‘Cheap talk’ – Min Singh slams opposition’s ‘lofty’, ‘lavishing’ promises in National Assembly

As budget debates end

The week-long debates in the National Assembly on the historic $1.146 billion budget came to an end on Friday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) with a stellar and passionate presentation by the Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance and Public Service, Dr Ashni Singh.

Dr Ashni Singh opened his two-hour-long contribution to the debates by criticizing the parliamentary opposition for making lofty and unrealistic promises to the people of Guyana, describing it as ‘cheap talk’.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance and Public Service, Dr Ashni Singh concluding the week-long budget debates

Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton had in his one-hour long presentation, touted a ‘people’s centred strategy for development’ which promised a significant reduction in taxes, and alleviation of the high cost of living and poverty among others.

“Talk is Cheap … and we were regilded over the past five days with a lot of cheap talk coming from the APNU/AFC who regild us with all sorts of grandiose ideas and plans, all sorts of intentions, all sorts of proposals. Had we not known, we might have been duped by these lavish promises,” the finance minister expressed while reminding the August House that the same APNU/AFC was in government from 2015-2020.

Dr Singh continued his speech by highlighting the opposition’s failure while in government and their continued duplicity which is demonstrated in their past and current presentations.

“The APNU/AFC said they will create new jobs in Region 10 but they closed the call centre and put young people out of a job,” Minister stated.

He reminded the House when the opposition called the one-month bonus to the disciplined services a ‘bribe’, which they took away upon its assumption to office, thereby putting families in despair and snatching $4.2 billion. Additionally, they removed the Because We Care cash grant from families across Guyana and publicly shamed university students who did not pay off their student loans.

“That is what the APNU did … they had nice words just as they have now but when they came into government … they took away $9 million from the average Guyanese family,” he informed as he highlighted the inconvenience caused when the tax-free bonus for the uniformed men and women were discontinued.

He also addressed the opposition’s accusations that the budget would only benefit a selected few, responding that the opposition is judging the government by its sordid standards.

It was recalled when one member on the opposition side remarked that only persons associated with the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) would be given jobs. Additionally, a sitting government in the previous coalition government had awarded contracts under her ministry to a company owned by her, totalling nearly $19 million worth of contracts.

“When confronted, Ms Lawrence did not deny the statements … When they speak about friends, family and favourites … they are judging us by their own sordid standards,” Dr Singh asserted after exposing the opposition’s hypocrisy.

Moreover, taxpayers’ monies were spent to develop the Green State Development Strategy, which did not generate even $5 million. This occurred after the APNU/AFC discontinued the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which was bringing in millions in revenue streams to the economy.

Dr Singh and Norton clashed on the issues of transparent and accountable governance with the finance minister reminding the National Assembly of the March 2020 elections fiasco whereby the same party attempted to manipulate the results of the electorate

Unlike what occurred under the opposition’s tenure, Dr Singh said budget 2024 will bring about benefits whether it be for the pensioners, school children, public servants, the private sector and farmers among other important categories of citizens.

“The APNU/AFC wants to keep their supporters trapped … they come here and repeat their old tired arguments … Mr Norton comes here and speak about a people’s centred development strategy. Guess what sir? We are delivering and implementing a people-centred agenda. We did not wait to come into government to prepare a plan or strategy,” the senior government argued in his presentation.

During the debates, government parliamentarians presented fact-based contributions on how the budget would realistically cater to the needs of the Guyanese people.

Now that the debates have concluded, the National Assembly will dissolve itself into the Committee of Supply to consider the estimates proposed under the respective ministries and agencies next week. After this process is concluded, parliamentarians from both sides of the house will participate in a voting process to pass the largest budget in Guyana’s history.