The PPP presented its 2020 budget last week in Parliament. It reversed many taxes, including removing VAT on water and electricity; increased old-age pension; reintroduced and increased cash grants for school children; doubled school uniform vouchers; reintroduced water and electricity subsidies for pensioners; provided for $25,000 COVID-19 cash grant per household; reintroduced annual bonus for the disciplined services; provided $150M for risk allowances for health workers on the COVID-19 frontline; reversed increases for leases on agriculture land; reintroduced subsidies for agricultural and mining equipment; restored zero-rated provisions for hundreds of items; and the list of “goodies” goes on and on. It reminded everyone why budget time under the PPP Government creates excitement, because people expect “goodies”.
Every single household, every business, has something in the budget that increases their cash-flow, and still there is money for big projects.
APNU+AFC and its parent, the PNC, have introduced thirty-three budgets between 1964 and 1992, and between 2015 and 2020. In contrast to the PPP budgets, between 1992 and 2015, and now again in 2020, people always anticipate PNC budgets with fear and anxiety, because they expect the budget to take things from them, to create more burdens for people and businesses. In fact, the old-time PNC budgets had names, like “pick-pocket” and “choke-and-rob” budgets.
After the PPP Government presented the 2020 budget in Parliament last week, the former APNU+AFC Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, described the budget as a “private sector” budget, one that erodes the revenue base and pumps up the deficit. Jordan revealed how out of his depth he was as Finance Minister. More importantly, Jordan must have been out of his mind, boasting of his and APNU+AFC’s reviled policy of “tax and spend”, or, rather, “tax and waste”. The revenue base he is talking about is the almost 200 new taxes or increased taxes on the people of Guyana, on ordinary people, on businesses and on industries, which APNU+AFC introduced between 2015 and 2020. Jordan shepherded APNU+AFC’s assault on the people of Guyana by increasing taxes that, in 2019, brought in almost $100B in tax revenue. In the five years APNU+AFC were in Government, they brought in more than $400B in taxes, money that was ripped off from people’s pockets, reducing the buying power of the people.
What did they have to show for that extra money they took from people’s pockets; from the small businesses; from the miners, etc.? There was no big project that that tax money contributed to. The Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion and modernisation was supported by a loan from the Chinese EXIM Bank, not from taxpayers’ money, and was started under the PPP. Now that the PPP Government is back, it has inherited a project that was reduced in scope, had more money spent on it, and was of a quality that necessitated the new PPP Government spending millions of US dollars to remedy. The East Coast Highway and West Demerara Highway were started under the PPP. In the case of the East Coast Highway, it will have to be completed by the new PPP Government. These were funded with money the PPP had already mobilised before 2015. The PPP’s Sheriff Street expansion saw APNU spending hundreds of millions, but there is nothing to show for it. The Ogle-to-Diamond Georgetown-bypass highway never got started. Not a single new hospital or highway, no new school etc. was built with taxpayers’ money. Whatever were built were those things already underway in 2015, and with monies already mobilised by the PPP.
They did repair a building, now known as the Ocean View swindle, at a cost of $1.6B, and now the people of Guyana are being told it is owned by a private person. That person is asking for $1.6B to sell the building to the Government. They built a monstrosity at Durban Park at a cost of over $1B, but cannot account for most of the money. They rented a house for more than $200M and called it a medical warehouse. They paid billions for medicines, but in five years, there were always major medicine and medical supplies’ shortages. They signed two contracts for schools at a total contract sum exceeding one billion dollars, and paid mobilisation costs, but construction of neither of the schools has started. They did feasibility studies for the Demerara River Bridge for more than $150M, but there is nothing to show for this. They closed four sugar estates and impoverished more than 40,000 people, while borrowing $30B for GUYSUCO, but cannot show what they did with it. They got $US18M from EXXON, but we still do not know what happened with that money. They paid for a contract for sea defence in Mahaicony, but the work is still to be done. The Deepwater Harbour, the Corentyne River Bridge, the Amaila Hydroelectric Plant were all major projects that were abandoned.
Not only did they collect more taxes from the people, but they took away entitlements that people had. They also borrowed more than US$600M, increasing the debt from US$1.1B to $US1.7B. They also totally spent out the $15B gold reserve at the Bank of Guyana, and built up a $100B overdraft at the Bank of Guyana.
With that track record, Jordan should have just shut his mouth and hide in his closet.