As Moses Nagamootoo will belt out another tune on the Parliament floor, I thought it wise to look at some of the other tunes he sung before in the hallowed chamber.
The Prime Minister will make a lot of hay about the size of the Budget – $300.7 billion – the biggest in our nation’s history. But while he will express pleasure about that fact, at the same time he will not say that tax revenues have also risen exponentially too. It has been pointed out that between 2014 and 2019, tax revenues are expected to go up by $88 billion, a 64.5 per cent increase. But more than that, using 2014 as the base year, increases in tax revenues will see Treasury receiving just over $210 billion.
That large sum has been removed, whether directly or indirectly, from the pockets of our people. This, in itself, is a staggering sum especially when one considers the short time that has gone by. Through my research, I found Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, then as an Opposition MP, in his 2012 Budget debate contribution saying “…take the money that you have increase from [Value
Added Tax] VAT and give it to the pensioners, give it to the workers, and give it to the people who deserve social assistance. That is the proof of growth. It must be people centred”. These are indeed good suggestions and I ask the Prime Minister what has happened now?
The Prime Minister in that speech too said “[i]t must be the duty of this National Assembly, not the Opposition but as a whole, to lower unjustified spending, to lower our national debt and to lower our fiscal deficit”.
Again indeed insightful words from our ‘indomitable’ First Vice President. But with those words in mind, it is, therefore, lamentable that Ram and McRae, in its 2019 Budget focus, pointed out that the Budget will record “…an overall deficit of $52.1 billion”.
It, therefore, means the Government will have to borrow, whether domestically or internationally, 17.3 per cent of the budgeted expenditure which will have to be paid back with interest, tomorrow and the days after that.
The Prime Minister in his 2013 Budget address regarding VAT championed an “…enlargement of the zero-rated basket”. But again, the Prime Minister seemed to have forgotten what he said, as his Government reduced the zero-rated basket and now Guyanese have to pay VAT on previously exempted and zero-rated items.
In fact during his stint as Prime Minister, VAT revenues are estimated to go up from $37.3 billion in 2014 to $54.3 billion in 2019. This is a 46 per cent increase. In fact, the Prime Minister in his 2012 address deemed VAT “…the vampire tax…”. Indeed with Nagamootoo at the helm, the tax has become vampiric.
The Prime Minister in his 2014 Budget contribution expressed his anxiety about using “our foreign reserves to keep the exchange rate in check…”. But Ram and McRae informed “[g]ross external reserves of Bank of Guyana at the end of 2018 projected at US$477 million, a decrease from US$581.0 million in 2017, or 17.9 per cent.
This represents 2.5 months of import cover”. It seems that the Prime Minister was prophetic, as it appears, that this is what his Government is doing. In fact, our reserves have sunk below the acceptable international threshold of three months import cover. This is a matter, I believe, that has not been getting the attention it rightly deserves.
So, those are just some of what the Prime Minister has said before. But as it goes to show, actions are indeed louder than words. Today, the hope the Prime Minister created prior to his election to his high office has been exposed as a mere smokescreen. The Guyanese people, clearly have been deceived.