After more than two weeks of gruelling debates and examination of estimates, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) proposed $250 billion 2017 National Budget was passed in the National Assembly.
This comes even as the Private Sector Commission (PSC) joined forces with two chief labour movements – the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) – in calling for an imperative multistakeholder forum on some of the worrying contents in Budget 2017. However, despite similar calls by the Opposition, both Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo disregarded continuous calls by major stakeholders for an urgent meeting on Budget 2017.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira had described the development as “phenomenally important” and lambasted the Government for ignoring the public’s concerns.
Meanwhile, the examination of the 2017 Estimates and Expenditures for the various Ministries concluded, where the sum of $24.940 billion was considered and approved by the Committee of Supply for the Finance Ministry.
Over the past two weeks, all Government agencies’ budgets were examined by the Opposition Members of Parliament, who questioned each Minister intensely on how the monies will be spent.
Key sectors include education, which was allocated $43.1 billion or 17 per cent of the National Budget; agriculture with an allocation of $20.6 billion; and public health with an allocation of $31.2 billion.
Coming under scrutiny from the Opposition were the allocations for Office of the Prime Minister – $882 million; Parliament – $1.5 billion; Office of the Auditor General – $755 million; the Guyana Elections Commission – $2.030 billion; Ministry of the Presidency – $6.004 billion; Social Cohesion Ministry – $90.1 million; Business Ministry – $1.7 billion; Communities Ministry – $5.9 billion (regional allocations not included); Finance Ministry – $24.9 billion; Foreign Affairs Ministry– $5.164 billion; Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry – $2.463 billion; Natural Resources Ministry – $798 million; Public Infrastructure Ministry – $34.6 billion, Social Protection Ministry – $16.6 billion; and Telecommunications Ministry – $2.3 billion.
The reading of the Appropriation Bill 2016, Bill Number 24 of 2016, by the Clerk of the National Assembly was facilitated three times so as to have all Budget Estimates approved and passed as printed by the Parliament Committee of Supply.
Throughout the Budget debates, the Opposition maintained that the measures highlighted in Budget 2017 will create hardships for Guyanese, pointing to the reduction on Value Added Tax (VAT) and then the swift announcement on the extension of VAT payments on water and electricity bills. Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo had remarked that the Budget will kill the Private Sector and unleash untold hardships on the nation, describing it as the “worst budget” in the history of budgets.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, before the National Assembly was adjourned, Leader of Government business, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Member of Parliament Juan Edghill along with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland all culminated the session by wishing each other, the media and the Guyanese public best wishes for the season.
Opposition MP Edghill said, “On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, and all of our MPs of this side of the House, the PPP/C and all of our supporters countrywide to extend to you, Sir (Speaker), the staff of the Parliament Office, and to our colleagues on the other side of the House, the media and by extension all of Guyana ‘Merry Christmas’.”
The Speaker in closing the session said, “Christmas is a time for giving and loving, a time for togetherness and not separation. It is a time for appreciating what we have, giving thanks for it, and be willing to share it with others, that’s my humble appreciation of Christmas and so I wish that for all of us.”
The National Assembly is expected to have its next sitting on January 5, 2017.