Opposition MP points to gaping holes in Budget 2019
– says no solid plan for oil, business sectors announced
While the coalition Government has boasted about the 2019 Budget being the largest ever financial blueprint that outlines plans for that fiscal year, the Parliamentary Opposition has combed through the document and has found several issues which it claimed were not taken into account.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has described the discovered issues as “gaping holes”, which he has said points to the lack of vision that the Government has for the country’s growth and development. He also said Government seems to be oblivious to the concerns of Guyanese.
Nandlall has said that, at minimum, the average Guyanese had expected the 2019 budget to at least attempt to rectify this depressing situation and chart a new course for the country. But, instead, it is a “compendium of highly questionable
data and a recitation of projects and policies sophistically packaged.”
Nandlall said all of this is done with the intention of deceiving Guyanese people into believing that the budget would transform the economy, empower the citizenry, and build sustainable communities for the good life.
“I say ‘questionable statistics’ because while the Minister (Winston Jordan) boasts about presenting an early budget, he omits to tell us that the statistics he used are extracted from the Mid-Year Report, with a projection of how he estimates the different sectors will perform for the remainder of the year 2018,” he added.
The former minister noted that Budget 2019 makes no reference to a national developmental plan. However, Nandlall posited that the Finance Minister has skillfully managed to package this “farce attractively and with great sophistry. A little probing beyond this glittering exterior reveals how hollow and empty the budget is,” he said.
Oil and gas
During his budget speech, the Opposition MP also noted that Minister Jordan did not mention a word about the fundamentally important local content legislation for the oil and gas sector. Neither did he make any mention whatsoever of the Petroleum Commission of Guyana Bill.
“These two pieces of legislation will constitute the foundation necessary to properly
manage and scrutinise this sector to ensure that Guyana gets its fair share. After all, we are starting out with the most lopsided Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) ever negotiated,” Nandlall posited.
Understandably, he said, people are anxious to know the plans which the Government has for the oil and gas sector, for there is no doubt that this sector has the potential to transform the life of every single Guyanese in record time.
At the same time, he said, Guyanese are much aware that without the proper regulatory framework, competent management, and strong oversight, we can be visited with the “resource curse” that has befallen so many oil-producing countries in the Third World.
“How can we prepare for first oil in 2020 as projected by the Minister, when, in 2019, we do not have these indispensable mechanisms in place? These are gaping holes in this budget,” he added.
Foreign direct investments
Nandlall said there was no mention whatsoever of an incentive scheme to attract foreign direct investments. He posited that the incentive schemes that were established under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration for both foreign and local investments have all been dismantled.
In fact, the former Attorney General said, many of these investors are currently being pursued by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to recover concessions granted under the PPP.
“This budget does nothing to make Guyana an attractive investment climate. Yet the Minister craftily says, and I quote, “GO-Invest had facilitated approximately $73.8 billion in proposed investments, anticipated to create 1,700 jobs across the Coastal Region and Region 9, in sectors such as agriculture, light manufacturing, services, forestry and tourism. To date, $44 billion of the aforementioned proposed investments has been approved. In 2019, GO-Invest is targeting between $60 and $80 billion in investments.” Nandlall said that with all the billions the Minister has referred to, and in all the sectors he has mentioned, he has not said that a single dollar has been invested or will be invested in 2019.
According to him, that is the guile and sophistry of this budget. “The budget speech of the Minister is replete with illusory statements like these, intended to fool the Guyanese people,” he added.