A sinister 2018 budget – Nation must be advised to prepare for further stagnation - Ramsaroop
Minister Winston Jordan is expected to present the 2018 National Budget on Monday, November 27, but he has, in fact, already presented the budget for all of the Constitutional Offices such as Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Auditor General’s Office.
If one were looking to preempt what is to be expected on Monday, they need not look further than what was obtained on November 17 last in the National Assembly. Economic Advisor to the Opposition Leader, DrPeter Ramsaroop, has since predicted that there will be further cuts to key agencies and more wanton spending on unwanted white elephants while the nation suffers.
Dr Ramsaroop, drew reference to the Finance Minister’s justifications for cuts to key constitutional agencies. Jordan, on that day in the House, gave a single excuse for every single slash he made to each of the constitutional offices in this country- he essentially conceded that the economy is in bad shape and as such couldn’t afford anything more than recommended and allocated. According to Dr Ramsaroop, while there is some truth to this, the hidden agenda is far more sinister. He pointed to the allocation to Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) as an example.
Ramsaroop posited that a slash of almost one billion dollars of the budget of the elections body, coupled with the unilateral appointment of an 84-year-old party hack is just another move towards manipulating the elections machinery.
“The AFC is already in shambles and the PNC will have to go into future elections alone. Remember Local Government Elections is next year,” he stated.
A further analysis of the
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan
2018 budget allocations to the constitutional agencies reveals just how ominous a fiscal policy this Administration is pursuing. The capital allocation to the judiciary was slashed by two-thirds.
This would mean that the courts, with the exception of paying its salaries, telephone and electricity bills, would be unable to implement any of its planned projects aimed at improving the justice delivery system.
“Guyana’s courts have now been essentially left gagged and stuck in time,” he added.
Even more troubling, the Finance Minister went on to slash the budget of the Office of the Auditor General. While the courts of Guyana are expected to enforce the rule of law and keep the Administration in check, the Audit Office is in charge of ensuring that every penny spent by this Government is done so free from corruption and that we get value for money.
In the two years that we have seen this Administration in operation, the Auditor General’s Office has found that there has been hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayment to contractors and that billions were used in breach of our procurement laws.
“I have been told that the Auditor General was peeved and openly complained that the cuts by this Granger Administration will in fact impede the audits into their spending. Every right-thinking Guyanese must now ask themselves…why would a Government seek to manipulate the elections machinery, the court system and the auditors? The writing is on the wall,” he iterated.
Minister Jordan has already spent millions of dollars erecting billboards across the country touting ‘the pathway to the good life continues’ but one should not expect any transformational announcements on Monday, since by the Minister’s own admission, the size of the budget is expected to see an insignificant increase from that of 2017.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Development Bank (IDB) and other international financial institutions have all weighed in on Guyana’s economic bill of health, and documents a contraction in economic growth.
A national budget is essentially made up of two categories- recurring expenditures such as salaries, utilities and maintenance, and capital expenditures such as new projects.
Most new projects are given their allocations in yearly tranches. This essentially means that ninety per cent of the budget is preplanned or based on existing factors. For Jordan to tell the members of the National Assembly that the 2018 budget will be just a little more than the 2017 budget, it can only mean that there will be no new transformational announcement and that things are going to continue to be the same, except that he expects to collect a little more.
“The Finance Minister is on record promising no new taxes but this does not rule out further increases in fees, licenses and other charges for Government services,” Dr Ramsaroop concluded.