The Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), form a group of unbelievers. It is indeed most repugnant to hear and read that the Leader of the said Opposition, Hon. Joseph Harmon, said, “It has been revealed that mere weeks after Budget 2021 was approved, the PPP secretly swiped almost $2 billion from the Contingency Fund.” He adds, “These monies have already been expended without any oversight or accountability by the National Assembly (and) which the PPP is now seeking approval for after the fact.”
First, let me quickly recap a piece of recent bona fide history for the public. In December 2020, APNU/AFC’s withdrawals from Guyana’s Contingencies Fund for 2019 amounted to $4.150 billion. However, according to the Auditor General (AG), these funds did not meet the criteria set out in Section 41(3) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act.
The AG’s carefully audited report explained “…that Section 220(1) of the Constitution explicitly states that ‘Parliament may make provision for the establishment of a Contingencies Fund and for authorising the Minister responsible for finance to make advances from that Fund if he is satisfied that there is an urgent need for expenditure for which no other provision exists’.” I ask, who was the man in charge then? It was APNU/AFC’s Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan.
So, by virtue of moral rectitude alone, Joseph Harmon should be mute on this matter. The APNU/AFC amount was staggering, and the illegality of it was most obvious.
The Auditor General further detailed that “…for the period under review, all the advances granted from the Contingencies Fund were to meet routine (not emergency) expenditure, and did not meet the criteria defined in Section 41(3) of the FMA Act.” So, Harmon is now deliberately forgetting this.
Let me now remind him and his cronies that what is currently ongoing in Guyana is almost unprecedented. Just last week, President Irfaan Ali had to officially “Declare a disaster in Guyana” because of the ongoing flooding. Details have revealed that “… as of June 7, 2021, a total of 28,228 households were affected by flooding, some with water entering their homes, domestic animals and livestock in distress, or farmlands inundated.”
The magnitude of this catastrophe is such that Guyana is now in overdrive mode as it seeks to combat the rising crisis. The word is that the country is one step closer to securing assistance from the European Union (EU) to boost its flood-relief efforts.
Director-General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, has said two applications have already been completed for assistance under the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM).
We need to take note that the EU Chargé d’Affaires, Ms. Evelina Melbarzde, became very proactive, actually inviting the CDC to seek assistance.
“One application is to provide real-time flooding mapping and GIS support that would be able to give us a better understanding of the impact across the country. The second is to provide priority support.”
If what I aforesaid is not enough to hush Harmon, I now point to his verbal attack. This is plain childish and lacks substantiation. He says that the PPP/C, in utilising funds and seeking for more, proves that there is a vulgar mismanagement of “…the economy at an unprecedented level, and is symptomatic of extraordinarily poor economic planning, incompetence, and the sort of ‘adhocracy’ which is characteristic of the PPP under Bharrat Jagdeo and, latterly, his eager collaborator Dr. Ashni Singh.”
So, he cannot prove squandering, as he uses the term; and secondly, he cannot show illegality, as the right procedures are being followed by the Government. This is so normal in these attacks from APNU/AFC as a whole. There was the call for ‘proof of discrimination’ during the COVID $25,000 Cash Grant exercise, yet none came. This is not dissimilar to the hiding of Statements of Poll (SoPs) for Region Four.
Here are some statistics to upend the verbose garbage constituting Harmon’s unmerited harangue. In 2014, the last full year of the PPP/C in office, Guyana’s total international reserves were US$668 million. By March of last year, that amount fell to US$518.5 million.
At the end of 2014, gold reserves in the Bank of Guyana totalled $25 billion. In June 2018, this amount was reduced to $3.1 billion, and by mid-2019, this further dwindled to a disturbingly low $589 million.
In 2014, the last year that the PPP produced a budget, the total tax taken by the GRA was $135 billion. During the Granger Administration, over 200 new tax measures were placed on the backs of ordinary Guyanese, raking in $223 billion in taxes, which is $88 billion more in tax revenue on an annual basis. Yet, no national good became of it.
At the end of 2014, the total assets held at commercial banks were $421.8 billion. Commercial banks were therefore in a position to provide substantial credit to the Private Sector. Interest rates in 1992 were 35%. By the end of 2014, interest rates had been reduced to 10.8%.
I hope the issue is settled, and that the Government simply goes ahead and does its mandated work. ‘So far so good’ is the pronouncement.