Opposition to participate in Budget debate – Harmon

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon

The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition will be participating in the upcoming debates for Budget 2021 in the National Assembly.
Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon told media operatives on Tuesday that the party recognises that they are a minority when compared to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government’s 33-seat occupancy in the House. This means they cannot strike out any of the policies that are brought forward but only question some of the investments that were proposed to gain clarity.
“So far as us saying we can cut this or cut that, that is not a facility which is open to us right now in the Parliament. It is basically by virtue of the questions which we ask, the statements which we make, the speeches which we make in the National Assembly,” Harmon acknowledged.
Sittings of the National Assembly are being facilitated at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the debates will start in the coming days.
The coalition has a history of boycotting the National Assembly sittings and just last year, they were a no-show at the actual presentation of the 2020 Emergency Budget.
Budget 2021, pegged at $383.1 billion, was presented last week by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh under the theme “A Path to Recovery, Economic Dynamism and Resilience” and it is the first full-term budget of the Dr Irfaan Ali-led Administration since his assumption to office in August 2020. Again, the APNU/AFC boycotted the 2021 Budget presentation.
This year’s budget is underpinned by six main pillars: navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring a diverse and resilient productive sector, initiating investment, establishing world-class social services, improving public services, and ensuring respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.
“With these objectives in mind, this budget ensures we recover as a country both from 2020 and from the last five years of trauma; puts in place the policies needed to catalyse rapid economic growth in the near and medium-term; and lays the foundation needed to ensure that that growth is not transitory but is sustainable for the longer term,” the Finance Minister had explained during his four-hour long presentation.
With the measures announced in the 2021 Budget, the Finance Minister said Guyana’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to grow by 20.9 per cent, with the non-oil economy growing by 6.1 per cent. However, the projection is premised on the assumption that a reopening of the economy takes place with COVID-19 restrictions being gradually lifted and is, therefore, subject to significant downside risks.
Similarly, the agriculture, fishing and forestry sector is expected to expand by 5.6 per cent while the mining and quarrying sector is projected to grow by 39.1 per cent. In the oil and gas subsector, the daily rate of production for 2021 is expected to be just over 109,000 barrels of oil per day. This subsector is projected to grow by 46.7 per cent in 2021.
Manufacturing, construction, and services are expected to improve by 7.3 per cent, 9.1 per cent, and five per cent respectively.
For 2021, inflation is projected at 1.6 per cent, due to expectations of increased economic activity as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted with concomitant effects on commodity prices. Further, the overall balance of payments is expected to register a lower surplus in 2021, amounting to US$59.9 million compared with US$60.6 million in 2020. (G12)