2018 Bud­get dis­as­trous, abysmal fail­ure

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Mo­ments

af­ter Fi­nance Min­is­ter Win­ston Jor­dan de­liv­ered a near fourhour Bud­get 2018 pre­sen­ta­tion, Op­po­si­tion Leader Bhar­rat Jagdeo shred­ded the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal plan for the next year, say­ing that it was with­out a doubt one of the most “dis­as­trous” bud­gets ever pre­sented to the na­tion.

Speak­ing to re­porters from the Com­mit­tee Room at the Par­lia­ment Build­ing on Mon­day evening, the for­mer Pres­i­dent noted that the Bud­get, which was themed “The jour­ney to the good life con­tinues”, failed on every stan­dard, es­pe­cially as it re­lated to ad­dress­ing key mat­ters of con­cern to the pub­lic.

“He has failed on every one of those pa­ram­e­ters. Is­sues sur­round­ing jobs, wel­fare, frame­work for growth and devel­op­ment, clar­ity of the Gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, big-pic­ture is­sues on where the coun­try is go­ing – we had hoped that all of these would be part of the bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion… they have lived up to the low ex­pec­ta­tions peo­ple had of the Gov­ern­ment,” the Op­po­si­tion Leader stated.

Ac­cord­ing to Jagdeo, the Fi­nance Min­is­ter merely took the rou­tine work pro­grammes from the var­i­ous min­istries and read those in­con­se­quen­tial details out to the na­tion, while fail­ing to ad­dress key man­i­festo prom­ises such as job cre­ation. “This sort of things is not what it takes to in­spire a coun­try to pro­duce, to ex­pand wel­fare, to gen­er­ate jobs and so, on all those counts we have seen an ut­ter abysmal fail­ure on the part of the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and the Gov­ern­ment,” he stated.

Fic­ti­tious jobs

Ac­cord­ing to Jagdeo, the big­gest job cre­ation ini­tia­tive is GO-In­vest ex­pect­ing to bring in $154 bil­lion in new in­vest­ments next year. How­ever, this, he said, is noth­ing but fic­ti­tious, since sim­i­lar claims were made be­fore when Gov­ern­ment touted $180 bil­lion in in­vest­ments were ex­pected to be fa­cil­i­tated by GO-In­vest and cre­ate 10,000 jobs.

“They lied then and it is now true now. That’s about US$750 mil­lion ($154 bil­lion) of in­vest­ments and they haven’t said in what sec­tor. Even with the oil and gas sec­tor, they can’t meet US$750 mil­lion in in­vest­ments next year so that’s fic­ti­tious and it’s likely that the 5000 jobs that they are pro­ject­ing to cre­ate next year is also fic­ti­tious,” he ar­gued. Moreover, Jagdeo said that call­ing the mea­sures out­lined by the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment “pa­thetic” would be a mild de­scrip­tion.

“There is noth­ing here that in­spires; noth­ing that says to the Pri­vate Sec­tor “we’re work­ing as your part­ner”…there is noth­ing to say to any group of Guyanese, whether you’re a young per­son, whether you’re a pen­sioner, you’re a child go­ing to school, whether you’re a farmer, a baux­ite worker or any­one work­ing in re­tail, trade or a ser­vant that (you) have a bet­ter year to look for­ward to, based on this Bud­get. There is noth­ing to look for­ward to!” says the for­mer Pres­i­dent.

Non-per­form­ing econ­omy

Ex­am­in­ing the fi­nan­cial per­for­mance of the coun­try’s econ­omy, the Op­po­si­tion Leader posited that the growth rate could not have matched the re­vised pro­jec­tion of 3.1 per cent de­spite Gov­ern­ment col­lect­ing some 8.7 per cent more in to­tal rev­enues through taxes and other means than last year. This, Jagdeo noted, con­firms what the Op­po­si­tion has been say­ing all along, that the econ­omy is not per­form­ing. “They col­lected $8.2 bil­lion dol­lars more taxes in 2017 than in 2016. We’ve been say­ing that this gov­ern­ment is tak­ing more taxes out of peo­ples’ pocket while ar­gu­ing that they were too heav­ily taxed un­der the PPP,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to $10 bil­lion be­ing trans­ferred from stat- utory agen­cies into the trea­sury, Jagdeo high­lighted that there was a mas­sive de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the cur­rent account of the bal­ance of pay­ments of over US$ 200 mil­lion, while the mar­ginal in­crease in the cap­i­tal account is as a re­sult of the in­flows from ExxonMo­bil in­vest­ments and dis­burse­ment. He added that the coun­try’s debt has gone up and was pro­jected to keep go­ing up.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader went on to say that the an­nounce­ment of plans to carry out a coun­try­wide land val­u­a­tion to in­crease rates and taxes was a con­tra­dic­tion of the Min­is­ter say­ing that there were no new taxes in the bud­get. “They are in­tro­duc­ing a mea­sure now that, hav­ing ex­hausted the taxes mea­sures at the na­tional level, they are now tak­ing this to the NDCs (Neigh­bour­hood Demo­cratic Coun­cils) and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the coun­try,” he stated.

Sugar, rice

Jagdeo also re­flected on the Min­is­ter’s state­ments about the sugar in­dus­try, that the Spe­cial Pur­pose Unit ( SPU) would guide the di­vest­ment of sugar and also re­con­fig­ure the re­main­ing es­tates. Re­fer­ring to the Guyana Sugar Cor­po­ra­tion ( GuySuCo) be­ing termed an “old an­ti­quated in­dus­try” that needs to be got­ten rid of, Jagdeo said that had the PPP/C Gov­ern­ment taken that ap­proach re­gard­ing the baux­ite in­dus­try when it took of­fice in 1992, then baux­ite pro­duc­tion in Lin­den would not have con­tin­ued. “We cre­ated al­ter­na­tives for the peo­ple and still baux­ite mines open in Lin­den and then we man­age to pri­va­tise it. But this is their ap­proach, an in­dus­try that about 100,000 of our peo­ple de­pend on, that’s al­ready wreak­ing havoc on your bal­ance of pay­ments; now we’re see­ing how im­pact­ful the sec­tor is on ev­ery­thing else and this is your ap­proach to it – short-sighted,” he as­serted.

With re­gard to the rice sec­tor, the Op­po­si­tion Leader pointed out that it was the only in­dus­try that was sus­tain­ing the econ­omy’s growth rate and would be driv­ing the grow rate in the fu­ture with­out any help from Gov­ern­ment, ex­cept the fact that work is be­ing done to up­grade the grains.

En­ergy

Touch­ing on Gov­ern­ment’s pop­u­larly touted ‘Green State Devel­op­ment Strat­egy’ (GSDS), Jagdeo said that the coali­tion’s ap­proach to­wards the en­ergy pil­lar of the plan was one that was in con­tra­dic­tion of the over­all ob­jec­tive of the strat­egy, which is the sus­tain­able use of en­ergy in a green econ­omy.

He re­ferred to Jor­dan’s an­nounce­ment of en­tirely scrap­ping the Amaila Falls Hy­dro Pro­ject and mov­ing ahead with the Moco Moco Hy­dro Pro­ject. Ac­cord­ing to the Op­po­si­tion Leader, the lat­ter would only sup­ply Lethem with half a megawatt of power while 50 megawatts of power will be gen­er­ated from nat­u­ral gas. “That would vi­o­late the ob­jec­tive of this (GSDS) plan, which is to have a 100 per cent of our en­ergy come from re­new­able sources by 2025. And he sees noth­ing wrong with it,” Jagdeo as­serted.

Trans­parency

He went on to out­line that other en­ergy projects such as the so­lar farm at Mabaruma along with oth­ers are be­ing done with­out any trans­parency.

This led the for­mer Head of State to fur­ther high­light that Gov­ern­ment failed to ad­dress key is­sues in the emerg­ing oil sec­tor such as the re­lease of the oil con­tract in the name of trans­parency.

“Frankly speak­ing, the worst pe­riod in mod­ern his­tory in terms of trans­parency and the use of pub­lic funds is now,” he stated as he listed sev­eral projects that Gov­ern­ment was yet to fully come clean with the details on such as the new De­mer­ara River cross­ing and the D’Ur­ban Park.

Moreover, while Min­is­ter Jor­dan lec­tured on the oil in­dus­try and how to spend im­pend­ing re­sources wisely, at the same time Jagdeo said there was a de­lib­er­ate act on the part of Gov­ern­ment to de­lay the es­tab­lish­ment of the Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund.

“This was a prom­ise made two and a half years ago to get it done, but this is ba­si­cally a de­lay­ing tac­tic. I think they do not want the Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund in place be­cause the Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund will re­strict

their abil­ity to waste and to use the re­sources wan­tonly and in a man­ner they’re us­ing pub­lic re­sources now,” he stated.

Ac­cord­ing to the Op­po­si­tion Leader, a plat­i­tude ap­proach was taken on other ma­jor is­sues of na­tional im­por­tance such as con­sti­tu­tion reform, debt man­age­ment, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Elec­tions and the in­ter­na­tional Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals.

In­fra­struc­ture

He went on to re­it­er­ate that the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment con­tinues to pig­gy­back on old projects started un­der the Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime that are now com­ing to fruition.

In fact, this is ex­actly the case in the in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor, Jagdeo said, not­ing that most of the road projects were ini­ti­ated by the pre­vi­ous Ad­min­is­tra­tion. He specif­i­cally men­tioned the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port (CJIA) Ex­pan­sion Pro­ject, which the Op­po­si­tion Leader said has turned into tragedy with the al­ter­ations to the orig­i­nal de­sign. “This coun­try needs an air­port that will look to fu­ture; it is un­be­liev­able that you would just re­duce the air bridges to two from eight when we have air­craft on the tar­mac wait­ing (to dis­em­bark pas­sen­gers)… They just re­for­mu­lated the pro­ject and now we’re gonna have an air­port that we will have to go back to (in the fu­ture to again ex­pand),” he posited.(Guyana Times)

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