The Opposition’s budget debate is riddled with hypocrisy

Dear Editor,
I felt utterly bemused when I read an article in which Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton described the budget as a “Dead Meat Budget”. The first thing which flashed across my mind was Ramjattan’s “dead meat” prophecy, which came to pass.
And then a question popped up in my mind: Are the PNC next in line? It would seem that Norton has become fixated on that term, since the no-confidence motion brought against him by the Florida Chapter of the PNC/R.
It would seem that Mr Norton and his crew were in hibernation when the PNC-led Coalition presented its Budget from 2015 to 2019. According to him, the 2023 Budget is “void of crucial measures to grow the economy outside of the oil and gas sector”. This is a baffling statement, since it would appear that the Opposition members simply had to condemn the budget on the basis of appealing to the emotions of the people, and deceitfully misguiding them by regurgitating “high cost of living and poverty” as bait.
Ramjattan is fixated on the imaginary ‘kickbacks’ from the huge number of contracts that would be awarded. Many measures were stated by the Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, which would alleviate poverty and indirectly increase the disposable incomes of the people. These numerous measures to combat the high cost of living, which is a global phenomenon, were repeated again and again by all the Government Ministers and MPs in the Budget Debate so far, especially Ministers Deodat Indar and Priya Manickchand, whilst the Opposition MPs’ contributions were vacuous and without any real substance, just cheap politicking.
This brings me to the crux of the matter. What benefits did this nation receive from over $1.250 trillion which were squandered from the budgetary allocations each year from 2015 to 2019? This is in addition to the billions squandered from the Reserves and the Consolidated Fund. Imagine what would have happened if the Coalition had their hands on the oil money.
During its tenure, the Coalition cared less about the cost of living and the livelihood of the poor Guyanese, as they greatly increased the various taxes year after year, closing down the sugar estates and throwing over 7,000 workers on the bread line. It was tax galore as the backs of the poor people were broken by excessive taxation and ever-increasing costs. I could recall the great Sir Winston Churchill had once said that to try to tax a nation into prosperity is like standing in a bucket and trying to lift it by the handle. This was exactly what the Coalition did.
The sugar industry is still reeling from the negative impact of this unconscionable closure, which destroyed not only livelihoods, but billions in fixed assets, such machinery and equipment and standing cane. The Coalition created the ‘black hole’, a term they have coined to describe GuySuCo. They should never argue about budgetary allocations to the entity. Many workers in other sectors were also dismissed because they were perceived to be supporters of the PPP.
I could recall that during the Coalition’s tenure, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, the TUC General Secretary, in a Plain Talk programme, told television host Christopher Ram (see that the TUC had taken to the Minister (Mt Jordan) a novel approach, one that eschewed the usual list of tax reductions and increases in the personal allowance, asking instead for measures to help both the employed and the unemployed by greater emphasis on public health and the environment. In its wide-ranging paper, the TUC asked that attention be paid to communities, the village economy, the cooperative movement, sports, social dialogue, etc.
What wrong was committed in the 2023 Budget, Mr. Lewis? You have been given more than what you wanted, and your Coalition Government failed miserably.
Whilst ‘citizen GHK Lall’, in a letter to the press, called for job creation projects to ameliorate the high and troubling levels of unemployment, funds to deal with the mentally-ill and the addicted, a new jail, and a push for ecotourism, are jobs not being created almost on a daily basis? Since the PPP/C took office in 2020, job creation has been a top priority. How many jobs had the Coalition created when in Government? They did the opposite.
The 2023 Budget ensures that all ailments, both social and economic, are dealt with condignly. This Government has had to deal with, and is still dealing with, the pandemic, and floods which have now become a regular feature, and deserves to be applauded for dealing with the negative impacts of both. The high cost of living and inflation are global, and this Government has been buffering these impacts to ensure that the standard of living is not eroded. What would have been the action of the Coalition, apart from squandering the oil monies? We have seen them squandering and looting the taxpayers’ dollars as if there was no tomorrow. They were adept at giving less and taking more from Guyanese.
Mr. Ramjattan always sees ‘kickbacks’ from contracts and awards to ‘cronies and families’ of the Government officials and Ministers as a statement, for which he has no evidence. He and his colleagues should attempt to invent a new approach to budget debating. They had nothing to offer this nation when in Government, and they have nothing to offer now as an Opposition. No doubt, they will be permanently ensconced in their new office, incessantly regurgitating marginalisation, racial discrimination, imaginary deprivations, and the misguided utterings of corruption. The Guyanese people know better, the Coalition cannot fool all the people all the time.
Congratulations to the Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh for preparing and presenting the 2023 Budget, which has indeed set ‘the framework for Guyana’s continued growth and development, even amid a challenging global economic climate’.

Yours sincerely,
Haseef Yusuf