Budget 2022 debate reaffirms APNU/AFC is clueless, confused

Budget 2022 has generally been praised by people and organisations across Guyana. Those who are among the “usual suspects”, who would twist themselves like an American pretzel in order to find fault with Budget 2022, are having a horrendous time trying to do so. The Opposition political party – in this case APNU/AFC – or, to be more accurate, the PNC, said very little in between the reading of the budget last Wednesday and the start of the debate this past Monday. Clearly, they were confused and in search of a way to poke holes in the budget. Now that the debate has actually started, we know why the silence. Not unexpectedly, the speakers representing APNU/AFC thus far appear confused, totally clueless, and they clearly expose the fact that APNU/AFC come to the debate without any party position, excepting they must attack the budget.
In the process, they make every Government MP look like Einstein.

No national budget is perfect, and any effective and competent Opposition can find fault and find specific things to logically criticise. But this opposition deserves the characterisation made by the Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, who described them as thirty-one (31) “headless yard fowls, fluttering and flattering”. They are so confused that, on Tuesday morning, they boycotted their opening speaker. Yes, APNU/AFC boycotted the budget debate presentation by the Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan. Increasingly, Ramjattan’s prediction several years back: that joining the PNC would render the AFC “dead meat”, has not only come true, but now his own political career is “dead meat”. It must be very lonely and depressing for Khemraj to be now rejected by his comrades, the ones he conspired with most recently to rig the election results. He is being stabbed in the back by those he joined in an unsuccessful attempted electoral heist.

Before the debate, in the PNC’s only response to Budget 2022, the hand-picked General Secretary, aka the Leader of the PNC’s “creature”, could only say that Budget 2022 was not “fit for purpose”. She was unable to give even one reason why Budget 2022 was not “fit for purpose”. She meekly intimated that, during the budget debate in Parliament, they would show that the budget was not “fit for purpose”. After two days and several speakers from the Opposition, the Guyanese people are still awaiting the arguments to show the budget is not “fit for purpose”.

Even if they are unable to persuade Guyanese, one would have thought that they would come with even some half-baked arguments towards the theme of “not fit for purpose”. Yet, deep into the debate, more than one-third through the allotted time for the debate, not one argument, not one specific example, has been presented.
The shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, MP Amanza Walton-Desir, started the debate on behalf of her colleagues. Her main point was that “numbers matter, they do not lie”. She is, of course, right and the Government MP Ms. Yvonne Pearson, following up later, reaffirmed that “numbers matter, they do not lie”. But what were the numbers the APNU/AFC shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs brought forward to demonstrate the budget was not “fit for purpose”? The number one “numbers” she focused on was that the $218B allocated for infrastructural development was too large, because Guyana has no capacity to utilise such large sums of money.
In the process, she insulted every Guyanese contractor, large and small; every Guyanese worker. But she also failed to identify which of the projects she would eliminate to reduce the $218B infrastructural development plan the Government has proposed. Would she eliminate the six brand-new hospitals, construction of which would start in 2022; the Linden-to-Mabura Road that starts the construction of the Linden-to-Lethem Highway; the road from Timerhi to Bartica; Amaila Hydro-electricity; the many housing schemes; or the community roads, the hospitality institution, the Health Training Institute, the upgrading of the Port Mourant Training Institute to start training Guyanese for the Oil and Gas industry? It is insulting for MP Walton-Desir to conclude that the budget is not “fit for purpose” because its allocation of $85B would be wasted without telling the nation how she came to that conclusion.

Ramjattan, not to be outdone, once again attacked the Because We Care school grant, which in Budget 2022 has been increased to $25,000 per child. In attacking the school grant, which every single child in school gets, Ramjattan accused those who distribute the funds of corruption. The people in charge are the professional staff of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Finance’s internal auditors are on hand for the distribution, and so, too, are staff members of the Auditor General’s Office. So, Ramjattan ended up insulting all the professional staff of the Ministry of Education. Most of those persons were the same staff in the Ministry of Education prior to August 2020.

Another MP from the Opposition accused the Government of not keeping its promise of restoring the cash grant, completely ignoring the fact that not only did the PPP restore the grant, which was $10,000 before 2015, when it was ended by APNU/AFC, but that Budget 2022 increased it to $25,000. Another Opposition MP took the position that $25,000 per child is not enough.
Truly, the Opposition is confused and clueless on Budget 2022.