2018 Budget: The Nation Needed Much
Budget Estimates for 2018 presented by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, is at best disappointing and at worst another lost opportunity to fix the economy, which over the past few years has become retarded and dysfunctional.
The budget clearly lacks any clear sense of direction, especially when it comes to addressing the core issues such as job creation, foreign exchange inflows, incentives to the private sector, more particularly the manufacturing sector, and measures aimed at sustainable development and growth.
There is hardly any mention of plans to generate alternative employment for the thousands of sugar workers, who are currently out of work following the closure of the Wales Estate and the thousands more who will be forced into the breadline as a consequence of the announced closure of Rose Hall, Skeldon and Enmore Estates.
The draconian application of Value Added Tax (VAT) on water and electricity remains unchanged. Many had hoped that this millstone around the necks of consumers would have been removed, but that was not to be.
Instead, pensioners were treated to a miserly increase of G$500 or the equivalent of just over US$2.00 per month!
This is nothing short of an insult to our senior citizens, especially when seen against the backdrop of the withdrawal of subsidies, which were given to pensioners by the previous PPP/C administration as they relate to water and electricity consumption.
This administration seems to believe that the exemption of old age pensioners from the payment of airport taxes and for passports is an adequate compensation for the removal of several other subsidies granted by the PPP/C administration.
This is not only deceptive, but fundamentally elitist given the fact that the majority of pensioners, for several reasons may, be unable to take advantage of that facility.
The income tax threshold, which was consistently adjusted upwards by the PPP/C, has remained at the same level. Had there been an increase in this threshold, some more cash in the pockets of low income earners would have been possible.
The truth is that our pensioners and low income earners are no better off by the measures contained in the budget. The same can be said for our farmers, public servants, businessmen and the working people as a whole.
The 2018 Budget is nothing to shout about and represented more of the same failed policies and programmes implemented by the current APNU/AFC administration since it assumed power in May 2015.
It is the fourth budget presented by this administration one that represented for all practical purposes more of the same - namely a narrative of doom and gloom. It is a far cry from the good life promised by the Granger administration, as more and more Guyanese are pushed into poverty and want.
The Budget Debates will commence shortly. It is interesting to see what arguments the ruling coalition would advance to justify this 2018 Budget, which has already been adversely commented on by several stakeholders, including the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
What is worthy to note is the absence of any mention of the anticipated revenues from the emerging oil and gas sector and how these will dovetail with the traditional sectors in terms of a holistic and integrated development strategy.
National Budgets are important to the well-being of the nation as a whole. It represents a work plan of the government for a given year and as such it has to be carefully and meticulously crafted with significant inputs from all stakeholders.
It is clear that this important ingredient is absent from the Budget preparations, or if done at all, was superficial and of token value.
The nation is entitled to much more than what is contained in the Budget Estimates. (Hydar Ally)