Govt’s $383.1 billion budget passed in National Assembly

– without full scrutiny from Opposition
– ‘unfortunate they failed to participate’
– Dr. Ashni Singh

The National Assembly today approved the Government’s $383.1 billion 2021 National Budget, setting in motion the PPP/C Administration’s economic development plan for all Guyanese.

The national financial plan was passed moments following the Consideration of the second half of the Budget Estimates, which was significantly shortened, due to the non-participation of the APNU+AFC Parliamentarians.

Led by its Chief Whip, Hon. Christopher Jones, the Coalition staged a raucous protest in the Assembly, while Chairman of the Committee of Supply, Mr. Manzoor Nadir led the Consideration of the Estimates.

The in-house protest later saw the Opposition leaving the dome of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), after a failed attempt to stall the proceedings.

The Committee of Supply was able to approve all estimates for all agencies, including those under the Ministries of Local Government and Regional Development, Natural Resources and Amerindian Affairs.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh registered his disappointment over the Opposition’s decision to absent themselves from the critical phase of the Budget consideration.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh

He said the Consideration of the Estimates is very important as it allows Parliamentarians to scrutinise expenditure allocations, ask questions, and provide explanations, which, he noted, is also important for the purpose of public information.

“It is very unfortunate that the Opposition chose to withdraw themselves from the latter part of the Consideration of the estimates, denying the Guyanese people an opportunity to learn more, at a detailed level, of what is in the Budget.

I do want to say that it is very unfortunate that they opted not to participate in the second half of the process. Ultimately, we have to take comfort in the fact that the Budget is approved and we can now all proceed to implement the Budget,” he said.

Ministers’ reactions

Prime Minister, Hon. Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips said the main Opposition’s behaviour is “unfortunate.” 

“We want a vibrant, viable Opposition. We do not need an unruly and indiscipline group of people calling themselves the Opposition. All of us were elected and we have a role to play. We on the Government side, have to govern and the Opposition has to monitor what we are doing and keep us on track, not to disrupt the process,” he said.

Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal said responsible political leaders also have constituents, whom they must report to. He said it is clear the Opposition is not interested in the development of the nation.

“If they want to be a responsible Opposition, they have a constituent and they have to utilise the opportunity to ask the questions they may have or the things they may need clarity on. They clearly have not utilised it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Vickram Bharrat said the passage of estimates in the Committee of Supply in the absence of the Opposition was not ideal.

“I would have preferred for the Opposition members to be there and question us on our work ahead and I believe that is the best way for them to represent their constituency and be a good Opposition. So, it is not good for Guyana.”

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Hon. Pauline Sukhai said the Opposition’s plan to disrupt the passage of the budget backfired as it failed to represent the electorate.

“As politicians they have shown their true colours, that they are not interested in nation building. They are not interested in furthering development. They are not interested in representing the people in a principled way. I think the Guyanese people are looking and will judge them for what it is,” she said.

Additionally, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Hugh Todd said the Opposition’s conduct in the National Assembly was an attempt to stymie a Budget that would benefit the people.

“Clearly, we are seeing who is representing the people and who is not representing the people…They want to deprive the people of their Budget, a Budget that was directed by the people and it’s just a failure of the PNC-led Opposition party in representing the people and being part of the Government architecture.” Budget 2021 was themed “A Path to Recovery, Economic Dynamism and Resilience.”