Budget 2019 fails to solve most basic problems – Jagdeo

– says budget misses mark in addressing energy costs, other issues

With the proverbial dust settling from Budget 2019, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed his conviction that the policies announced in the budget would not solve some of Guyana’s basic woes, and thus the prognosis for the immediate future is bleak.
At his press conference on Monday, Jagdeo noted that when one strips away the rhetoric and propaganda from the budget speeches, questions have to be asked about what new jobs — besides those for consultants — are being created by the budget.
“Large sums are being set aside to pay a tiny cabal connected (at the party level); large sums of money…and there are a growing number of these consultants, and (some) are not there for their particular skill; they are there because of their connections to the PNC. And most of them are in the pensionable age,” he declared.
“No plan for job creation for ordinary Guyanese; no plan to address the growing cost of living, higher water rates, higher electricity rates, higher transportation costs, higher movement of commodities people buy,” Jagdeo said.
Besides the budget’s failure to address high energy costs, Jagdeo noted, most of the money is going towards building new prisons, when it comes to public security. The Opposition Leader expressed the view that growing crime rates are not being effectively addressed.
“In Agriculture, the budget remains stagnant; no major change for the agriculture sector. The miners didn’t see any difference. There were several new features in the budget that got people excited, but then they took away a significant benefit from people,” he said.
“A lot of my colleagues got excited about the capital gains tax: if you reinvest your capital gains within six months at another property, you don’t have to pay; but they did not realise the Minister took away the ownership exemption they had — that if you own something for 25 years, you are not capital gains exempt. All the older folk who own their buildings across Guyana would not have had to pay capital gains if they sold their property. They now have to pay capital gains,” he explained.
Jagdeo noted that the outlook for 2019 is seemingly not any better than this year’s. He cited the high levels of borrowing, which he noted can have repercussions for the private sector. He also noted that these debts will become due in just a few years.
This is certainly true for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) $30 billion bond negotiated by the Special Purpose Unit, for which repayments are scheduled to begin in May of next year.

Then there are the recommendations the Opposition had made. In an advertisement titled ‘Budget 2019, Guyanese expect better’, the PPP listed additional measures Government should announce in its budget. According to Jagdeo, none was taken on board by the Government.
“The Minister refused to address any of the nearly 30 concerns that we raised in a public ad. We didn’t just want to do it in the quiet of the Ministry compound, we raised 30 issues; none of those have been addressed. So when you take away the spin, next year will be as bad as this one,” Jagdeo observed.
The party had wanted, among other things, the reversal of the ban on vehicles over eight years old; reversal of the ban on importation of used tyres; reversal on increases in water rates.
The party also called for reversal of the 35 per cent incremental increases on University of Guyana tuition fees, as well as reversals of VAT on local products in the forestry sector, and the tax on materials and supplies in the fisheries sector.
Government had announced that tax free salary increases by up to seven per cent would be implemented. The disciplined services were to be included in this sum. However, the PPP urged the Government to restore the annual one-month tax free salary bonus it previously gave the disciplined services.
It also called for the restoration of cash grants to public school children from nursery to secondary, and for it to be increased to $20,000; as well as the single parent assistance programme, complete with vouchers. In addition, it recommended the restoration of electricity and water subsidies to pensioners, and the national housing programme.
“Stop the increased borrowing and depletion of gold and other reserves,” the party’s advertisement had also stated. “Stop the extravagant and wasteful spending on travel, food, rentals, vehicles and other things that do not benefit the Guyanese people.”
The party had also urged Government to take heed of its own consultant, Norconsult, and to recommence the Amaila Falls Hydro Project. In addition, it recommended Government initiate new infrastructure projects, and not just complete those that were started under the former PPP administration.