Budget 2017 sets groundwork for development – Gov’t MPs as debates begin
GINA, GUYANA, Monday, December 5, 2016
Government Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) and those from the Opposition side of the House, differed on economic performance, and growth as the debates on the 2017 estimates and expenditure began this morning in the National Assembly.
Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin, the second speaker for today, pointed out that Budget 2017, like the previous two budgets presented by the coalition government, seeks to fix “the decline of the economy” that started under the previous Government.
Opposition MP, Irfaan Ali, who kicked-off the debates, called for the withdrawal of the budget on several grounds, but particularly for the fact that that it was “devoid of measures to rescue the country’s now ailing economy.”
Ali called on government to work with the Opposition in crafting a better budget that will bring economic benefits to the people and the economy.
Minister Gaskin refuted claims made by Ali that the economy was resilient under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC). Ali had claimed that the PPPC economy had weathered the global economic crisis of 2008-2009.
Minister Gaskin noted that there was no “astute management of the economy that caused the country to weather that storm.” In fact, he
explained it was just a case of getting lucky.
“It was precisely because there were no diversity that there was nothing to decline,” the Minister said. “Our economy at the time was relying solely on rice and gold, and therefore, with a decline in the financial sector in most of the developed countries, most of the investments went into the gold sector and therefore the price of gold skyrocketed and Guyana was able to thankfully benefit from that,” he said.
Minister Gaskin also challenged Ali’s statements that questioned how the coalition government would stimulate its proposed green economy. He pointed to the over $1 Billion that has been invested in 2017 to support green energy projects around Guyana, in addition to tax concessions and tax holidays that are being proposed to support green investors. The Minister also rubbished Ali’s attempts to knock the government’s support for such measures like the importation of hybrid vehicles. He noted that, “a green economy has to start somewhere, and that government is looking at the initial stages of the development of such an economy.”
The Business Minister also challenged Ali on the success of the previous government’s Local Carbon Development Strategy, saying that he cannot recall too many successful projects being undertaken with the monies garnered from the Norway funding.
“A small handful of projects, if I remember correctly, were allocated during those five years,” the Minister said. He also noted that Ali spoke “glowingly about Amalia Falls, but the Business Minister said that all he can he remember, “is a road to nowhere; a very expensive road.”
And as to Ali’s claims of the ordinary people being deprived of economic gains, and training programmes under the coalition government, Minister Gaskin reminded Ali that it was his government (PPP/C) which for nearly two decades charged taxes on workers’ National Insurance Scheme (NIS) by not deducting from the salary before computing the income tax.
In addition to the several salary increases in the past 18 months and the lowering of taxes proposed in the Budget 2017, for the benefit of the workers, Minister Gaskin also noted the several training programmes implemented under the various ministries including his. He noted that under his Ministry, the Small Business Bureau (SBB) is offering several training programmes on how to develop business plan, among others.
During his presentation, the Business Minister also outlined some of the initiatives that the 2017 Budget will fund towards improving the ease of doing business in Guyana, including a five-year strategic plan to deliver on the Ministry’s mission, upgrading the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) to meet the demands of a modern exhibition centre, and the scaling up of activities at the SBB to actively promote youth entrepreneurship as a means of channelling innovation towards economic activities. Budget 2017 provides for an appropriation of $1.701 Billion to the Ministry of Business.
Meanwhile, Opposition MP, Joseph Hamilton whose presentation followed Minister Gaskin’s, said that the Minister is yet to inform
Guyanese, about the specifics of the jobs created by his sector. Hamilton also called for the withdrawal of the 2017 Budget and the crafting of a “better one”. The MP said that he is yet to hear any citizen say that it is a good budget, and that the Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s speech of a ‘good life’ during the Budget presentation is “a pie in the sky” dream.
Government MP, Michael Carrington however called the budget a “people’s budget” and that it speaks to progress. He said that there is “no doomsday for the people of Guyana,” as the Opposition is seeking to say with the ‘demonising of the budget’.
“We would only achieve betterment,” he said, and the 2017 budget is preparing the ground work for this development.
By: Macalia Santos