Bud­get 2018 - The Big Lie Ex­posed

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER -

Bud­get

2018 prom­ises no re­lief for rankand-file Guyanese cit­i­zens and the pri­vate sec­tor. The BIG LIE by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Win­ston Jor­don that “there will be no new taxes” has been ex­posed. The stark truth is that there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing left to fur­ther tax. The truth is that the PNC/APNU+AFC Coali­tion has al­ready over-taxed the na­tion as of Bud­get 2017.

The ex­ten­sion in 2017 of the VAT to ed­u­ca­tion and health ser­vices, and also to heavy duty agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery comes eas­ily to mind. So, too, does the taxes on forestry prod­ucts and elec­tric­ity, which has driven up lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing costs, as re­flected in the lamen­ta­tions of the GMSA as ex­pressed by its Pres­i­dent, Mr. Shyam Nokta, dur­ing the As­so­ci­a­tion’s pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion two weeks ago with the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance. The crit­i­cal Forestry sub-sec­tor de­clined by 18.2% at mid-year with only sawn wood show­ing pos­i­tive growth.

The new tax mea­sures in­tro­duced in Bud­get 2017 have im­pacted neg­a­tively on the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, lead­ing to in­creases in prices and re­duc­ing cash flow in some in­stances. This sloth in gen­eral economic ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Nokta, is of con­cern since it is di­rectly linked to non-per­form­ing loans, which in­creased from the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod in 2016, for the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor and ser­vices sec­tor by 17% and 23.3% re­spec­tively. He could well have added a word on be­half of new home own­ers who now have to bear sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in the cost of con­struc­tion ma­te­rial.

The vig­or­ous hous­ing drive in­her­ited from the PPP/C has stalled.

The PPP/C had long rec­og­nized this emerg­ing prob­lem and called for the with­drawal of these new bur­den­some taxes and in their place the in­tro­duc­tion of in­cen­tive mea­sures to stim­u­late lo­cal pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment and economic ac­tiv­ity. The PPP/C has com­mit­ted to with­draw ALL these new tax bur­dens im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing its vic­tory at the 2020 Gen­eral Elec­tions.

But the cur­rent sloth in economic ac­tiv­ity is not the only “sloth” of grave con­cern to Guyanese, as they con­tem­plate these hid­den bur­dens of Bud­get 2018.

The other wor­ri­some “sloth” that is plagu­ing the PNC/APNU+AFC Govern­ment is in im­ple­ment­ing its very own plans and projects. And, as we are constantly re­minded by for­mer Pres­i­dent Jagdeo, those na­tional trans­for­ma­tional in­fra­struc­ture projects were in­her­ited from the PPP/C, fully funded and in many cases up and run­ning. The CJIA Ex­pan­sion Project, the Road Im­prove­ment Projects on the ECD, EBD and the Parika-Vreed-en-Hoop stretch.

In very re­cent days, we have no­ticed very slug­gish and fit­ful reopen­ing of works on the ECD High­way in the vicin­ity of Bet­ter Hope and a few vil­lages be­yond.

The Fi­nance Min­is­ter re­cently lamented that the im­ple­men­ta­tion rate is in the vicin­ity of only 30%. That is to say the “non-im­ple­men­ta­tion” rate is a hefty 70%.

Some “sloth” in­deed!

A “cham­pion sloth”, in­deed!

The root cause of this phe­nom­e­non is poor gen­eral and sec­tor lead­er­ship and pan­demic cor­rup­tion. This means Guyanese will en­ter yet another fes­tive sea­son in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion.

The fes­tiv­i­ties will mask the dilemma caused by poor gen­eral and sec­toral lead­er­ship and ram­pant cor­rup­tion. The lights, glit­ter and frolic of the sea­son may mask the ef­fect now, but ob­ser­vant Guyanese busi­ness peo­ple on Re­gent Street, Wa­ter Street and in the mar­kets are al­ready not­ing the de­cline in pur­chas­ing power as recorded by poor sales.

Dur­ing my re­cent “walk­a­bout” and var­i­ous in­ter­ac­tions in these and sim­i­lar ar­eas, this has been the re­cur­rent ob­ser­va­tion of sea­soned busi­nessper­sons. Sev­eral noted that “the Christ­mas ‘feel’ ain’t there “.

And in­deed this is vis­i­ble in the ab­sence of the cus­tom­ary shop-front Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and sea­sonal mu­sic in the com­mer­cial ar­eas of the City. By mid-Novem­ber these fea­tures of the fes­tive sea­son are usu­ally very vis­i­ble and au­di­ble.

These dec­o­ra­tions and mu­si­cal en­train­ment are “sales pitches” and come at a cost to the in­di­vid­ual pro­pri­etor aimed to at­tract cus­tomers and beat the com­pe­ti­tion. The pur­chas­ing power to sup­port the sales is just not there. The shop own­ers and large busi­nesses this year are as a con­se­quence un­der­stand­ably re­luc­tant to in­vest in the cus­tom­ary at­trac­tions. Even the “mas­quer­ade bands” are silent and in­vis­i­ble!

The ef­fect of the coali­tion’s clo­sure of Wales Su­gar Es­tate and re­duc­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties at oth­ers have com­pounded this sit­u­a­tion. For­tu­nately, there are in­di­ca­tions that the Coali­tion will not send home more su­gar work­ers as of now.

The main Trade Union in the in­dus­try has noted this stay in ex­e­cu­tion of the coali­tion’s on­slaught on su­gar, its work­ers and their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. The Govern­ment has de­cided to put a hold on the clo­sure of the East De­mer­ara and the Rose Hall Es­tates un­til some time in 2018. This means the thou­sands of su­gar work­ers, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties are no longer threat­ened with the bleak fes­tive sea­son now vis­ited upon their col­leagues in Wales and ad­ja­cent com­mu­ni­ties.

But this must be seen as a cus­tody of strug­gle and sol­i­dar­ity. Re­call the mas­sive march and rally in Canje a few months ago. This was the largest work­ers’ protest in decades. It at­tracted the widest cross-sec­tion of sol­i­dar­ity and active par­tic­i­pa­tion from teach­ers, shop-own­ers, taxi-driv­ers, pro­fes­sion­als and res­i­dents of Canje, Coren­tyne, New Am­s­ter­dam. Thou­sands marched. This pow­er­ful peace­ful protest came in the wake of the crip­pling clo­sure of Wales by the Coali­tion and its an­nounce­ment of the then im­mi­nent clo­sure of the East De­mer­ara and Rose Hall Es­tates. This ac­tion was openly and fully en­dorsed and sup­ported by the Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party. This was a vic­tory of or­ga­nized pop­u­lar protest to pro­tect the le­git­i­mate in­ter­est of masses of Guyanese against the Fat Cats in the Coali­tion. The Coali­tion was forced to back down. The PPP has com­mit­ted to im­me­di­ately, fol­low­ing its vic­tory at the 2020 Elec­tions, to re­verse the wrongs done to the Wales work­ers, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. This can be prac­ti­cally taken as a ma­jor point of the Party’s Man­i­festo for those Elec­tions.

In the mean­time, ma­te­rial sup­port for Wales’ work­ers, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties must be vig­or­ously pur­sued. The Di­as­pora is al­ready ac­tively con­tribut­ing and mak­ing more ef­forts to struc­ture and ex­pand this con­tri­bu­tion.

Last week, Mr. Mithuall Man­gal, for­mer heavy­weight in GAWU and the su­gar in­dus­try and cur­rently active in the NYC Guyanese com­mu­nity was in Guyana to this end. He vis­ited Wales and did a needs as­sess­ment. The Di­as­pora is re­spond­ing with sol­i­dar­ity and ma­te­rial sup­port for Wales.

On Thurs­day, 23rd Novem­ber, another in­flu­en­tial Guyanese-born Real Es­tate Man­ager from NYC was in Wales to ex­plore op­tions and fur­ther ma­te­rial as­sis­tance.

Get­ting It Right un­der­stands that this par­tic­u­lar in­stance some 300 food ham­pers are on the cards for Christ­mas. Such ex­am­ples must be noted and fol­lowed.

Wales has been a wakeup call.

Wales has been a ral­ly­ing call.

Guyanese have re­sponded.

The Di­as­pora is mo­bi­liz­ing.

The Re­gent Street, Wa­ter Street and busi­ness­peo­ple of the var­i­ous mar­kets should se­ri­ously consider us­ing the dol­lar-sav­ings from the fore­gone dec­o­ra­tions and glit­ter and fes­tive shop fronts to pro­cure food-stuff and other use­ful items and do­nate these in the form of sub­stan­tial ham­pers to the Wales work­ers and their fam­i­lies. These small ef­forts, if sus­tained will go a far way in giv­ing.

By all in­di­ca­tions, the APNU+AFC Bud­get 2018 will bring no re­lief.

Bud­get 2018 will be pre­sented on Novem­ber 27th by Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Win­ston Jor­dan.

In the mean­time, the PPP/C is fully mo­bi­lized for the Bud­get de­bate. The Party will ex­pose the sleight of hand of the “no new tax” claim by Jor­dan. It will ex­plore the data pub­lished by the Min­istry it­self in its re­cently re­leased “Na­tional Pub­lic Debt” doc­u­ment to un­der­line the steep and steady­ing economic ac­tiv­ity over the past two years.

The de­bate should be fol­lowed closely. The true anti-work­ing peo­ple of the Granger/Nag­amootoo ca­bal will be fully ex­posed.

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