losses and $50 M will be spent for the design of a 330 kW micro-hydropower project at Kato to boost electricity supply in our hinterland. Education- over $24 B was expended in this sector in 2011, representing an increase of 13 percent in expenditure from 2010. This year, $26.5 B has been allocated for the sector. Health- Government has allocated over $16.9 B to continue the modernisation of the sector and to consolidate on the gains made over the past decade. Housing- in 2011, the $3.3 B was expended on the housing sector; this year Government will invest $3.6 B in this sector to increase access to affordable housing, improve the quality of infrastructure of housing schemes and regularise squatter settlements. Water- In 2011, $1.8 B was spent in the water sector facilitating the construction and upgrading of distribution and transmission mains in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five and Six, benefiting in excess of 90,000 people. This year, $2 B has been allocated to improve the quality of water supply of which $900 M is budgeted for the installation of approximately 20 kilometres of transmission and distribution mains, the upgrading of water treatment plant systems in areas such as Rose Hall, Pouderoyen and Fellowship and the completion of four boreholes benefiting approximately 233,900 residents. Sanitation- $503 M is budgeted to commence rehabilitation of nine sewer-pumping stations in the Georgetown sewer network and a further $678M for the waste-receiving cell at the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill and to complete works towards the realisation of a treatment facility for pretreated medical and hazardous waste. Youths- $66 M allocated to equip and rehabilitate training centres, $675 M for the continuation of the athletic track at Leonora, completion of the Bartica Community Centre, upgrading of the National Gymnasium, Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, National Stadium and Colgrain Pool, and $160 M for the upgrading of sports grounds countrywide. Indigenous Communities- over $165 M has been budgeted under the Amerindian Development Fund for community programmes, issuance of land titles to 13 villages, and the National Secure Livelihood Programme. Additionally, under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), funding will be provided to support the socioeconomic development of Amerindian communities through the implementation of their community development plans. Security- this year $16.2 B has been allocated for the continued modernisation of the security sector and in the area of infrastructure key investments will result in substantially modernised facilities. Justice- $2.1 B is budgeted for the sector, a significant increase from the $1.7 B that was spent last year. Budget Measures- Budget 2012 provides for a transfer of $4 B from the Central Government to GUYSUCO, in order to ensure that the sugar industry is financially able to meet its operating
and investment requirements. Additionally, $6B will be transferred to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc. to help cushion the impact of imported oil price movements on domestic consumers. Public Assistance- which is currently paid at a monthly rate of $5,500 to approximately 9,000 beneficiaries will be increased with effect from May 1, 2012, to $5,900, a 7 percent increase. Old Age Pension- which is paid to 42,000 pensioners at a rate of $7,500 per month will be increased with effect from May 1, 2012, to $8,100 per month, an 8 percent increase. Personal Income Tax- with effect from year of income 2012, the personal income tax allowance will be increased to $600,000 annually or $50,000 monthly. The income tax threshold in 2012 will now be twice as high as it was in 2006. As a result of this measure, every taxpayer will benefit with higher take home pay. In addition, some 21,000 people will be removed from the income tax net, and over $3 B of additional disposable income will be placed in the hands of beneficiaries. Minister Singh urged members of the House, never to lose sight of the need for good sense and practical answers, guided always by that which is fair and just, and with but one aim constantly in mind and that is to ensure the uninterrupted daily advancement of Guyana. “Budget 2012 is built around objectives with which very few could rationally disagree. The achievement of higher levels of sustainable real growth in the economy, preserving the conditions necessary for private investment and job creation, expanding and upgrading our country’s infrastructure, raising access to and improving quality in our social services and making steady advances on all of our key social indicators, further strengthening of our public institutions, goals that would readily be embraced by all,” the Minister concluded. Domestic economy recorded growth for sixth consecutive year- Finance Minister. GINA, March 30, 2012 Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh in presenting the 2012 National Budget Estimates today in the National Assembly said that government’s efforts caused the domestic economy to endure the worst global and regional economic crisis in living memory without significant disruption or dislocation and experienced a growth of 5.4 per cent in 2011. The Finance Minister explained that, to make the country’s economy more robust, resilient, better able to withstand external shocks and less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of domestic single industry upheavals, government aggressively promoted the development of a more diversified productive base whilst advancing an agenda for improving national competitiveness. “In 2011, the domestic economic achieved real growth in gross domestic product (GDP) of 5.4 percent, within which non-sugar GDP grew even more rapidly by 5.6 percent…this represented the sixth consecutive year of positive growth in Guyana,” Minister Singh said. The Finance Minister said that sugar production grew by 7.1 percent to 236,506 tonnes, and the rice industry extended its stellar performance of recent years with the total product in 2011 of 401,904 tonnes, an 11.3 percent growth in output, representing the industry’s highest level of annual production ever. “The other agriculture subsectors grew by 5.7 percent, reflecting returns on the Grow More Campaign and the Agricultural Diversification Programme, coupled with
more integrated market access, especially with the bridging of the Berbice River…the livestock sector also expanded by 5.8 percent,” Minister Singh said. The following sectors also recorded growth for 2011; mining and quarrying sector recorded growth of 19.2 percent, owing to 17.7 percent increase in raw gold declarations of 363,083 ounces, the highest level since 2004; the manufacturing sector by 6.8 percent primarily attributed to the expansion in rice milling and sugar processing: the transport and storage sector by 14.2 percent; the information and communication sector by 1.5 percent; the wholesale and retail sector by 4.5 percent; financial and insurance services sector by 9.7 percent; rental of dwellings by 1.6 percent and the education sector by 6.7 percent; the health and social services sector by 3.8 percent and electricity and water by 2.1 percent. The Finance Minister said that export earnings expanded by 27.6 percent to US$1.1B, primarily attributed to increase in volumes exported as well as favourable world market prices for most of the key export commodities. “Net current transfers increased by 11.8 percent to US$414.6M due to higher receipts of worker remittances which increased from US$367.8M to US$412.2M…the capital account recorded a surplus of US$373.2M compared to US$339.2M, attributed to higher foreign direct investment concentrated mainly in the mining and telecommunication sectors,” Minister Singh said. He added that monetary policy remained focused on the maintenance of price and exchange rate stability while promoting private sector credit; inflation remained within acceptable norms at 3.3 percent, and the interest rates continued to trend downwards, with the commercial banks weighted average lending rate declining by 27 basis points to 11.68 percent, and small savings rate declining by 68 basis points to 1.99 percent. “The Foreign exchange market remained buoyant and recorded a 17.7 percent increase in activity amounting to transactions totalling US$6B…the fiscal deficit of the non-financial public sector amounted to $22.9B or 4.4 percent of GDP compared to 3.6 percent in 2010,” Minister Singh said. Because of the performance of the domestic economy, the Finance Minister said that government succeeded in reaffirming its commitment to improving the livelihood of public servants, teachers and members of the disciplined services with the granting of an 8 percent across the board increase on the level of wages and salaries. “Central government revenue in 2011 amounted to $120.9B, 12.1 percent over 2010, attributed to enhanced collections among both tax and non-tax categories...non-interest current expenditure increased by 17.9 percent to $92.5B,” Singh said. The Finance Minister said that prudent management of public debt is an integral aspect of maintaining macro economic stability into the medium-term. “Progress has been made in debt negotiations with our bilateral creditors, in particular the Russian Federation and Venezuela…Governments of Guyana and Venezuela have agreed on the procedure for the cancellation of significant portion of Guyana’s oil debt in compensation for rice and paddy exports,” Singh pointed out. He added that on the domestic side, Guyana’s domestic debt stock increased moderately by 2.2 percent to US$728M as a result of government’s continued diligence and sound practice in managing the domestic debt. The Finance Minister believes that maintaining debt sustainability while financing critical economic and social development needs are twin objectives that will require continued access to concessional financing. 7
Gov’t to invest billions more in sugar, electricity, public servants income in 2012 National Budget. GINA, March 30, 2012 Government will spare no effort in ensuring that the sugar industry is transformed into a viable and competitive one. This was the assurance given by Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh during the 2012 National Budget presentation on March 30 in the National Assembly. According to Minister Singh, in addition to the resources that were already injected by Government into the industry, this year’s budget provides for a transfer of $4 B from the Central Government to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to ensure that the sugar industry is financially able to meet its operating and investment requirements. The production and financial turnaround that are expected from the support and other initiatives taken by the industry will ultimately benefit 120,000 people including the industry’s 18,000 employees and its suppliers of goods and services. GPL The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) will also benefit from a transfer of $6 B from Government that will provide direct benefit to 164,000 subscribers and their households. The Finance Minister noted that electricity tariffs were last adjusted in 2007, when light and heavy fuel oils were procured at US$71 and US$109 per barrel respectively. However, prices have since increased by 61 and 38 percent to US$114 and US150 per barrel respectively and GPL funded the escalated costs without any tariff adjustments. Renewable Energy Sources In keeping with Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in this year’s budget, Government signalled its intention to promote greater reliance on renewable energy and more energy efficient devices. In this regard, Dr. Singh stated that through legislation Government aims to remove applicable taxes on non-traditional sources of electricity generation for both household and commercial purposes among which are solar panels, solar lamps, solar generators, wind turbines and power inverters. Public Assistance The budget provides for a seven percent increase in public assistance bringing the monthly payment to $5,900, more than double that of 2006 when it was $2,350. Old Age Pensions Old age pension also increased by eight percent over the 2011 rate bringing the amount to $8,100. In 2006, the monthly old age pension was $3,500. Dr. Singh noted that the increase in public assistance and old age pensions will account for a further $350 M of disposable income to the elderly and the most vulnerable. Personal Income Tax The personal income tax threshold was also increased to $50,000 monthly or $600,000 annually which guarantees every taxpayer a higher take home pay. The increase has also 8
removed 21,000 people from the income tax net, and places over $3 B in additional disposable income in the hands of beneficiaries. In 2006, the income tax threshold was set at $300,000 annually or $25,000 per month. Since then it has been adjusted up progressively, up to last year, when it was set at $480,000 annually or $40,000 monthly. Gov’t to push for early payment of REDD financing, higher emission reduction targets by industrialised countries in 2012, GINA, March 30, 2012 Government intends to continue strong advocacy and negotiation for early disbursement of funds for Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD plus) actions; concurrence on the role of carbon markets in generating REDD plus financing; more ambitious emission reduction targets by industrialised countries and the full operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund. This was affirmed by Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh during the 2012 National Budget presentation on March 30, in the National Assembly. Minister Singh highlighted Guyana’s leading role in achieving a REDD decision in Durban last December when the United Nations Convention agreed to both public and private sources of REDD plus financing, thus allowing for continued negotiations on the role of the carbon market in climate financing this year. The establishment of a Green Climate Fund with clear eligibility to REDD plus activities and a road map for legal, global treaty on climate change also signaled high progress, he said. The construction of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project which is due to commence by the third quarter of 2012 in addition to a land titling and demarcation project and an Amerindian Development Fund are among the priority projects for funding from the Guyana REDD plus Investment Fund (GRIF) this year. Amerindian communities stand to benefit directly from the Amerindian Development Fund which will support the advancement of priority projects, along with a micro and small enterprise development programme that will address hindrances to developing a strengthened entrepreneurial and small business sector. The Cunha Canal rehabilitation project which is the first climate adaptation project under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which will reduce the risks of flooding along the East Bank of Demerara and other climate adaption projects identified under the GRIF will also be advanced in 2012. Dr. Singh also alluded to Guyana’s commitment to responsible environmental management which is supported by the enactment of the Protected Areas Act 2011. The Act governs the establishment and management of a National Protected Areas System in Guyana and allowed for the establishment of the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) for the management, maintenance and expansion of the national protected areas system. The Finance Minister noted that plans in this regard include the establishment of an institutional structure for the (PAC) including site management authorities, rangers, and the setting up of a Trust Fund. The (PAC) will also oversee the implementation of the Kanuku Mountains Management Plan and the Kaieteur National Park Management Plan while at the same time seeks to produce a Shell Beach Protected Areas Management Plan.
In 2011, US$70M was transferred to the (GRIF) Fund and Government is working with Norway and multilateral partner entities to refine the administrative and institutional arrangements for the resources to flow to Guyana for the implementation of projects and programmes outlined in the LCDS. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has already given approval for the first of the GRIF-funded institutional strengthening projects valued at US$7M. Education sector gets $26.5B in National Budget. GINA, March 30, 2012 This year’s National Budget is not complete without the necessary investments being made towards improving the wellbeing of the entire population. Prior to today’s reading of the budget in the National Assembly it was being described as one that meets the needs of the Guyanese people while creating an environment where the aspirations of all are realized. In this regard, the $26.6B allocated to the Education sector is both timely and unprecedented. The $192.8B budget was presented by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh under the theme “Remaining on Course: United in Purpose- Prosperity for All”. “One of the hallmarks of successive PPP/Civic Government has been our steadfast commitment to investment in the social sector, reflecting our firm conviction that there is no investment more important than that made in our people,”hesaid. Minister Singh emphasised that government recognises that education is a prerequisite to the successful development of a nation, and as such the Administration will continue to respond accordingly to the educational needs of Guyanese so as to improve their quality of life. School feeding, uniform programmes Over $1B has been allocated towards the continued implementation of the National and Hinterland School Feeding Programmes, while the School Uniform Programme will continue; this reiterates the current Administration’s commitment to improving attendance, participation rates, and attainment levels, by ensuring that every child has the basic necessities for school. Improved student performance As significant progress is being made towards universal secondary education, programmes are being implemented toward achieving better performance in Mathematics and English Language at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations. In this regard, 36 schools, countrywide, are being targeted as part of a pilot which will address key dimensions of education delivery, including working closely with teachers and allocating adequate resources in an effort to improve performances in both Mathematics and English at the 2012 CSEC examinations. Boosting teacher education Minister Singh noted that in the current government’s Manifesto, one of the key initiatives outlines relates to improving teacher quality by strengthening the institutions involved, and upgrading the training programmes offered. “We are proud to note that the proportion of trained teachers has consistently been increasing over the last five years, moving from 58 percent to 70 percent at the primary level, and from 55 percent to 64 percent at the secondary level…as we strive to further improve these percentages, over $1.2B has been allotted towards teacher training,” he emphasised. That allocation includes 10
the provision for operational expenditure of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) which is expected to produce 430 graduates from the Associate Degree in Education Programme in November 2012, while 800 students will complete the Trained Teacher Certificate Programme in July of this year. Continued ICT implementation Minister Singh stressed that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) remains on the front burner as training of teachers, in this area, is accelerated. It is hoped that by the end of 2012 3,500 teachers would complete ICT training. Additionally, all secondary schools will be equipped with functioning ICT departments. Furthermore, the ICT-based Success Maker programme will be installed in another 60 primary schools and teachers will be trained in the use of this software as a teaching and learning aid. Augmenting tertiary education The budget places significant importance on ensuring that the University of Guyana (UG) delivers quality education. This is another priority for this Government, towards which over $900M has been allocated. Minister Singh pointed out that having completed the preparatory work for the US$10M UG Science and Technology Project, $80M has been allocated under this project towards the commencement of curriculum reform, research support, and infrastructure rehabilitation. Moreover, another $450M has been budgeted for the student loan programme. Inclusive education This budget is evidence that no Guyanese, irrespective of abilities, is left out and this is explicable in that funds have been budgeted for the construction of an annex at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre which caters for 60 differently able students and will be equipped with the essential sanitary facilities, furnishings, and a computer room. Additionally, the training facility will be rehabilitated so as to provide technical and vocational training to the students at the centre. The government’s Manifesto stated that special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that those who are differently able are empowered to achieve personal fulfilment, thus making a contribution to productive effort. Improved learning environment Minister Singh highlighted that government has always been keen on ensuring students dwell in conducive learning environments as such $3.3B has been allocated for continued construction, extension, rehabilitation and maintenance of schools and other educational facilities countrywide. This includes the construction of Turkeyen nursery school, the extension of the Parika Salem secondary school, and Waramadong dormitory and teaching block. In addition, works are to be done on LBI, St. Pius and Diamond primary schools, Leonora secondary school and dormitories at Charity and Sand Creek secondary schools. Also, science and information technology laboratories are expected to be completed. 2011 achievements The Finance Minister highlighted that the Administration recognises that education is critical towards developing a well trained and highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of the modern
economy as such, over $24B was expended to the sector in 2011, representing an increase of 13 percent in expenditure from 2010. He underscored a number of key achievements gained by the education sector during the third year of implementation of the National Education Strategic Plan 2008-2013 including more than $47M expended for the establishment of the education channel which broadcasts programmes that supplement the education curriculum for all students countrywide. Over $1B was spent on operational costs at CPCE which offers the Associate Degree in Education, another $768M was spent on the operational costs of UG’s two campuses, and $450M on student loans. Additionally, government spent over $1B on the National and Hinterland School Feeding Programmes which benefited over 63,000 children countrywide, while another $266M was expended on ensuring each child has a school uniform. Over $1.8B was spent on technical vocational training institutes, including the completion of the two new vocational centres in Regions 3 and 5, while $2.8B was spent on construction, extension, rehabilitation and maintenance of schools, and other educational facilities countrywide. 4.1 percent growth projected for 2012.GINA, March 30,2012 The presentation of the 2012 National Budget sets the developmental course for which the country, as a whole, must travel thereby ensuring the entire population enjoys the fruits of its achievements. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh presented the $192.8B 2012 budget to the National Assembly under the theme “Remaining on Course: United in PurposeProsperity for All”. This year’s budget is Guyana’s largest ever and it is fully financed without the introduction of any new taxes. The economy is projected to extend its six - year period of un-interrupted growth into a seventh year in 2012, with overall growth projected at 4.1 percent, with the non-sugar economy projected to grow by 4.0 percent. Agriculture He pointed out that at the start of 2012; the sugar industry set itself a target of 265,000 tonnes. Given developments since then, including industrial relations issues which now appear to have normalised, sugar production is currently projected at 250,000 tonnes, 5.7 percent above the 2011 level. “Government reaffirms its commitment to the sector and management remains committed to fostering good industrial relations with its workers this target is indicative of management’s commitment to achievement of the plans set out in the turnaround plan, which is premised on the expansion in acreage under cultivation, advancement in mechanisation and the operation of Skeldon factory at its optimum,” he said. Meanwhile since 2008, the rice industry has recorded higher output levels in every consecutive year and coming off the bumper harvest of 401,904 in 2011, the industry is now projected to expand further to 412,425 tonnes, a 2.6 per cent increase in value added to the industry. Minister Singh emphasised that this record output target places the industry in a favourable position to exploit new and emerging markets as the industry continues to reap the benefits of investments made in research and extension services, and is aided by improvements in drainage and irrigation infrastructure. 12
Like the rice and sugar industries, livestock is expected to grow by a further 4.9 percent. “The continued expansion in these two sub-sectors positions Guyana to take advantage of regional market opportunities while ensuring domestic food security, ”Minister Singh noted. He indicated that the forestry sector is projected to decline by 8.2 percent reflecting the implementation of programmes to improve stakeholders’ capacity in areas of forest policy and sustainable forestry management; while the fishing sector is expected to return growth of 5 percent, supported by Government initiatives to combat piracy. Industry The mining and quarrying sector is expected to moderate to 1.8 percent growth. Minister Singh explained that the bauxite industry is expected to decline slightly by 0.2 percent to a production level of 1,716,261 tonnes, due to expectations of some contraction in overseas market especially for higher value grades of bauxite. He stressed that now that gold production has recorded a double digit expansion to more than 350,000 ounces in 2011, a more moderate growth of 2.9 percent is projected in 2012, even as price incentives continue to lure greater investment into the sector. Additionally, diamond declarations are projected to contract by 5 percent. The Minister noted that the manufacturing sector is projected to expand by 3.9 percent in 2012 this is mainly attributed to the expansion in the production of rice and sugar, and consequent increases in related processing activities coupled with some growth in light manufacturing. Services The Minister acknowledged that the outturn in 2011 substantiated the greater role the service sector plays in contributing to the economy’s total output as compared to agricultural and industrial activities as such it is expected to continue being a leading driver of growth. The information and communication sector is expected to post a 3 percent growth, while the construction industry is targeted to grow by 6.3 percent, a recovery from the moderate growth in 2011. Meanwhile, the wholesale and retail sector is projected to grow by 6.5 percent while the transport industry is targeted to grow by 9.5 percent. Likewise, financial services, rental of dwellings and other services are targeted to grow by 8 percent, 2 percent, and 0.5 percent, respectively. Monetary Policy and Inflation Minister Singh stated that monetary policy will continue to be geared towards the expansion of private sector credit, while maintaining a stable exchange rate and low inflation. He disclosed that the inflation rate is targeted at 4.6 percent in 2012, primarily as a result of the increase in global oil prices due to continued tensions in key oil producing areas, and not withstanding government’s commitment to intervene as necessary to mute the effects of full pass through of global oil price movements to the domestic market. Balance of Payments The overall balance of payments is projected to record an overall surplus of US$136.3M compared to a deficit of US $15 M in 2011. “This outturn is on account of a lower current account deficit attributed to expected higher export earnings and transfers, outweighing the projected increase in import commodity prices, ”Minister Singh stated. In addition, the capital
account is projected to register a surplus of US$462 M reflecting higher capital inflows and foreign direct investment. Targets for Non-Financial Public Sector With regards to Central Government Operations, the total current revenue (Net of GRIF inflows) is projected to expand by 6.2 percent to $128.5B, with the Guyana Revenue Authority garnering $116.8B. Minister Singh pointed out that this outturn is attributed to a 6.9 percent increase in valueadded and excise tax collections, due to increased VAT collections on imports, as import levels are projected to expand further in 2012. Similarly, higher imports will also contribute to an expansion in customs and trade taxes, which are targeted at $12.9B, $1.8B over the 2011 collections. Internal revenue collections are targeted to moderate to $47.2B and non-tax revenue collections are projected to increase by 22.5 percent to $11.6 B thereby reflecting projected higher Bank of Guyana profits. The total expenditure is projected at $189.6B, a $38.8B increased over 2011. This achievement is attributed to a $14.5B expansion in non-interest current expenditure due to the expansion and improvement in social services being offered to Guyanese citizens. Meanwhile, capital expenditure is projected to expand to $75.8B due to the advancement of major infrastructural projects including those funded under the GRIF including the modernisation of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, continuation of the OLPF programme and the E-government project. “Based on these developments the overall fiscal deficit of the Central Government is targeted at $26.5 B, equivalent to 4.6 percent of GDP compared to 3.1 percent in 2011,” stated Minister Singh. With regards to public enterprises, receipts are projected to increase to $146.6B, while total expenditure is projected to expand by 12.2 percent to $144.3B this is mainly due to higher fuel prices and an expansion in the capital programme. Based on these developments, an overall surplus of $2.3B is projected in 2012. Additionally, the deficit of the non-financial public sector is projected at $24.2B or 4.2 percent of the GDP, compared to 4.4 percent in 2011, reflecting government’s continuing efforts at fiscal consolidation. 2012 National Budget paves way for massive development in housing and water sector.GINA, March 30, 2012 Building on the already successful housing and construction boom, the 2012 National Budget has allocated $3.6 B to further increase access to affordable housing, improve the quality of infrastructure of housing schemes and regularise squatter settlements. Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh in presenting the $192.8B estimates today stated that this move by Government is to ensure that Guyanese have access to adequate and affordable housing within suitable and economically viable communities. To ensure that this vision is achieved, Government is working to have a further 30,000 new house lots distributed by 2015; increase access to low cost financing for home construction, and examine additional ways for improving occupancy in new housing areas. “We will also be developing resettlement plans, regularising 14
squatting areas and facilitating easier access to house lots and home financing,” Minister Singh said. Of the $3.3B expended in 2011, $700M was spent on improving road network and water distribution systems in Zeelugt, Leonora, Mahdia and Culvert City. This has seen over 1,500 households directly benefiting. While, families were afforded a one in a life time opportunity of owning a new home with the allocation of 8,981 house lots, 7,325 land titles were distributed. “There were also 25 core houses completed and another 59 commenced…in excess of 1,000 persons also accessed low interest financing valued at over $5.6B…, the One-Stop-Shop outreaches conducted in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 benefited over 36,000 persons,” Dr. Singh highlighted. This year, the Housing and Water Ministry is working to have a further 6, 500 houselots and 4,000 land titles distributed. Additionally, 200 core houses will be made available to underprivileged families, while the programme for professional groups will provide 200 teachers, nurses and policemen with fast track access to loans for home construction. Another public-private initiative, to ensure greater access to affordable housing has been the recent establishment of a turnkey housing initiative, Dr Singh said, which seeks to minimise the time taken between allocation, loan application and construction by immediately providing twobedroom houses to an additional 80 families by the end of the year. This year, the $192.8B budget will pave the way for home improvement subsidies to vulnerable groups benefiting 190 coastland and 100 Amerindian families. Improved roads, drains and structures in existing schemes such as Kokerite Hill, Uitvlugt, Herstelling, Bartica and Wisroc will also be undertaken under the infrastructure development programme. Housing and Water Minister, Irfaan Ali in an invited comment after the budget presentation, noted that, it is indeed a Guyanese budget. “This shows commitment by Government to ensure that not only we have the 100 percent access to housing and water, but also it will allow us to move towards pressure flow and improved quality,” Minister Ali said. Over the medium - term, Government will continue to invest in the water sector consolidating the gains made over the previous term especially in ensuring that all Guyanese have access to adequate supplies of safe potable water. In 2011, $1.8 B was spent in the water sector facilitating the construction and upgrading of distribution and transmission mains in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 benefiting in excess of 90,000 people. Ten kilometres of transmission mains were rehabilitated in Amelia’s Ward, Richmond Hill, and Wisroc, benefiting over 7,000 residents. Also 3,000 service connections were installed, 6 new boreholes completed, 17 new photovoltaic systems installed, 14 elevated storages units were constructed and 4 distribution systems installed in 4 Miles, Falls Top, Micobie, Kariako, and Kwebanna, Dr. Singh said. The sum of $2B has been allocated to improve the quality of water supply of which $900M is budgeted for the installation of approximately 20 kilometres of transmission and distribution
mains, the upgrading of water treatment plant systems and the completion of 4 boreholes benefiting approximately 233,900 residents. Water supply systems will also be upgraded as $100M is budgeted for works to be done at West Watooka, Wisroc, Christianburg, Richmond Hill and Canvas City. Additionally, $400M will go towards the construction of two new water treatment plants at Wisroc and Amelia’s Ward to benefit 30,000 residents. “Complementing these efforts, the Energy Efficiency Pilot Project, will address the need to improve energy use within GWI facilities through the installation of 12 energy efficiency devices at selected locations on the East Bank and West Demerara to reduce high start-up energy consumption in the water supply system,” he said. Government has always had the interest of Amerindians at heart and to continue on the path of providing quality way of life, over $150M was budgeted for the installation of 10 photo voltaic systems, upgrade of five existing water supply systems and the construction of medium depth boreholes that will benefit over 11,000 people. Physical infrastructure for continued transformation in 2012.GINA, March 30, 2012 More than $19.2B has been allocated for the improvement of the country’s physical infrastructure that will encompass works under roads and bridges, air and river transport and sea and river defence. “As we move to modernise and transform our economies to meet our development agenda, our physical infrastructure plays an extremely pivotal role…our focus is on creating efficient, safe and reliable national and ulterior road network through the country, aimed at strengthening collectivity for human and national development,” the Finance Minister said. Minister Singh emphasised that government is increasingly committed to improving the major arteries that link the hemispheric neighbours -Brazil and Suriname, whilst simultaneously creating linkages for the country’s productive sectors to facilitate expanded trade of goods and services. Roads and Bridges Network The Finance Minister said that for 2012 government will invest $11.8B to sustain and improve its roads and bridges network, of which $10.9B will be spent on roads and $964M on bridges. “Of this amount, $1.3B will be expended on the completion of 30.5 km of all weather roads in Black Bush Polder, East and West Canje…$2.2B for the upgrade, modernisation and expansion of the Four Lane Access Road to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), the Sheriff/Mandela Roadway…$5.5B is allocated to construct, rehabilitate and maintain urban, rural, community, and hinterland roads…$2.4B for the upgrade of 85 km of existing roads and construction of 110 km of virgin roads from Mabura Hill Road to Amaila Falls…$545M for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 20 critical structures from Belladrum to Rosignol, and for the rehabilitation of pontoons and cluster piles to extend the life of the Demerara Harbour Bridge,” Singh said. Air and River Transport 16
Noting that air and river transport infrastructure plays a crucial role in the economic progress of the country, Dr. Singh said that $4.5B has been budgeted for the upgrade, expansion and modernisation of CJIA. “$180M is budgeted for the rehabilitation of airstrips in Lethem, Imbaimadai and Ekereku Bottom and the ongoing maintenance of the country’s 43 airstrips in Regions 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9…$68M will be expended for high frequency radio and security systems, to improve air navigation services and safety…more than $717M is budgeted for the docking of vessels and acquisition of spares,” Dr. Singh said. Sea and River Defence Government continues to make significant investments to improve the stability or its natural and man-made sea defence structures for the protection of coastland and riverain areas as such $2.9B is budgeted for the continued protection of sea and river defences. “Critical and emergency works will be carried out in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and the replanting, restoration and protection of 10 km of mangrove is targeted for Regions 2, 3 and 4…government will also continue to implement its five year National Mangrove Management Action Plan for the protection of mangrove against human degradation,” the Finance Minister stated. He explained that $2.7B was spent during 2011 on the protection of approximately 10km of sea defence in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for critical and emergency works. The replanting of mangrove seedlings was also done in the areas such as Hope, Mon Repos, and Triumph. Additionally,$8.7B was expended during 2011 on the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of the country’s land transport network, which saw government making significant headway on noteworthy infrastructural development projects such as; the construction of all weather roads in Black Bush Polder, East and West Canje; the designs for widening Sheriff Street to Mandela Avenue and preparatory works for the widening of the East Coast Demerara Four Lane Highway between Better Hope and La Bonne Intention; the widening of the East Bank Demerara Four Lane Highway from Providence to Diamond; the upgrade of the CJIA access road; the rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of urban, rural and hinterland roads in all the Regions; rehabilitation of access roads from Mabura Hill Road to Amaila Falls; the upgrading of the Demerara Harbour Bridge and, installation of street lighting along main roads in Regions 2, 5 and 6. Budget allows for further social and economic expansion. GINA, April 4, 2012 “One of the hallmarks of successive PPP/Civic Governments has been our steadfast commitment to investment in the social sector, reflecting our firm conviction that there is no investment more important than that made in our people.” Those were the words of Finance Minister; Dr. Ashni Singh before he announced the 2012 allocations budgeted for the social sectors; whose very policies are designed with the Guyanese citizenry in mind. From the ever-increasing number of vehicles that traverse Guyana’s roadways on a daily basis to the emergence of vibrant housing schemes with the necessary supporting infrastructure, to the attainment of universal primary education with the highest school attendance rate to date, to the availability of modern health services, treated water at the turn of
a tap in several areas, and improved infrastructure, are only but a few examples of the services that are now at the disposal of Guyanese citizens countrywide. Recognising that education is the only way through which the plague of poverty can be eradicated, successive budgets under the PPP/C administration have always allocated the largest chunk to the education sector and this year, it is no different as a significant $26.5B has been provided, an increase of $2.2B from last year’s allocation, which was a $2.5B increase over the 2010 allocation. The obvious pattern of continuity that is reflected in successive budgets can therefore not be denied by even the toughest anti-government critic. No new taxes are introduced; increases across sectors are evident, and the working-class always emerge as beneficiaries from additional disposable income. Again this year, a massive threshold leap from $40,000 to $50,000 per month, will see some 21,000 people completely removed from the income tax net, and over $3B of additional disposable income will be placed in the hands of the working-class. While all of this is happening in 83,000 square miles Guyana with a small economy, sister CARICOM country, Barbados’ economy, notwithstanding the tax increases, recorded revenue earnings of $2M less in 2011 than it did in the previous year. Guyana on the other is experiencing its fifth year of real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent. In 2011, the domestic economy achieved real growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 5.4 percent (sixth consecutive year of positive growth in Guyana), inflation remained within acceptable norms at 3.3 percent, interest rates continued to trend downwards, and foreign exchange market remained buoyant and recorded a 17.7 percent increase in activity The economy is projected to extend its six-year stretch of uninterrupted growth into a seventh year in 2012, with overall growth projected at 4.1 percent, with the non-sugar economy projected to grow by 4.0 percent. Meanwhile, recently in Antigua, it was reported that the Government was looking to rake in $90M more by enforcing additional taxation. Guyana on the other hand, has been presented with yet another budget that entails no new taxes and with an increased income tax threshold that will guarantee every tax-paying worker more income. Only recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that, “ Jamaica’s ‘fragile’ economy faced ‘strong risk’ of a downturn with high unemployment, high government spending and lower tax revenue at home and high oil prices and an economic slowdown abroad.” On the other hand, it has commended Guyana for the robustness of its economy, while Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, described Guyana as the ‘Shining Star of the Caribbean”. In fact, the regional international outlook of the IMF identifies Guyana among the resource exporting countries of the Caribbean, and by extension, the most outstanding economic performer of recent years. Notably, in jurisdictions where new taxes are being introduced and benefits are being slashed, Guyana is prepared to spend billions in training teachers and medical professionals, building schools, roads, health facilities and other infrastructure, while at the same time increasing benefits such as old age pension, public assistance and has still managed to position itself for a 4.1 percent real economic growth. In light of all this, it came as no shock when Minister Singh concluded his debate saying that, “budget 2012 is built around objectives with which very few could rationally disagree. The achievement of higher levels of sustainable real growth in the economy, preserving the 18
conditions necessary for private investment and job creation, expanding and upgrading our country’s infrastructure, raising access to and improving quality in our social services and making steady advances on all of our key social indicators, further strengthening of our public institutions, goals that would readily be embraced by all.” Put nation before partisan positions – Speaker urges. GINA, April 10, 2012 As the 2012 National Budget debate kicked off today, Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman urged Members of Parliament (MPs) to put the national interest before partisan positions as the nation is watching. He also underscored the importance of the deliberations. Trotman called on Opposition MPs to not see the estimates as being there only to destroy, but rather as a framework on which much can be added. The Speaker said the 2012 budget should not be seen as written in stone ‘to be passed or defeated in a zero-sum winner-take-all competition, but rather as estimates to be debated, adjusted and finally and hopefully, adopted.’ “The nation is watching and waiting and over the next weeks and days, will expect to see unprecedented levels of respect, decorum and tolerance; commensurate with the title of honourable, the Members of this august House are privileged to carry,” he said. The exercise of presenting, debating and distilling the estimates, is power sharing in its purest form and as such, should be embraced and utilised for the national benefit for all, he urged. “Article 13 of the Constitution states that citizens, and their organisations, have a right to participate in decision-making with particular emphasis on these areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being. This is one such area,” the Speaker said. Citing the need for the day’s proceeding to be done in a just manner, the Speaker stated that the debates should be delivered to the people not only as the ‘best one ever’, but as a refined and necessary one. He therefore, committed to ensuring that over the period there is a lively, fiery, but yet nondestructive debate. The $192.8 Billion, 2012 National Budget was presented by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh to the House on March 30 under the theme, “Remaining on Course United in Purpose Prosperity for all”. “Budget 2012 comes to this House when the Guyanese economy is at its strongest in recent memory. Our productive base is showing increasing signs of resilience and dynamism and is more diversified than ever before, with real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years,” he said during the budget presentation. The budget highlights continuity of development with focus on infrastructure and people investments as in the latter category the income tax threshold is proposed to be increased from $40,000 to $50,000, as well as there are proposed increases for pensioners and public assistance recipients.
Nadir defends 2012 budget estimates. GINA, April 10, 2012 People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Member of Parliament (MP), Manzoor Nadir this evening defended the $192.8B, 2012 National Budget stating that it is a people’s budget, and which reflects another year of positive growth in the economy. Responding to arguments posed by Alliance for Change, MP, Moses Nagamootoo who stated that the 2012 estimates are taking more from Guyanese, than giving, Nadir called his presentation one of a confused person’s. Nadir stated that thus far, the country’s debt is half of what it was 20 years prior, due to Government’s prudent management of the economy, which has not only seen many more jobs created, but many of the working class being omitted from paying tax, due to the increase in the threshold. “This PPP/C Government has returned creditworthiness to the people of this country, taking it out of serious debt which the country was in prior to 1992. Mr. Speaker, we cannot do everything at the same time and what this sixth budget does is that it continues to keep us on course,” he said. Guyana’s deficit this year will be approximately 4.4 percent. The country ended 2011 with a 3.5 percent shortfall. Nadir in his defence commended the 4.4 percent of Gross Domestic Project (GDP), projection this year, as a more than manageable amount, which clearly shows the management the Government has brought to the economy. With respect to the increase in old age pension which is catered for, Nadir stated that the move should be commendable as the average pensioner will receive three pensions, at 55 years Government’s pension; 60 years- National Insurance Scheme pension and at 65 an additional incentive from the state. “Those Mr. Speaker who didn’t even work will get this pension. Including in this pension package is also a waiver of water rates of which 42,000 people are currently benefiting from. While the Finance Minister would like to do more, but putting the pension to $10,000, it would cost the country $630M more annually,” he said. Defending the $6B which will go towards subsidising electricity, Nadir stated that this move will see every household benefiting, since it will cushion the effects of rising oil prices. The injection of $4B to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), he said will see 20, 000 jobs being safeguarded. “For more than two decades the people of Region 10, were given the support because they needed it and this caring Government ensured that we can hold their hands, while at the same time trying to revive the sectors where the resources are,” he said. Nadir also expressed pleasure at the country’s inflation rate, noting that last year, the country was at three percent, despite the Opposition Members’ assertions that the country has failed due to mis-management. Nadir credited Government’s effort at creating and sustaining jobs countrywide, to the Administration’s fruitful programmes and policies which have been thoughtfully crafted and implemented over the years. Budget Debate 2012 -Guyana is moving apace– Minister Alli Baksh. GINA, April 10, 2012 Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Alli Baksh has stated that Guyana is moving apace in development, and because of the turnaround of the economy, many Guyanese are returning home from living abroad. 20
Making his debut presentation in the National Assembly, Minister Baksh in a direct rebuttal to Alliance For Change Member of Parliament Moses Nagamootoo, added that the 2012 National Budget is also encouraging them to return. Nagamootoo had stated that the fundamentals of the budget are wrong, that the budget was presented under the shadows of corruption and mismanagement, and that it was not balanced and proportionate. Minister Baksh’s presentation was in partial rebuttal to A Partnership for National Unity’s MP Vanessa Kissoon’s claim to little or no development in Linden. He also addressed Nagamootoo’s wider claim of the same lack around the country generally. Addressing the Linden issue, Minister Baksh pointed to the fact that Kwakwani and Linmine under the Budget would be receiving $1.8B and $23B in subsidies. He further pointed to allocations to Christianburg and Wismar. Addressing the issue of pensions, he noted that children and other relatives of pensioners are also accessing other subsidies from the administration such as public assistance and free health care, to supplement the pension amount. Focusing on the accusation of lack of development, Baksh outlined the achievements of the PPP/C administration in Region 2 including the development of 500 acres of land in the Aurora/HuistT’Dieren area which would encourage young people to economically develop themselves. Minister Baksh also pointed to the fact that two decades ago, rice farmers in Region 2 were faced with the negligence of the administration regarding infrastructure, drainage and irrigation. This resulted in the loss of large amounts of their crops. The construction and rehabilitation of sluices and pumping stations some of which are ongoing whilst some are completed, has ensured that the situation has now changed in that region. He also noted the development in the Pomeroon in the area of coconut production and non citrus crops and the increased export market for these products. The Junior Agriculture Minister added that Guyana is now exporting products to 18 countries around the world in Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Slamming the opposition for its political rhetoric, the new parliamentarian pointed to the rollon roll-off ferries that are soon to come on stream for the benefit of Essequibo residents. He pointed to the great relief it would give to farmers in particular, as well as other traders, in moving goods from one location to the next. As he concluded his presentation, Baksh again slammed the AFC MP, noting that when PPP/C officials visit communities, it is with the intention of addressing positively issues relating to the residents and the community, and not for political mileage. Baksh noted that this kind of rapport with communities is what Guyana needs and it is what leads to progress. He stated emphatically that the administration does not want that progress to cease. Greenidge ignores 50% increase in public sector wages since 2006. GINA, April 11, 2012 Carl Greenidge, Shadow Finance Minister and a Member of Parliament (MP) for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Tuesday opened the debate on the $192.8B, 2012 National Budget with a misguided call for Government to increase public sector wages by 20%. In doing 21
so, Greenidge ignored the fact that since 2006, with annual increases that are usually announced and paid retroactively at the end of the year, the wages of a public sector employee have increased by at least 50%. A hypothetical employee earning $30,000 at the end of 2005 would have received a cumulative increase of 71% in salary by the end of 2011 as shown in the table below: January 1, 2005 Hypothetical Salary - $30,000 Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Salary Increase (%) 7.0 5.0 9.0 16.3 6.0 5.0 8.0 Cumulative Hypothetical Salary increase Servant Salary 32,100 12.4 33,705 22.5 36,738 42.5 42,738 51.0 45,302 58.6 47,567 71.2 51,373 Public
On the other hand, a hypothetical employee earning $50,000 at the end of 2005 would have received a cumulative increase of 54.6 % by the end of 2011 as shown below: January 1, 2005 Hypothetical Salary - $50,000 Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Salary Increase (%) 7.0 5.0 9.0 5.0 6.0 5.0 8.0 Cumulative increase 12.4 22.5 28.6 36.3 43.1 54.6 SalaryHypothetical Public Servant Salary 53,500 56,175 61,231 64,292 68,150 71,557 77,282
These increases are even more impressive when compared against the global economic and financial crisis that has seen millions of civil servants all over the world, especially in developed countries such as the United States; face either pay freezes, pay cuts, unpaid work furloughs or redundancies. In addition to such healthy increases in public sector salaries, Government has also increased the income tax threshold from $25,000 to a proposed $50,000 in the current budget before the National Assembly, ensuring that employees get to keep more of the money that they earn. Minister Ali slams Greenidge - says he is in the wilderness on salary increases.GINA, April 11, 2012 Housing and Water Minister, Irfaan Ali on Tuesday defended the Government’s 2012 National Budget of $192.8B, noting that today the economy it at its strongest with real Gross Domestic Product growth averaging 4.4 percent over the last five years, compared to a country which saw several fiscal imbalances and a decline in GDP prior to 1992. 22
Minister Ali was responding to arguments posed by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Member of Parliament Carl Greenidge who described it as “largely self congratulatory and back slapping.” “We are much less indebted than we was 20 years ago. Mr. Speaker those are the contrasting realities of the economy of this country. We must not forget that there was a period of dictatorship in this country and this budget is formed under democratic rule,” he said. Responding to a claim by the Opposition Member that Guyana’s economy under the PPP/C Government has seen growth without employment, Minister Ali stated that the Administration does not fall prey to wishful policies which seek to score cheap political points. He cited the continuous increase in public servants’ salary over the years as an example. He added that the success of the fiscal programmes in the 2012 budget, seeks not only to consolidate the policy gains; but to advance the social and economic programmes which were initiated when Government assumed office in 1992. The Opposition MP called for public sector reform and a 20 percent increase in salaries across the board, but if the Administration was to heed Greenidge’s call, it would have to find an additional $5.6B to pay wages and salaries. “Mr. Speaker, I believe that we can safely say that Greenidge is in the wilderness… We have been continuously increasing the salaries for public servants, but when Greenidge says that we can increase salaries by 20 percent, he does not say what the implications for the economy are,” Minister Ali reminded. In 2010, $26.1B was paid in wages and salaries to public servants and $28.2 B in 2011, according to the 2011 Bank of Guyana half - year report. Minister Ali underscored that the Finance Minister during his March 30 presentation to the National Assembly, presented realistic numbers for projects that over the years, have taken the economy out of poverty due to their successes. “We came into Government when 38 percent of our people lived below the poverty line and as such, most of us in here would agree that the post-colonial growth story of Guyana prior to 1992 has been one of decline and stagnation,” he said. Defending assertions that the Finance Minister’s 2012 estimates are that of numbers in wonderland, Minister Ali reminded that Guyanese should not forget that Guyana was not always the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, as the PNC/R brought the country down to one of the weakest and sluggish economies, during their tenure. As such, he called for Guyanese to never allow the gains that were made under the PPP/C Government to be easily washed away with bad planning, polices and management, which were evident prior to 1992. “Gross National Product (GNP) per capita declined from US$720 in 1980 to US$290 in 1989… Approximately 67 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 1989, compared to 55 percent in 1980,” Minister Ali said. The Housing and Water Minister also recalled, when in the past, several items were banned, under the Opposition rule where there were evidence of erosion of democracy and freedom of 23
choice. On the issue of housing and water advancement, Minister Ali stated that thousands stand to benefit from the $3.6B which will see increased access to affordable housing. Statistics have shown have 82,000 house lots were distributed from 1993 to 2009 and Government is aiming to have several thousands more and 4000 titles processed and distributed this year. Minister Ali said that should the Opposition see the need to vote against the passage of the 2012 National Budget, then, “They should be judged very harshly.” School feeding, uniform assistance programmes set to continue. GINA, April 11, 2012 In the 2012 National Budget over $1B has been allocated towards the continued implementation of the National and Hinterland School Feeding Programmes. In 2012 a similar amount was allocated for the same programmes and saw over 63,000 children countrywide benefiting. Over the last three years the PPP/C Administration has spent over $2.5B on providing snacks and meals for school children. It was initially introduced as part of a poverty eradication project aimed at assisting families who are unable to provide sufficient meals for their children. The Education Ministry funds three feeding programmes namely the juice and biscuit programme, the hot meals and the cassava bread and juice programmes; both of which are implemented in the hinterland. The juice and biscuit component caters for students of nursery schools and primary students in Grade 1 and 2 while the hot meals are given to students in Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9. In 2010, an impact assessment on Guyana’s hinterland based school feeding programme by the EFA/FTI indicated positive impacts on enrollment, attendance, classroom behaviour, participation and students’ nutritional balance. The 2012 budget also provides for the continuation of the School Uniform Programme which reiterates the current Administration’s commitment towards improving attendance, participation rates, and attainment levels, by ensuring that every child has the basic necessities for school. Over $266M was expended in 2011 to ensure each child has a uniform for school. This programme commenced in 2002 under the purview of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, and aimed at boosting school attendance in rural, riverain and hinterland communities thereby ensuring needy children received a uniform to attend school. Budget 2012 created after much consideration – PM. GINA, April 11, 2012 As the 2012 National Budget debate continued today, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds rebutted A Partnership for National Unity’s MP, Volda Lawrence’s claims that the budget estimates do not reflect good governance and improved social services. Mr. Hinds, who noted that Government remains heartened at the progress the country has made in less than two decades of PPP/C rule, said that thus far the country has seen per capita GDP in nominal terms rising from US$300 in 1992, to US$2,870 at the end of 2011.
“Madam Speaker, with the trend we have achieved, of positive growth and development averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years, there is reasonableness in the call to remain on course,” he said. The Prime Minister made a call for citizens to forsake anyone who may seek to dampen their spirits with accusations of Government discriminating and marginalising when it comes to development. “The Government believes that everyone of us must make effort, strive, contribute so that altogether as a nation, we can prosper…Madam Speaker, many were loud and let their imagination run wild, being sure of corruption in their questioning about the Amaila falls Hydro project, the CJIA upgrade and the Mariott hotel project,” he said. In the past, several speculations have surfaced by sections of the media, questioning the credibility of Government projects especially the latter. Mr. Hinds stated that while the assertions have been put to rest, all political parties should join forces to ensure the timely completion of the said projects. He called on the Opposition to desist from opposing projects, only for the sake of opposing and for naysayers to be mature enough to be vocal with respect to findings, after perusing documents presented to them upon request. Responding to arguments with respect to electricity subsidy, the Prime Minister stated that thus far, hundreds of households have benefited under Government’s Hinterland Electrification programme (HEP). “Madam Speaker, we are also working towards financial closure and ground-breaking before the end of this year,” he said. Government being cognizant of the welfare of its people has been bargaining to keep sustainable prices for electrical energy low, and has sealed several cooperation deals with partners to access soft loans, such as China and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Linden has also benefited from subsidised electricity, despite the Opposition’s claims that Government has been biased to Lindeners due to their political affiliations and, Mr. Hinds, while mentioning the many developments in the mining town under the PPP/C tenure, also reminded the Opposition of a statement made by a former Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham. Quoting from a July 23, 1976 article, Burnham was on record as saying that, “I do not promise that you will get cheaper electricity than other people, because as Prime Minister I cannot have favourites…I am Prime Minister of the Republic of Guyana, not for the Republic of Linden. Get that straight once and for all.” Lawrence’s assertion of the 2012 budget as anti-poor and anti-vulnerable also came in for criticism from the Prime Minister, who stated that much has been catered for in the budget; noting that, apart from the rise in the income tax threshold to $50,000, an additional 450 jobs will be created in the Upper Berbice area alone. “Over the last dozen years, Linden has been steadily growing and community power has doubled, while the subsidy has tripled. A sound future must be built for Linden, a future in which domestic, business activities are not curtailed by the necessity and availability of monies to subsidise electricity prices,” he said.
In line with this, Government has proposed to have several projects initiated by July including;merging the supply area of LUSCL into LECI; align the classification of customers in Linden with that of GPL, and adopt the tariff schedule of GPL and calculate the monthly electricity bill in accordance with the GPL tariff. According to the Prime Minister, this move will not only see customers paying half of the bill calculated for the remaining of 2012, but also bauxite pensioners will receive the first 100 Kwh each month at no cost. “Madam Speaker in closing I wish to remind the Opposition who claimed that the budget is a continuity at its worst, that no new taxes were created; no increase in electricity tariffs; increase in public assistance and old age pension…budget 2012 being large is not by default, but countless hours of thorough consideration of the state of the economy,” the Prime Minister said. Budget 2012 premised on sustainability- Rev. Dr. Gilbert. GINA, April 11, 2012 People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, Rev. Dr. Kwame Gilbert in his 2012 budget presentation last evening said that one of the external elements of every budget is the accompanying socio-political and socio-economical expectations of every citizen. However, the fact remains that the business of the economy will not always unfold in a manner that will meet the expectations of everyone but, the job of the PPP/C is to ensure that regardless or mindful of those expectations, the 2012 national budget is reflective of the most effective and fiscally sound management of the economy that redounds to the social and economic wellbeing of all Guyanese. Dr. Gilbert explained that the Opposition will do its utmost to show that the budget is wrong for the country as is expected of them; however, he noted that, “when we have all had our say, it is expected that we would put aside our political posturing and pontificating to ensure that the budget is passed.” He highlighted that the path to a brighter future that Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh alluded to in his budget speech, is not one that Government is seeking to find today and as such the budget cannot be examined in an isolated context, divorced from previous budgets. “This budget must be viewed as another chapter in the developmental blueprint of the Government of to move Guyana closer and closer to the realisation of our true potential and moving all our people unto this pathway of a brighter future for all…This path began as far back as 1992, when political democracy was restored to Guyana and continued with every successive budget presented to this National Assembly since then…and while we are not where we want to be, we are not where we used to be,” Dr. Gilbert posited. He said that there were many commendable points raised by the Opposition with regards to the budget; but questioned if those recommendations were sustainable in the context of Guyana’s current economic circumstances. On the other hand, while the measures outlined in budget 2012 may not pass the test popular or public expectations, they will definitely pass the test of sustainability. During the course of the final session, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) members Desmond Trotman and Keith Scott also delivered their presentations on the budget; both of whom echoed the sentiment that it is not acceptable in its present form.
GuySuCo well-positioned to overcome challenges - Minister Ramsammy. GINA, April 11, 2012 Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy this evening in his presentation on the 2012 National Budget debate said that the $4B that GuySuCo is slated to receive will be going towards an industry that has supported Guyana for decades and continues to spend $1.8B annually for community drainage and provide medical services at the cost of $270 M per year for its workers. He lamented that the Opposition has been harping continuously about mismanagement within the industry but, no one sought to analyse the impact of the 36 percent European price cut and the $8B loss per annum that resulted. Further, they failed to acknowledge that the industry has had to cushion the impact of the value of the Euro verses the US dollar. He noted that, “if it were not for the workers of GuySuCo, this industry would have failed a long time ago and, in spite of their concerns and difficulties, the sugar workers have responded because they know that this industry is important to them, their community and this country and for that reason I stood firm that no matter what it takes, sugar workers must be guaranteed their Annual Production Incentive (API) payment.” The Minister also said that the management of the sugar industry, which is so often criticised, has the interest of the industry at heart and, has been able to manage it in a manner that places the company in good stead to overcome the enormous challenges. In 2011, revenue increased by $6.4B and there is a projected increase of $1.2B this year. This is due mainly to better price negotiations, strategies in the export market, and an increase in value-added products. Turning his attention to the economy, the Minister said that Guyana is rated as one of the best countries in the Caribbean in terms of debt management (below 47 percent). He was at the time responding to the Alliance for Change (AFC) member, Moses Nagamootoo whose presentation created the impression that Guyana is currently more indebted than ever before. At present, Guyana’s debt stands at less than $1B compared to where it stood at $2.1B in 1992; with foreign debt being 700 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at that time.“We are better off today though we may not be as better off as all of us would want…today more people have jobs, earn better salaries, own their own homes, and have access to better healthcare, potable water, improved sanitation, electricity supply and education,” he said. The Agriculture Minister said many challenges still exist, which Government stands firmly committed to overcome at all costs. Responding to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) member, Ronald Bulkan who lamented the decline in the fisheries sector, Minister Ramsammy said that even though this is a fact, all the other sub-sectors within the agriculture sector have increased and are flourishing immensely, particularly rice. He went on to explain that the decrease was a deliberate move as Guyana’s export of marine fish had to be carefully managed. “Agriculture has always been important to our development and budget 2012 continues the tradition of investment in agriculture in such a manner that it must retain its place as indispensible on our development trajectory,” he said. 27
This year, more than $15.6B has been budgeted for the sector; in 2011 more than $10B was expended; while in 2010, over $9B. The 2012 investments translate to more than $100 per capita for agriculture compared to $5 per capita in 1991. Agriculture has always been a catalyst in Guyana’s development and today it contributes almost 25 percent to the economy, accounts for more than 33 percent of direct employment and generates almost 50 percent of export earnings. “We will intensify our efforts to diversify and modernise the sector, overcoming barriers that presently exist. We will continue to: enhance genetic stocks with improved varieties of crops and breeds of livestock, seek to improve access to more affordable fertilisers, more effective financing arrangements, improve availability and access to land, further enhanced drainage and irrigation and farm to market roads, ensure stronger and wider markets and enhance weatherrelated disaster management,” he said. Minister Ramsammy said that water management is not a new priority for agriculture and this will continue. He reminded the House that the Dawa, Manarabisi, and Mibicuri pumps were all dysfunctional prior to 1992 and, added that out of the 52-74 area, of the 22,000 acres of land only 1,000 acres could have been cultivated as a result of lack of water. Additionally, several major sluices had also become non-functional such as Cozier, Pomeroon, Canje, Friendship, East Bank Demerara, Canal No.2, Cunha, Golden Grove, Victoria, Alness, and Buxton. “Over the last decade, we have replaced all the sluices and all the pumps are operational…the Northern Relief Channel at Hope has been advanced in 2011, this will ensure discharge directly into the Atlantic; reducing the dependency on discharge into the Lama and Maduni Sluices,” the Agriculture Minister stated. Moreover, this year, the relief channel from Johanna, Black Bush Polder leading to the Atlantic Ocean will be constructed. Opposition budget presentations lack content-Dr. V. Persaud. GINA, April 11, 2012 As the 2012 National budget debate continued today, Member of Parliament from the government’s side Dr.VindyaPersaud during her debut presentation in the National Assembly expressed her disappointment with the presentations made thus far by the opposition as their speeches were bereft of content. Dr. Persaud in quoting Moses Nagamootoo’s 1995 speech, said ‘ let not your words be empty but your hearts be filled with compassion for the people of Guyana and work together to make the debate meaningful that will work for the welfare and prosperity of the people’.“This Budget is not empty words but a rational review of the development of the country and where we are going,” Dr.Persaud said. In her rebuttal of remarks made by opposition spokesman on finance, former Finance Minister under the PNC, Carl Greenidge on accountability, she said that he has a dismal record in that area. “I feel tall that the PPP/C government changed that trend…this government ensured that the country’s finances were subjected to auditing and presenting within the statutory limits of 28
the constitution…the crafting of this budget amidst international and domestic vicissitudes to reflect a decrease in international debt and a growth in key sectors is a reflection of judicious management of the finances of this country by the current administration,” Dr. Persaud said. In addressing remarks penned in Greenidge’s 1988 budget presentation which read “one of the most glaring consequences of our prolonged physical crisis has been our inability to maintain social and economic infrastructure’, she said that under the PNC regime which Greenidge served as Finance Minister, Guyana was dubbed as the poorest country of the hemisphere, however today, the PPP/C government has reversed this trend and has moved Guyana forward. “I have no intention on harping on the past but move you forward to the current level of development…young people are now given every opportunity to give expression to their talent and skill in any field of human endeavour…the world is travelling at a fast past in the evolution of technology, youth are definitely being encouraged to move with the times…the government’s visionary Information Communication Technology sector was not derived in isolation…one can see the link between the sector and the provision of resources, training and the provision of jobs,” the MP said. She added that government’s ICT Technology has outstripped that in the Caribbean as it understands the need for young people to be technically au fait as such its One Laptop Per Family initiative, provides young people with the opportunity of acquiring the necessary skills to face the fast paced global world changes. Young people are being trained by the opposition to depend on handouts but rather the current administration will be equipping them with skills through programmes such as the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training Programme which would cause them to de independent. Responding to MP John Adams’ claim that government has turned a blind eye to the development of education for Region Three, Dr. Persaud said that the wise investments made by government have realised decentralized access to quality education which now allows students admittance to education in their communities. “The multi-pronged approach and thrust to carve out young minds in and out of school, improving their academic credentials and providing them with the tools to access education at every level is now available to every Guyanese be it from the rural, urban or the hinterland communities…more schools populate Guyana…there is obvious rehabilitation going on in schools, there is development of facilities conducive to learning, there is improvement in scientific equipment necessary for academic prowess…in the hinterland there are a number of schools which have increased along with the number of students…the Paramakatoi secondary now holds more than 700 students, Santa Rosa now holds more than 300 students and a new Secondary school will be built in Kato,” she said. Region Three recently benefitted from two new investments which will serve to tremendously boost the education sector, as a secondary school was opened in Leonora along with a Technical and Vocational Training Centre. “That is what the government is all about, universal access and opportunity and catering for the wellbeing of every single Guyanese…the generous allocation of $26.5B is not only an investment in our youth but a legacy that will not be forgotten,” Dr. Persaud said. She added that the previous debaters made presentations that give one the impression that things were done when this is not so.
“I am not going to say that everything has been done…if you were true to yourself you would admit that things have been done…things continue to happen and will continue to happen if we can work together for the future of Guyana and our people,” Dr. Persaud said. Rebutting APNU’s Dr. George Norton’s presentation where he discredited the HPV vaccine, Dr. Persaud said that the doctor has presented the country with half truths and distortions. “I want to let him know that as a female and a doctor I disagree with his standpoint on the HPC Vaccine. I would hate to tell my daughter and countless of young women in the future when they reach in their 30s that they are having cervical cancer because this has been stopped, if you look at the authoritative website and literature you will see the Council for Disease Centre, PAHO and WHO listing the benefits of the HPV Vaccine and the one currently being administered in Guyana…cervical cancer is the leading cause of death for women in Guyana…in the future I would hope that Dr. Norton be fully equipped with information to present the people of this country with responsible dissemination,” Dr. Persaud said. With respect to APNU’s Vanessa Kissoon’s statement that nurses in Linden are forced to work in deplorable conditions and long hours, moreso the hospital is a white elephant and ill equipped, Dr. Persaud said ,“don’t ‘diss’ those people who work at the hospital”. “They told me this morning that they provide as many services in that hospital as the Georgetown Hospital…they are proud of what they do,” she said. Gov’t recognises importance of investing in people – Minister Webster. GINA, April 12, 2012 Minister of Human Services and Social Security Jennifer Webster during the 2012 budget debate on April 11, reiterated Government’s commitment to its people as manifested in the provision, promotion and protection of the rights of all citizens, with special emphasis on women, children, the elderly and the disadvantaged. Minister Webster’s affirmation was to refute claims by Opposition Member of Parliament Volda Lawrence that Government has overlooked the improvement of social services in the 2012 National Budget. Minister Webster highlighted some of the key people - centered services that were initiated by the PPP/C Government to ensure that no one is discriminated against. In the area of child care and protection services, Minister Webster affirmed that Government has made “significant strides in providing homes for children in need of refuge, counselling and support services for families in crisis, foster care and adoption services where these are deemed the best possible options for some of our children.” Childcare services The National Foster Care Programme, the Childcare and Protection Agency, Childcare Development and Services Act( 2011) are among the primary programmes that cater for the needs and protection of the country’s children. Through the National Foster Care Programme over 100 children were placed in foster homes while the Childcare and Protection Agency which was commissioned in 2011 has recorded an 30
increase in the number of child abuse cases investigated from 3,377 in 2010 to 3,653 cases in 2011. A total of 489 children have since been removed from abusive situations and placed in safe homes, she said. The Sophia Care Centre which currently houses 180 children between the ages of 5 to 18 years is now among three facilities which are owned and managed by the Government. This facility provides holistic care to young children including specialised counselling services, and will undertake programmes to improve the development of children in fields such as music, dancing, art and craft and Information Technology. Meanwhile, the Mahaica Children’s Home will be upgraded to provide better care exclusively for young teenage girls who are victims of sexual abuse. Minister Webster alluded to some of the plans that are in the pipeline for Government which include the construction of a half way house to accommodate youths who have attained the age of 17 and have to leave the formal care system; the regulation of the quality of Child Care services through the implementation of the Childcare Development and Services Act (2011) and the expansion of the National Foster Care Programme towards achieving the long - term goal of placing every child in need in a family. Women In response to Lawrence’s call for Government to address the increase in sexual violence against women and to protect them, Minister Webster made reference to a recent forum held by the Guyana Women Lawyers Association where all stakeholders including NGOs advocating for women’s rights, resolved to work towards further strengthening the relevant laws including the Sexual Offences Act. She also alluded to a number of Government programmes and policies to empower women, especially single parents such as the Women of Worth Programme through which 864 single women accessed loans from the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry to support small business development in 2011. In 2012, approximately 500 single parents will benefit from this initiative which will be extended to Regions One and Seven. The Elderly and Vulnerable Government has seen the need for a comprehensive approach to address the needs of those deemed vulnerable as the Centre for the Rehabilitation and Re-integration of the Homeless at Onverwagt, to cater for the homeless will be completed this year. Minister Webster emphasised Government’s concern for pensioners and the elderly since its accession to office in 1992 when its first priority was to abolish the means test employed by the former PNC administration to determine eligibility for old age pension, and instead made it possible for every Guyanese, 65 years and over to receive an old age pension. “It is this Government Madam Speaker, who ensured that every year pensions were increased. In fact, from 1992 to 2006 the amount payable had increased almost 17 fold to $3,500. In 2012, 42,000 pensioners will benefit from monthly pension,” she said.
Government’s commitment to the elderly aims to address a package of support services ranging from health care, nutrition, institutional care, direct financial subsidy for water, travel passes, assistance with medical bills and the provision of spectacles through the Eye Care Guyana initiative. Legal Aid Services Minister Webster underscored the importance of Legal Aid services for which $32.338M is being provided in the 2012 budget. She restated Government’s position that no one in Region 10 or any other region who cannot afford legal services will ever be denied access to those services. Hence, “our work will never be done, until every woman, man, child, senior citizen and those vulnerable persons in need have access to the best possible social services that a Government is able to provide,” she stated. GPHC not whole health sector – Dr Mahadeo. GINA, April 12, 2012 Guyana’s Health Sector came under focus during the 2012 National Budget Debate Partnership for National Unity Member of Parliament Dr. George Norton, Head Ophthalmology Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and Dr. Mahadeo, CEO of the New Amsterdam Hospital and Head of the Berbice Regional Authority, for the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration squaring off. with A of the Vishwa Health
In a blazing display of freedom of expression sanctioned by the current administration, Dr. Norton, a contracted Government employee, slammed the Health Authorities over the GPHC and also pointed accusing fingers in the direction of the Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant; the new proposed Specialty Hospital; nurses and the Nursing School; the Eye Department and what the opposition has brought to a controversial position, the HPV vaccine. As he rebutted the presentation, Dr. Mahadeo informed his medical colleague and the House, that the GPHC was not the whole health sector. Dealing with the issue of maternal deaths and child health raised by Dr. Norton, the PPPC MP concurred that any avoidable death is a death that should worry authorities; however, this was so not only for maternal deaths but all deaths. At this point Dr. Mahadeo focused on the HPV vaccine which was not only introduced in Georgetown, but in Region 6 as well. Dr. Norton in his presentation had stated that there are serious issues with the vaccine which some feel is “unnecessary and dangerous to life”. Dr. Mahadeo debunked this view by explaining that 60% of the children in Region 6 have already received their first dose, and more than 150 have gotten their second dose despite the targeted campaign against it. Referring to information from PAHO and WHO, he stated that the HPV vaccine being used in Guyana covers four viruses, of which two are very malignant. On the issue of poor facilities and services at the GPHC, Linden Hospital and the Ophthalmology Hospital, Dr. Mahadeo noted that the APNU MP presented only the negative. He noted that pointedly no mention was made of the new hospitals at Diamond, Leonora, Suddie and Port Mourant.
Regarding the issue of the Nurses Association and training programmes, Dr. Mahadeo pointed out that it was the Nursing Council that certifies these, and that the Nurses Association had a representative on the Council. He also pointed to the fact that there was a 100% pass rate for the last midwifery exams held at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing. He noted also, that at the GPHC, there are post - graduate training programmes in emergency medicine, surgery and pediatrics. A programme will soon come on stream for gynaecology and obstetrics. Regarding some issues at Linden raised by Dr. Norton, Dr. Mahadeo sharply rebuked him for not mentioning the fact that there had been no maternal deaths there for 2011. He also reprimanded the opposition parliamentarian for not mentioning that there is training for ophthalmologists at the GPHC. Dr. Norton had attempted to show that poor eye care facilities at the GPHC led to persons seeking attention elsewhere and being taken by the Health Ministry to the Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant. The PPPC, MP was curious to know what was wrong with the Ministry taking those persons there at no cost, paying for their surgeries, and returning them home. He observed that before cataract surgery became easily available in Guyana, surgeries were deliberately delayed so that patients would have to seek attention outside of the public health system. At that time, the cost of surgery was around $200,000. Today, because the backlog of such cases no longer exists, private cataract surgery now costs only about $25,000 to $30,000. He noted while the health care system in Guyana has come a long way, there is still much more to be done. Minister Ramsaran slams Opposition for bigotry and misinformation. GINA, April 12, 2012 Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran tonight slammed the opposition for their display of bigotry, and for sending ill advised and uncalled for misinformation to the Guyanese people through the National Assembly. The Minister’s presentation was focused on clearing misconceptions surrounding the health sector. Minister Ramsarran stated that while the Health Ministry has done well, particularly during challenging periods, some things were achieved that may have gone unnoticed. He pointed out that the Ministry of Finance has contributed greatly to the health infrastructure that has laid the foundation for the positive turnaround of the sector. Investment in the first wave of health infrastructure focused on Diamond, Leonora, Suddie, Mahaicony, Mabaruma and Lethem hospitals, and the Ophthalmology centre at Port Mourant. The flagship infrastructural investment for the 2nd wave of infrastructural improvement for the health sector will be the Specialty Hospital to be built not far from the University of Guyana, just a few minutes out of the city. The National Budget has made special provision of $672M for that hospital. Consolidated on what is already there, “this comes from the joint effort between the Government of Guyana, with a line of credit from India,” Minister Ramsaran stated.
Pointing out that this hospital is going to be a key and critical facility, he noted that since many persons have sought medical treatment overseas, it has cost the administration financially. It is for this reason that the administration has decided to build the hospital. He duly credited the project to former President Bharat Jagdeo. The Health Minister used his presentation to clear misconceptions by the opposition, who made comments that were ill advised and uncalled for surrounding the initial stages of preparations for this hospital. He disclosed that Bovell Construction Services of Albouystown, a small but growing Guyanese company, has won the bid to begin site preparations which have already started. Minister Ramsaran slammed the opposition for suggesting to the nation, through the National Assembly that the Government had spent $29M to clear the land. He stated that works have recently been hampered by rain and overtopping along sections of the East Coast. Up to March 15, 10% of the preparation of the site was been done, including the construction of fences, digging and construction of internal and external drains and the erection of sturdy bridges among other works. The Health Minister chided his opposing colleagues for imparting misinformation to the nation without knowing or for being unwilling to make themselves knowledgeable of the facts. Referring to objections raised over the fact that India has funded the proposed hospital, Minister Ramsaran noted that when in the recent past, with the assistance of Cuba, five hospitals were built in Guyana and manned by approximately 70 Cubans, there was no concern expressed that the Cubans were going to colonise Guyana. He stated however, that when India provided the finance to build a state- of -the- art hospital in Guyana, in a display of bigotry, the question was posed about why the Indians had to build it. “This could be misconstrued to mean anti-India. This was an unfortunate lapse in judgment. These are the things we have to confront,” the Minister stated. He added that the investments in infrastructure will go hand in hand with other investments such as the training of technical staff. The National Budget has allocated $3878 M for the training of staff to man the Specialty Hospital and other health facilities. Gov’t could not perennially subsidise Linden electricity cost- Minister Whittaker. GINA, April 12, 2012 Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker, on day three of the 2012 budget debate, in defending the electricity tariff increase in Linden said that the PPP/C administration has reached out overtime to assist the people of Linden. “While government was providing electricity subsidies in Linden, Guyanese in many other parts were paying a tariff that was ten times higher than that being paid in Linden…it was inevitable that with rising fuel prices, the low electricity tariff charged to consumers would have to be adjusted with the national rate…we could not continue to perennially subsidise the cost of electricity in Linden at that level,” Minister Whittaker said.
Government for many years bailed out the bauxite industry in Linden to safeguard the jobs of Lindeners.“The PNC brought in an Australian group to close the industry but the PPP/C kept it alive to keep the jobs of the people of Linden and of Kwakwani…we have been subsidising electricity cost for those two communities from time immemorial,” Minister Whittaker said. Since Dr. Ashni Singh on March 30, read the 2012 National Budget estimates, and announced that there will be increases to the tariff paid by Lindeners for electricity, the government came in for widespread criticism from the joint opposition parties, which stemmed two protest actions. Responding to Opposition remarks that this was done because Linden did not vote for the administration; Minister Whittaker said that Linden currently receives more support than any other community.“On a per capita basis, Lindeners receive more assistance from the PPP government than many other communities…we are aware that along the road towards realising development for the country hard choices and decisions are to be made…the administration stands ready to accept that and rise above the challenges that they will meet along the road…its record of achievements is there for all to see,” Minister Whittaker said. He added that he is aware that those who scheme daily to thwart the genuine efforts of the government to transform the social and economic landscape of the country into one that opens continuously, opportunities for all, have little to offer and less to add. “Their criticisms are not matched by ideas or proposals of any worth…we must see the pronouncements for what they are-mere distractions and attempts to take away from the Guyanese people their success story,” Minister Whittaker said. Opposition budget presentations prejudiced and uninformed-Minister Whittaker. GINA, April 12, 2012 Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development Norman Whittaker, on day three of the 2012 National budget debate submitted that the Opposition’s presentations that preceded him were discriminatory and uninformed. “They can see nothing progressive coming out of these budgets but someone needs to explain why, according to universally accepted economic indicators, Guyana has been doing well,” Minister Whittaker said. In rebutting the presentation of Opposition MP Jennifer Wade who said that there is no improvement in the standard of living for those in Region Five and much more could have been boasted about, Minister Whittaker said that development is a process, it does not happen overnight. “If the Honourable Member Jennifer Wade could understand that, then she could appreciate why it is that you cannot always have delivered to you, projects that you may want, needs that you may want satisfied at the time when you want them,” Whittaker said. He continued that the other budgets that the administration presented to the House took cognizance of the fact that resources are very strictly limited. “Try as we may, we will never ever be able to satisfy all of the wants of the people at the same time, we need to try to accept this…the budget has been for us a tool which we have effectively, efficiently utilised over the years…we have consistently and persistently pursued a policy of development which offers opportunities for all, but the Opposition needs to come onboard and not stay on the side line,” Minister Whittaker said. 35
Minister Whittaker in addressing remarks made by the Opposition which said that their plans were not reflected in the budget, stated that, “The budget process is guided by the process of equal opportunities and upliftment for all and by our focus on continuing to work to remove poverty…the administration held extensive public consultations and forged strategies such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy and its Millennium Development Goals and based on the results of such consultations, provisions were made in the budget out of the best interest of the people,” Minister Whittaker said. In rebutting remarks made by APNU Member Dr. Rupert Roopnarine who said that the budget presentation is a performance, Whittaker responded that the only performance is that coming from the economy. “The economy’s performance has been ‘par excellence’…budget allocation in 2006 was $102.9B, in 2012 it is $192.8B…real growth in 2011 is 5.7% at a time when the economies of Caricom were struggling to achieve 1% growth and at a time when many of the economies in Europe and North America were experiencing difficulties Guyana recorded growth…yet the Opposition tells me that government’s programmes and policies are not workyou are not working,” Minister Whittaker said. He said that these indicators are showing for those who have eyes to see that the country’s economy has been improving, as these impressive gains and services can only be explained by the policies, plans, programmes and objectives of the current administration. Dispelling the remarks made by Dr. Roopnarine that rice production has indeed increased under this administration, but is due to factors outside the government, Minister Whittaker said that the performance in rice is due to a number of factors that were implemented by government. “It is due to more cultivation…the fact that we have been able to acquire yields that can withstand natural factors…a lot of resources have been put into drainage and irrigation…this sector is poised for major expansion therefore our continuous process on improvement of drainage and irrigation is a very important and timely position,” Minister Whittaker. Rebutting remarks made Roopnarine that a lot of what is done centrally should be handled at the region; Minister Whittaker said that ‘we cannot go outside of the existing legislation. “The legislation 28:01, 28:02 Chapter 12 of 1980…these pieces of legislation were developed by the PNC and it has to be that the PNC wanted to put a leash on the local government bodies…they were blessed with the services of a lot of legal luminaries, therefore I find it difficult to understand and appreciate that they did not factor in the kind of changes in the legislation that they want to see happening today…we would like to see that happen and has been taking steps towards that…all of what you are asking for today is not covered by the existing legislation and we have to start by understanding that,” Minister Whittaker said. He said while government views the holding of local government elections as integral in improving the level of services offered in the communities, whilst waiting on the opposition for a consensus, at the level of the Ministry it has been taking steps to empower and build capacity at the level of the Ministry “We are of the view that many of the local government staff are not performing but when we take steps to relocate them with the expectancy that perhaps there would be a renewed enthusiasm, vigour…while we take time to train them and replete the number of councillors of areas where they are depleted you do not allow us to do that,” Minister Whittaker. Countering remarks that not enough finances are allocated to the Regions, he said that members must understand that every region cannot get the same allocation as resource allocations are 36
dependent on a number of factors, principally what is available and their ability to utilise what is available Dr Gopaul slams Opposition for denying workers have been provided for. GINA, April 13, 2012 During his debut presentation in support of Budget 2012, Minister of Labour Dr. Nanda Gopaul stirred unease within the Opposition camp when he focused on the history of the working class from 1984 to the current period. Dr. Gopaul responded to the issue raised by Opposition Members of Parliament that pensions and workers’ salaries should have seen more increases. He observed that when demands are made for increased benefits and salaries, the issue must be looked at in an evenhanded manner, while examining where the money would come from. Pointing out that in 1998 the minimum wage was $11,445 per month, Dr. Gopaul said by the end of 2011,it had increased by 197% to $34,055, “equally for the rate of inflation during that period, the overall aggregate rate was 83.3% or an average of 5.9% per annum. The average wage increase during that period was 14.0%,” the Labour Minister stated. He explained that this was actually protecting the real wages of the workers, unlike the situation which existed during the 1975 to 1985 period. The Labour Minister further explained fundamentally what happened within the wages sector. He noted that in 1984 Parliamentarians on the then PNC Government side of the House moved to upturn an Act of Parliament that restored increments in the Temal vs Guysuco case, by passing a Labour Amendment Act. “We had to challenge that decision, and take the issue right up to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the legislation was against natural justice, was intolerable and they struck down parts of that law and so increments were restored and some people benefitted,” the Labour Minister declared. In an appeal to the Opposition Bench, Minister Gopaul stated, “we should never ever get back to the point where our people feel oppressed, where they have to go to the streets to demand and to get their rights. These should be given to them by our leaders who are legislators and, who are in the decision making process.” He pointed to the 1980s when nearly 6,000 public servants were sent home under the guise of retrenchment, “They were given a single day’s notice, and some of them were paid merely a month’s pay in lieu of notice. In some cases some were given one week’s pay. Thousands did not benefit from any severance pay whatsoever.” To avoid any possible repeat of such a scenario Dr. Gopaul explained, “the PPP to ensure that justice is done to workers, enacted the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act to bring benefits to the workers in this country, and to ensure that people with years of service are given payment to a maximum of 52 weeks, in cases with those of long services.” Other legislation enacted under the PPP/C administration for the benefit of workers includes Occupational Health and Safety as well as Anti Discrimination legislation. Additionally, the Trade Union Recognition Act was enacted, an issue which had surfaced in Guyana since the 1950s, “went to Parliament several times but was unable to see the light of day”. The PPP/C has ensured that through this Act, workers could have the union of their choice through a democratic process. Dr. Gopaul expressed the belief that with such steps taken, Guyanese workers are very comfortable. Nevertheless, he noted that while the administration does not believe that the current wages structure is at the right level, it has to be dispensed based on the ability of the country to meet all other needs. 37
Minister Gopaul pointed out that increasing the income tax threshold to $50,000 per month, “in effect what is happening is that you are giving the workers at the bottom one additional month’s pay right off the bat, an equivalent of 8% salary increase.” Additionally, he noted while this is being given to the workers immediately, the budget also caters for an additional increase in 2012. More focus on creating Conducive learning environments. GINA, April 13, 2012 The PPP/C Government has showed its unwavering vision of ensuring that all school aged children are provided with conducive learning environments and this was again emphasised by Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh during the presentation of the 2012 National Budget on March 30. The budget was presented under the theme “Remaining on Course: United in Purpose- Prosperity for All”. Of the $26.9B budgeted for the Education Sector, $3.3B has been allocated for the continued construction, extension, rehabilitation and maintenance of schools and other educational facilities countrywide; these include the construction of Turkeyen Nursery School, the extension of Parika Salem Secondary School, and Waramadong dormitory and teaching block, Region Seven. In addition, work will be done on the LBI, St. Pius and Diamond Primary Schools, Leonora Secondary School and dormitories at Charity and Sand Creek Secondary Schools. It is also expected that work on science and information technology laboratories will be completed. In 2011, $2.8B was allotted for the continued maintenance, rehabilitation, extension and construction of educational facilities countrywide and this catered for the construction of the Diamond Primary School, extensions of the Annai Secondary and St. Christopher and Albouystown nursery schools. Works were also facilitated for the completion of the Leonora Secondary School, dormitories at Charity, Region 2, Kwakwani, Region 10 and Sand Creek, Region 9 and the construction of science labs at a number of schools.In the 2010 budget, the education sector was allocated $21.8B of which $923M was provided for the construction of two new technical institutes in Regions 3 and 5, along with the procurement of furniture, tools, and equipment for all technical institutes, and an additional $129M for the implementation of the Secondary Competency Certificate Programme (SCCP) in 18 additional secondary schools. The construction of schools ensures equitable access to education by all Guyanese children. This effort has also led to Guyana attaining Universal Primary Education which is one of the Goals set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Apart from that, the construction of schools also meets the needs of children residing in developing housing areas, reducing overcrowding, and cost to travel to schools outside of their communities.These are all credible responses to the Administration’s acknowledgement that education is a crucial element towards fostering development. Minister Sukhai deflates Allicock’s call for revision of Amerindian Act. GINA, April 13, 2012 “The Amerindian Act of 2006 is known for its recognition of indigenous land rights through full and absolute collective title, constitutionally guaranteed against taking by the State, as well as for giving statutory recognition to the inextricable cultural and spiritual relationship by the 38
Amerindians with their lands.” This was Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai’s repudiation of APNU’s MP Sydney Allicock’s call for a revision of the Amerindian Act to address the issues of indigenous lands and territorial rights as the 2012 National Budget debate continued in the National Assembly on April 12. Absurdity Minister Sukhai in her rebuttal expressed disappointment at the absurdity of the call which she said indicates denial on Allicock’s part that Amerindians are incapable of effectively formulating a legal process for addressing issues of land rights or it can only be interpreted as a stated position of APNU. In this regard, she cautioned the MP against signalling publicly, any disconnect between Amerindians and the rest of the nation. In reinforcing her arguments Minister Sukhai cited the Amerindian Act 2006 which she said respects the autonomy of Amerindian Villages by implementing a political system that empowers Amerindians to elect their own officials who are mandated to create their own village rules in consonance with existing laws, and in consultation with the members of the community. “If the law is so flawed, why has the process moved so smoothly with respect to land titling and demarcation for villages and how come villages are independently submitting applications for extension for lands?” she queried. She declared further that her Ministry worked persistently with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to start the Land Titling Project that will bring to completion the titling and demarcation of all Amerindian villages within the next three years. Currently 19 villages are slated for demarcation, 13 to be titled and 41 village extensions are to be titled and demarcated in this project under the Guyana Redd Investment Fund (GRIF), she said. Turnaround Minister Sukhai affirmed that the PPP/C Government has fought to protect Amerindian rights and has seen a complete turnaround in the situation of the Indigenous People in this regard for almost two decades. Under the PNC rule, Amerindians were neglected and were classified as the poorest in the country. Referring to the disheartening reports on the state of affairs of the world’s Indigenous Peoples that emerge during the UNFII dialogues in relation to Indigenous Peoples’ rights and welfare, Minister Sukhai asserted that Guyana has earned respect and recognition internationally for developing a model that continues to uphold and protect Indigenous People’s rights and welfare while respecting their heritage. The establishment of the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission in 2010 makes Guyana the only country in this hemisphere that has established a rights commission to provide a platform for addressing the rights of Amerindians, she stated. Gov’t initiatives to enhance village economies providing significant benefits to Amerindians. GINA, April 13, 2012 Significant progress was attained through several Government initiatives in the hinterland aimed at strengthening the village economy and advancing community development as was highlighted by Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai in her presentation at the 2012 Budget debate in the National Assembly.
Refuting comments by APNU’s Member of Parliament (MP) Sydney Allicock for the budget to be transformed into one that sees the indigenous people of Guyana benefiting from large projects, Minister Sukhai cited some of the most impacting development programmes undertaken by the PPP/C Government to ensure the economic and social development of Amerindians such as the Presidential Grant Programme. This investment, she said, provides significant financial resources that have laid the foundation for the Amerindian village councils and villagers to manage economic projects. The programme targets 187 communities which have invested in agriculture, transportation, village commerce and eco-tourism. This trickled down directly to the community level where approximately 300 permanent and 250 temporary jobs were created in areas such as shop attendants, boat captains, drivers, guest house managers and project managers. The Minister alluded to the Moruca Credit Scheme and Development Trust which was successfully resuscitated, another initiative geared to benefit Amerindians in the Moruca sub-region, Region One. To date, 46 loans have been approved totalling $4,370,000 for the financing of micro and medium commercial enterprises in that subregion. The National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme is another investment that the PPP/C Government had made over the past three years which offers prospects for sustainable livelihoods despite challenges, Minister Sukhai said. Included among the sustainability efforts area bee keeping; the creation of more marketable value-added products for crab wood oil where villagers were taught to manufacture the products utilising the new acquired technology; ginger and pineapple farming; crab processing and hassar rearing. Minister Sukhai also cleared up the misinformation carried in recent media reports that there were no hassar in the ponds in Tobago Hill. She stated that the Community Development Officer (CDO) and the Canadian Aboriginal Interns verified on April 3, that there were hassar in the ponds. Meanwhile, the specialist has advised the primary stakeholders that the fishes are bottom dwellers and will not surface with regularity. She blamed the media for the misinformation in their attempts to discredit the Amerindian Affairs Ministry and, the Minister, without due regard for the facts of the matter. Tobago Village, she said, is constantly supported as residents are still adapting following their resettlement and coping with its challenges. However, she affirmed that the NSLP is slowly transforming the village economies in that Region. Health Minister defends bringing Indian nationals to man Specialty Hospital. GINA, April 13, 2012 Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran today refuted assertions by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Member of Parliament Carl Greenidge that his (Ramsaran’s) 2012 budget debate presentation cited racial tendencies on the part of the APNU member. The Minister said that during his budget presentation on Thursday, he mentioned the assistance by Cuba to the Guyana Government with the provision of about 70 Cuban medical personnel to man the five diagnostic hospitals built, but noted that the naysayers never sought to condemn that Cubans were going to re-colonise Guyana. Greenidge today, with the approval of the Speaker of the National, Raphael Trotman; was given the opportunity to speak, saying that the Health Minister was seeking to imply racial inclinations on behalf of opposition supporters.“I was referring to Hamilton Green, but then the Speaker told me I cannot refer to Green without a specific source, which is the letter he penned 40
attacking the hospital because we are bringing in an Indian team,” Dr. Ramsaran told the Government Information Agency (GINA). He inquired why the anti-Government would critics seek to discredit the presence of Indians who will man the Specialty Hospital, when Cubans were in their entirety manning all the diagnostic hospitals. Georgetown’s mayor, Hamilton Green in a letter in the Kaieteur News had asked whether it was a move by the Administration to re-colonise Guyana stating that the specialty hospital would be staffed by Indian Nationals. “With the specialty hospital in Guyana, ailing Guyanese won’t need to travel overseas for corrective operations. The specialty hospital will benefit Guyanese not Indian nationals or India,” Minister Ramsaran said. The National Budget has made special provision of $672M for the construction of the specialty hospital which is a joint effort between the Governments of Guyana and India, with a line of credit from the latter. PPP/C MP, Jaffarally responds to Dr. Ramayya. GINA, April 13, 2012 People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP), Mohammed Jaffarally, who is one of the two MPs representing the ancient country of Berbice, last evening, said that the budget is yet another reflection of Government’s concern for the welfare of its people. Responding to Alliance for Change (AFC) member, Dr. Veerasammy Ramayya, who downgraded the education system in Region Six, Jaffarally clarified that in 2011, 2,233 students sat the National Grade Six Assessment and 93.1 percent of that number attained secondary school; while 21 percent secured places at senior secondary schools such as Queen’s College, Bishops High and New Amsterdam Multilateral. At the CSEC level, out of the 1,573 students who sat the examination in 2011, 70 percent of that number passed with Grades 1-3, representing a six percent increase in the national average. He recalled Dr. Ramayya and other members of the AFC misguiding Berbicians with regards to the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) programme and urging them not to apply; however, today many families have already received their netbook computers. He added that as a result of the many investments that Government has been making in the agriculture sector, today all the available land in Region Six is under cultivation. With regards to the construction of roads in the region, in 2011, more than 150 community roads were rehabilitated particularly in areas such as Stanleytown, Tucber, Smythfield, and Angoy’s Avenue. Meanwhile, Presidential Advisor on Community Development, Odinga Lumumba in his presentation spoke of the many successes that the PPP/C administration has achieved over its years in Office, particularly in the housing, health and education sectors. “ Our achievements are real…development is not instant coffee, it has to grow…we came into power when illiteracy was rampant and salaries were slave-like…when the interest rate was 36 percent…when 94 percent of revenue went towards servicing debt,” Lumumba reminded. APNU’s Africo Selman in her presentation called for a complete reform of the tax system and for the Value Added Tax (VAT) to be reduced to 10 percent; while Rennis Morian, another APNU Member called on members of the House to rise against political tribalism and work together in the interest of all Guyanese. He admitted that some of the proposals in the budget are good but there is still a lot more that is needed.
PPP/C Member of Parliament, Joseph Hamilton responded to APNU Member Vanessa Kissoon with regards solid waste disposal at the Linden Hospital. He explained that on the day of the budget presentation ( March 30), he presented the report of the technical specialist to both Kissoon and Morian, representing Region 10, which highlighted the deficiency which was being experienced with the furnace at Linden. The reported stated that there were poor operational practices and supervision and that the procedures of removing incinerator ashes at the beginning of the burn cycle were not being adhered to. He noted that Kissoon was aware of the findings in this report when she spoke about this matter. Hamilton further explained only three weeks ago, the Health Ministry held its annual Regional Health Officers (RHO) conference which saw the presence of RHOs, as well as the Regional Executive Officer of Region 10. At that forum, the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) indicated to all the participating regions that there was a biohazard truck that can be made available to any region that was experiencing difficulties with medical waste. PPP/C will not dominate, not be dominated- Minister Rohee. GINA, April 13, 2012 Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee said that Opposition’s criticisms of the 2012 National Budget do not come as anything new to the Government as they (Opposition) keep harping about lack of transparency and questioned if the Government in Office will only be accountable if members from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) are involved. “Are we to understand that nothing will be right until the Opposition is able to dictate its whims and fancies to the Government? Are we to understand that the AFC and APNU are custodians of transparency and accountability in the country?” the Home Affairs Minister questioned. He added that this could not be the case since both opposition parties are known for peddling half-truths and misinformation among citizens with regards to the programmes and policies of Government. He lamented that instead of offering a fresh, constructive approach, the newlyelected APNU has reverted to the, “same sterile, meaningless, hollow political arguments, placing us in the humdrum of parliamentary budget debates reminiscent of the years from 1993 to 2012.” He recalled President Donald Ramotar’s inaugural address to the Tenth Parliament where he called on all parties to resist the temptation to ride “roughshod” over each other, as such an action will result in this new dispensation missing out this historical opportunity for cooperation. Instead, the political option that is being resorted to by the Opposition is trying to trick people into believing that the PPP/C’s policies and programmes are not in their interest and are only beneficial to one section of the Guyanese populace. Minister Rohee maintained that major projects that have come in for immense criticisms by the Opposition such as the Marriot Hotel, Amaila Falls Hydropower project, expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Timehri, the modern specialty hospital are mere political posturing, as there is nothing of substance in opposing. “It’s all about the Opposition’s efforts at convincing people by political kerfluffing and trickery that Government is giving them a raw deal and in so doing, is intentionally depriving them of their rightful entitlements; this is tantamount to executing a national scam,” Minister Rohee said.
In reality, Guyana’s economy is dynamic and robust and its programmes and policies are allinclusive; ensuring that people are at the center of development and partnering closely with the private sector. Turning his attention to the security sector, he said that the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Fire Service are impacted by the transformative that is driven by the PPP/C administration. In Guyana, 9.57 percent of revenue base goes towards the security sector; while Trinidad and Tobago which has a GDP per capita is five times higher than Guyana’s contributes 11.53 percent of its revenue base towards security; a mere two percent higher. Responding to APNU member, Rupert Roopnarine who spoke about a new political culture, the Home Affairs Minister said that such a culture will not come through a parliamentary dictatorship, or by establishing dominance of one side over another. “The PPP/C is the forerunner of ‘changement’ in Guyana. Ever since its establishment in 1950, it has always sought to introduce changes in the political culture in Guyana…the PPP has been one of generosity, compromise and accommodation…at the same time we have made it clear that we do not want to dominate and, we do not want to be dominated either,” he said. Dr. Westford defends contracted workers. GINA, April 13, 2012 Picking up where her colleague Members of Parliament on the Government side left off, Minister of Public Service Dr. Jennifer Westford defended Government’s $192.8B National Budget, but not after lambasting former Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge’s assertion that the public service is equipped with under-qualified contract workers. Minister Westford used parliament employees’ portfolios and salary scales to refute what Greenidge said, and called for an apology from the A Partnership for National Unity Member. “Mr. Speaker, this is total disrespect to young workers of this country by Members of the Opposition, especially Mr. Greenidge…while I am willing to provide a copy of the document to the Opposition, I challenge anyone of the Honorable Members to tell that from the inception of their working career, they posed the same qualifications as now…none can say that and so you should give the young people a chance,” she said. Dr. Westford, while also putting to rest speculations by APNU Member Basil Williams stated that the Opposition in its entirety, during the initiation of the debate, is looking at all measures to misinform the public on development. While noting that a politician is not about misrepresenting facts, the Public Service Minister stated that the national budget will serve to continue Government’s developmental programmes. “Mr. Speaker we have heard a lot of these mis-information... Just after this budget was presented we heard that this budget does not have anything especially for workers, but I would want to ask who the workers are.” The Budget proposes an increase in the income tax threshold from $40,000 to $50,000, a measure that will remove 21,000 people from paying taxes. While acknowledging that Government has been constructing and equipping schools with the necessary infrastructure, Minister Westford asked the National Assembly who would be the beneficiaries of the projects, if the Opposition continues to portray that there is nothing in the 2012 budget for ordinary citizens.
With respect to the health services, which came in for high criticism from several Opposition Members including Ronald Bulkhan and Vanessa Kissoon, the Public Service Minister stated that under the ruling administration malnutrition is a thing of the past. She maintained that the Budget will continue building on the significant progress that has been made by the Administration, stating that it would be dishonest of the Opposition to not take into account progress made over the years, despite their lack of commitment towards many projects. The 2012, $192.8 Billion Budget was presented on March 30 under the theme ‘Remaining on Course, United in Purpose, Prosperity for All’. Minister Nandlall dispels Opposition claims about Gov’t programmes. GINA, April 13, 2012 Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall in his presentation during the 2012 National Budget debate this evening accused the Opposition of manipulation and dispelled their claims about government’s development programmes. “The 2012 budget debate is simply a page taken from the developmental agenda of the PPP/C Administration…I get the feeling Sir, that the budget must contain every single political, economic and social issues confronting the people of this country and no budget in the world can boast of that type of potential,” he said. While noting that the national budget will aid in the further transformation of Guyana, the Government MP said that Guyana has already been transformed over the years, despite the fact that the PPP/C took over a country which was left significantly bankrupt after the tenure of the PNC/R. Under their rule, the death of economic growth and industries was evident, as every sector’s performance declined, resulting in the economy being bankrupt, along with a constant decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While citing the many developments which materialised under the PPP/C Government, Minister Nandlall stated that the administration has worked tirelessly over the last 19 years, to restore confidence in Guyanese and has to date, made monumental progress. “Mr. Speaker, there was a debt that we would not have serviced as there was serious balance of payment deficiencies…the fiscal imbalance which has been of major concern and the preoccupation of the economic policy has now been narrowed,” Nandlall said. In reviewing the 1990/1991 National Budget, he told the House that it was evident that compared to national budgets presented under the PPP/C Government, the PNC “pronounced the economic death of Guyana.” For 19 years, the AG said, there was a strong macro-economic infrastructure, with foreign reserves at its highest and interest rates reduced from 32.5 percent to 4.5 percent, in comparison to negative growth prior to 1992. Data has shown that 100,000 families have benefited over the past year from Government’s housing programmes while 6,500 more will benefit this year from the $192.8B budget. “Mr. Speaker where did this land come from…it was always here, but they never had a policy to develop it. We converted these lands from cow pastures, rice and cane fields, we had to install water and electricity…we then allocated the land and went to commercial banks and negotiated loan plans, that is the legacy of this administration,” he said. Defending the allocations to be injected into the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), shot down by almost all opposition speakers, Minister 44
Nandlall questioned the rationale of their claims, since the people of Guyana are the ones to benefit from this move. He stated that Government will continue to bail out any institution, especially GuySuCo, since 20,000 people are currently employed at the industry and its closure would see approximately 100,000 Guyanese affected. Government in the past stood steadfast behind the bauxite industry for almost 20 years, to ensure that Linden was kept alive and, according to the Legal Affairs Minister, this move has seen the industry returned to a state of profitability after 20 years. “When we took power in 1992, we continued to inject money into it and today it is a profitable industry and we will continue to do so for workers of this country,” he said. Defending the judicial system, Nandlall in rebutting claims made by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine that corruption is evident in the system, noted that it is the Government’s vision to create a judicial system to ensure that the constitutional rights of people are fairly represented. While adding that the legal sector is currently undergoing massive transformation, he said that shortly a new court will be commissioned at Leonora, while the long awaited Laws of Guyana dating from 1977 to 2010 will be made available online and in hard copy by June 1. “In terms of Law Reports Sir, we have started an online version, and all law reports of British Guyana dating back from 1932 will be accessible in two weeks’ time,”The AG also promised to soon table an Act in Parliament that will allow the appointment of part time judges to help clear the tremendous backlog in the judicial system.During his stinging presentation, the Attorney General called on the Opposition to do their part and committed on behalf of the Government to command the judicial system in a manner to ensure its future development. Economic, social growth is a work in progress - PPP/C MP Chandarpal, GINA, April 14, 2012 PPP/C Member of Parliament Indra Chandarpal has denied opposition claims that there has been no progress in development in Guyana. Rising to defend the National Budget presented in the National Assembly, she stated that Guyana’s economic and social growth is a work in progress everywhere and in every sector. Mrs. Chandarpal noted that Budget time has always been one of great expectations, since the PPP/C was elected to office, “fuelled by the people’s knowledge and recognition of our stewardship of sterling growth and development in all sectors of Guyana’s development.” She stated that the theme of the 2012 budget, Remaining on Course, United in Purpose and Prosperity for All, is in sync with the PPP/C developmental agenda. Explaining that all National Budgets presented by the PPP/C administration have major commonalities, Mrs. Chandarpal pointed to the areas of macro-economic stability, sustained growth in all of the various sectors, new and innovative programmes, and care for the poor and vulnerable.“Our budgets were always about maintaining and sustaining growth in all sectors. This is evidenced by the domestic economy achieving real growth averaging 4.4% of the past 6 years with 2011 recording a 5.4% growth rate,” she declared. Mrs. Chandarpal highlighted the fact that the Minister of Finance in his presentation spoke of the key achievements over the last five years and cited the performance of seven major sectors in which there was growth: 68% in the bauxite industry, followed by gold which recorded a l6.7% growth. She said that this growth augurs well for the country since there are still sections of the population which are in need of assistance in one way or another from Government. Acknowledging that there is still a lot more to be done in different areas of development, Mrs. 45
Chandarpal said the initiatives outlined by the Minister of Finance, will certainly provide the necessary fillip to these. Observing that Government would have liked to provide more assistance in terms of percentage and quantum, “unfortunately you cannot give more than what you have. We are mindful that the amount allocated to old age pension is attracting attention, and we would like to give them much more. However, this is not a once for all action, this has to be sustained, and it has to be given in the stages as the economy allows,” she pointed out. She charged persons who accuse the administration of being heartless to remember that it was the PPP/C that removed the ‘means test” and now provides for all persons 65 years and older to get a pension, while providing public assistance to thousands of people who are faced with difficult situations. “When we refer to social assistance, we need to take the collective benefits accrued,” Chandarpal stated emphatically, “whether it is water rate assistance; eye care for seniors; assistance for children; the school uniform programme; or the single parents initiative through the Women of Worth programme.” Pointing to the legal aid as well as initiatives available in other social sectors, such as health, education, labour, housing and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Chandarpal observed that some provide direct assistance while others cater for training for upward mobility. She noted that the three Constitutional Commissions have also been tasked with the responsibility of undertaking a number of actions on behalf of women, children and indigenous people. “This collective approach will definitely help to ameliorate hardship and accelerate development in these areas. The sustained development of the country and its people includes a variety of measures, including policies, programmes, measures to protect citizens, access to various types of opportunities, collaboration with civil society, subvention to support those organisations providing service to those that are in need among others,” she declared. She also cited the fact that the current administration had created a home for destitute people, provided them with food and clothing and is constructing yet another shelter at Onverwagt for more such persons, “It is our desire to assist them so that they can be reintegrated fully in our society,” Chandarpal stated. The PPP/C parliamentarian credited the administration for increased spending in all areas noting that the overall increases in the last two decades were very substantial, making a significant impact on the lives of large numbers of people with greater needs. Overall, almost all the people of Guyana are living in improved conditions she stated, going on to point to the success of the housing development which has transformed the landscape of hundreds of communities, along with the lives of thousands of people, giving them a sense of achievement, pride and self worth. “The children of today have something to look forward to because their parents are in a better place.” While Guyana’s economic and social growth is a work in progress, “we must also be mindful of the negative trends affecting the social behaviour of large sections of our population… There is need for more citizens to become more involved and take responsibility for their actions and those of their offspring,” the MP charged, positing that this calls for collective responsibility and actions by all. “Our people must understand that a Government alone cannot solve all the problems of the people. People everywhere need to take ownership for their own development, by being more proactive in the development of their communities and families. While the Government is taking 46
initiatives at the national level to expand our economic base, the people can support these initiatives by being more responsible and involved.” She called on all MPs to do “whatever is necessary to encourage our respective supporters to be more supportive of their communities in ways that are positive.” Under the PPP/C there is optimism, and there is growth and prosperity for all, Chandarpal stated and pointed to the many prospects emerging for Guyana, especially in the utilisation of the country’s abundant natural resources. Noting the progress in oil exploration and investors showing great confidence in Guyana, she stated that Guyana now has the largest number of local and foreign companies ever. “We are indeed reaching new levels of realisation of the many expectations raised in our National Development Strategy...The good news is that 2012 will see a bigger expansion with even more massive investments. For the PPP/C Government, growth in the economy will provide new spring boards for delivery of the social goods to large sections of our population.” Gov’t will remain on course it charted – Shaddick. GINA, April 14, 2012 As the Budget debate gained momentum, on day four, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Human Services Bibi Shaddick presented to the National Assembly a continued development course embarked on by the current administration since it entered office in October 1992. “The PPP/C government will remain on the course that it has charted and vows that Guyana will never go back to the days when people had to lineup for food and petrol,…we are not going to go back to six-hour scheduled blackouts…now, when people get a ten-minute blackout they are quarrelling,” Shaddick said. Shaddick contended that the Alliance for Change keeps saying that VAT should be brought to 10% and the income tax threshold to $60,000 along with a number of other increases for teachers and the joint services but, she wanted to know how this would be done. “ I would like the honourable member (Dr Ramayya) to identify which places he will take out $5 million from, and what’s not going suffer…how it will not affect the capital budget…the AFC’s plans are campaign promises…you do not repeat those things when you come in parliament,” Shaddick said. Dispelling the statements made by MP John Adams who said that Region Three was not being properly developed, Shaddick extended an invitation to the honourable member to visit the region. “Not to just drive from where he lives to the Bridge…see what is happening, I wonder what he meant when he said that the West Demerara Secondary school is a disaster waiting to happen because it floods…if his yard floods then it is a disaster waiting to happen…Guyana is below sea level, we will have floods but the water runs off quickly,” Shaddick said. She contended that the member needs to move around Region Three and observe the developmental changes that occurred since the PPPC government has been in office. “In 2011, Region Three’s capital budget was $225M…in 2012 the capital budget is $280.5M…which will be used to execute a number of infrastructural works on roads, bridges, land development, improve conditions at the Stanleytown Library, new drainage and irrigation projects, construct structures like kokers among others…I am inviting these people to see what is happening in the Region,” Shaddick said.
The former Human Services Minister, addressing MP Carl Greenidge’s foreign debt statements, said he should be the last to speak about such a scenario as under the PNC the debt that was accrued sucked the life of the country. Minister Ramsammy rejects call by AFC, MP to vote against capital budget Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has rebuffed the call by Alliance For Change, (AFC) Member of Parliament Veerasammy Ramayah that the political party will not vote for the $75Billion capital budget.The following is the response issued today by the Minister. In his budget address to the Parliament of Guyana, the AFC MP from Region 6, Honorable Veerasammy Ramayah indicated that the AFC will not support the capital budget and will seek to vote against the $75B capital budget. Other AFC MPs and APNU MPs have expressed similar sentiments. As an MP and as one who has responsibility for agriculture, I am disappointed at the position MP Ramayah and the others have taken. I, unfortunately, also heard Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and others saying the same thing. I am hopeful that this is not the position of the AFC or APNU.I reject the position of the AFC and APNU MPs and I would hope the AFC and APNU will consider their position very clearly. 1. The capital projects are usually financed through arrangements with international financial institutions (such as the IADB, World Bank, CDC, etc. and donor countries or organizations). These capital projects are projects that our international partners and Guyana have agreed to and the financing are targeted. Such resources cannot be directed away from the projects, as the Opposition MPs want us to do. Such funding cannot be utilized to support salary increases, pay pensions etc. If we do not want to proceed with the projects, the funding arrangements are terminated. 1. The AFC MPs must understand that the capital budget is to ensure that much needed infrastructural projects are supported. Do we need to build roads such as the Black Bush Polder and the East Bank Berbice Road, the Relief Channel at Hope, the Relief Channel for Johanna, Black Bush Polder, the Relief Channel at Canal Polder? Do we need to put fixed-site drainage pumps at Rose Hall, Albion, Allness, Black Bush Polder, Windsor Forest etc.? Do we need to construct farm-to-market roads? Do we need to extend our highways? Do we need more transmission lines to take electricity to those communities without electricity? Do we need to build schools? Do we need to build hospitals and health centers? Do we need to construct community roads? Do we need to prepare more housing schemes? Do we need to open up more lands for agriculture? My answer is a resounding yes. We need these and others of the Capital Projects that the $75B will pay for. I ask MPs Veerasammy Ramayah, Moses Nagamootoo, Carl Greenidge, Basil Williams, Trevor Williams, Cathy Hughes and all the others, from APNU and AFC to tell the people they will not support these projects and would rather Guyana never have access to these funds. 1. The Opposition must understand that these projects create jobs and by not supporting the capital investment, these jobs are threatened. On the one hand, these MPs claim we must create more jobs. On the other hand they want to vote against job-creation that results from these projects. But we are not unaware of the motivation behind the rejection – it is to ensure they suffocate development in our country to help them gain power. While the Opposition pursues actions to suffocate development to satisfy their 48
own interest and their hunger for power, the PPP/C will continue to promote the interest of our country by building our infrastructure and creating the environment to further promote development and create jobs. This in no way should detract from the need for rigid and robust monitoring and evaluation to ensure value-for-money. The Government of Guyana continues to be concerned over the lateness of work and the quality of work and we will continue to improve systems to ensure more on-time delivery of work and higher quality of work. President Ramotar has already made it clear to Parliament and to the Cabinet that he wants greater scrutiny of contracts. 1. Much of the capital projects provide opportunities for Guyanese private sector. When the PPP/C Government started in October 1992, there were few private sector construction firms owned by and operating in Guyana. Today, we have many Guyanese-owned construction firms operating in Guyana. We do not deny that we need to strengthen further the tendering process. We concede that contractors have not been delivering the projects on time and many of the projects have experienced considerable delays. We concede too that the quality of work by some of the contractors is questionable. The Government of Guyana will continue our efforts to ensure value-for-money spent. But we are determined to build the private sector capacity in Guyana. We reject the Opposition portrayal of the private sector as only a greed machine, only interested in stealing as much as they can. We unequivocally reject this position. 1. President Ramotar has been on record insisting that the National Procurement and Tender Board must be more rigid in evaluating tenders and that contracts must be stricter in getting contractors to deliver projects on time and meet specified quality. 1. The PPP/C Government ensured that the Constitution makes provision for a Procurement Commission to be established. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament failed to submit nominees for the appointment of the members of this committee. We now have an agreement between the leaders of the political parties to discuss this issue and resolve it early. I urge that there be political agreements that will allow the establishment of the Procurement Commission as soon as possible. 1. The PPP/C Government itself has been expressing dissatisfaction relating to many of the concerns highlighted by the Opposition. Some of the concerns highlighted by the Opposition have been echoed by the Government itself. While we are addressing these concerns, we must also continue to create employment opportunities, build our infrastructure and support economic development. The Guyana Government has adopted an approach of balancing budgetary allocation to support the economic development of Guyana, while simultaneously improving the social welfare needs of the people. We reject the approach which commits our budgetary allocation to only economic development or only to social welfare needs. Thus, we will recognize that almost 35% of the budget already is committed to the social sector to support the social welfare needs of the people. We must continue to build health, education and other social services to ensure our people can develop their potential. But we must continue to also develop our infrastructure to support both the economic needs and the social welfare needs of our people. 49
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