As Government continues its budget preparations for the next fiscal year, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has berated the Administration for its management of the economy, suggesting that much of the country’s money is being invested towards the perks and benefits of Ministers. Jagdeo, a former President, made these comments when he addressed sugar workers and their families at a Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) public meeting at Enterprise, East Cost Demerara (ECD) during last week.
“This Government spends large sums of money but it doesn’t spend it on the economy; it doesn’t spend it on enhancing welfare for people,” Jagdeo claimed in his address on Wednesday.
Government has repeatedly noted that it has expended significant allocations to sugar but Finance Minister Winston Jordan suggested last year that it would be money wasted if finances were given out in similar fashion to the ailing industry. Jagdeo however countered that sugar was not a burden to the $250 billion 2017 Budget, telling the gathering that allocations to the industry were a small portion. He also suggested that the coalition Government is misplacing budgetary allocations.
“Sugar gets a tiny fraction of the budget but when you look at where the money is going – $40 billion increase in recurrent expenditure; non-productive, wasteful expenditure. Over $100 million on building a fence around the Office of the President; millions more spent of fleets of vehicles for Ministers and drivers and everybody else; fixing up State House and the Prime Minister’s Office [and] trips abroad,” Jagdeo told the crowd.
The Opposition Leader further referenced that some Ministers have sought trips for medical care to Ireland in Europe and elsewhere.
“Just a couple weeks ago, they have decided to insure Ministers [for] $38 million a year,” he noted.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon had however defended the move of the foreign medical care, suggesting that Ministers were footing their own bill.
Jagdeo later criticised the President’s bus programme, saying that resources would have been better allocated to the $10,000 school voucher programme which had existed under the previous Administration.
“They took away $1.6 billion from the children of this country when they removed the $10,000 grant. In the three years, it would have been $5 billion. They could have bought over 1000 busses with the $5 billion but they took it away claiming they couldn’t afford it but they afford a 50 per cent increase for Ministers,” the former President stressed.
Months after assuming office in 2015, Cabinet Ministers were allocated salary increases amounting to 50 per cent, which saw their monthly earnings rising to $870,000 from the $579,000 which was handed out monthly under the previous Administration.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was allocated a $2 million increase to $20,580,000 per annum, while other Vice Presidents are paid just over $11.1 million per year.
Members of Parliament with no specific portfolio were awarded a 20 per cent increase in salaries which reflected an uptick to $2,402,532 which moved from the previous $2,002,116.