Budget Debate 20131749 08 Apr, 2013
Mr. Adams: Before I present my presentation, I would like to say that I am one of the Members of Parliament who do not hide to consult with the Ministers. I consult openly with Ministers Ali, Benn, Rodrigues, Persaud and Westford. I am happy for those consultations.
I rise to continue to debate on the Budget 2013 that was presented to this honourable House by the Hon. Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh, Minister of Finance, under the theme Overcoming Challenges Together, Accelerating Gains for Guyana. The very theme of this budget speaks of the challenges and the call on this entire House to work together in order to overcome them. I am positive that these challenges are not insurmountable and as the theme suggests that we work together, we can achieve the goal the theme has set before us and accelerate gains for all the people of Guyana.
Budget 2013 is before us and although it does not meet the needs of all the people of Guyana, and more particularly the needs of the ordinary man, we on both sides of this honourable House can work over the next few days and put away our personal preferences and place Guyana and the people first. We must work as a team and make the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of all of Guyana. We can make it if we try.
The time has long been passed for us to come to grips with the configuration of this Tenth Parliament. More than ever, we are hearing of the term “one-seat majority”. We must forget “one-seat” and remember that on this side of the House stands the majority. We must stop confronting and start consulting. The Hon. Minister of Finance himself alluded to the configuration of this Tenth Parliament and in so doing he urged this House to “make sound decisions that can withstand the scrutiny of time.” He also asked for rational and meritocratic configurations and for there to be the identification of sensible and practical solutions. We have come to identify those sensible and practical solutions that will help us to overcome the many challenges to accelerate gains for Guyana.
There can be no denying that the PPP/C Government has made strives for the further development of Guyana. We on both sides of the House would have seen this, but can we safely say that all is well? Budget 2013, though it has in its various developmental components, has failed to address the needs of the ordinary man.
We heard of the country’s growth rate over the reporting period, but one question remains in the minds of most Guyanese: What is there for me? The residents of Region 3 welcome the news of the news of the proposed rehabilitation of the West Demerara highway, the Canal Polder Numbers 1 and 2 roads. We welcome the 10 measures as were outlined by the Minister of Finance in his budget presentation. They are all commendable, but how much does this mean to the ordinary man, the ordinary public servants?
We heard of the various proposals for infrastructural development but we need to hear about the proposal for the human development. The ordinary man is not too much concerned about the highways, nor the Cheddi Jagan International Airport extension. He is concerned about bread and butter issues. He wants to hear about the salary increases and VAT reduction. This will help him to put foods on his family’s table. It is quite true that we did not hear of rising food and fuel prices and other essential items in the budget presentation, but the small man knows whenever he goes to the shop, though it is not announced, he will be asked to pay more. We must not behave like the proverbial ostrich and buried our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well. All is not well. There is always room for improvement and in this instance there is room for improvement.
The ordinary man and woman of Region 3 are interested in wages and salary increases. We are not that much interested in a minimum wage but the public servants are interested in a living wage. A budget that had a 10% increase in wages and salaries would have enable the ordinary man and woman to live more comfortably. Region 3 allocation for the year 2013 is indeed a substantial one and it caters for the various programmes namely education, health and agriculture.
The regional health sector has indeed come a far way. The Best Hospital is still struggling to become the best hospital. This institution is short of doctors and nurses and other critical staff. Although we heard of the number of doctors and nurses that are being trained, this institution is still short of staff. We are grateful for the few nurses and doctors who worked additional hours to ensure that their patients are given the best of care and they must be commended. Some, though, are acting in various positions and are receiving their acting allowances.
I would wish at this time to compliment Dr. Bridgemohan who is doing all he can, in his powers, to make this hospital the best hospital. I wish to appeal to the Ministers of Health and the Public Service for them to send additional doctors and nurses and specialist to the West Demerara Regional Hospital, the Wakenaam Cottage Hospital and the Leguan Hospital.
Education: This sector is still without a building it can call its own. It is appalling to see how the offices are cramped in little make shift cubicles to perform their daily tasks. When the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) vacated the office we were of the view that the remaining space would have been occupied by the Department of Education, Region 3. This was not so. That space is now the regional stores.
We hear of all the glorious intervention for the education sector, these are commendable. Our Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results are often on par or even surpass those of our sister CARICOM states. This is an indeed positive indicator that our teachers are performing their duties and their commendations are in order. Many of these students, however, are at home waiting to find a place of employment. I wish to place on record though that as a result of my contributions to the Budget 2012 debate some relief measures were brought to the students and teachers of the Vreed-en-Hoop Secondary School.
This world is now a global village and information technology is here to stay with us. We heard of the large sums of money spent on information technology. Many of those laboratories are not functioning, dozens of computers harbour dust in the school. I will give the names of two such schools in Region 3 where about 60 computers laid idled, Patentia Secondary School and L’Heureuse Adventure Secondary School. Much has done to cater for the leads of the learners. Billions of dollars are being spent on the construction and rehabilitation and extension of schools. I will ask this question: When would that 10% of moneys, which is spent on buildings, be spent on teachers’ salaries?
The multi-year agreement that was signed by the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Teachers Union is in breach. Teachers are supposed to receive one month tax free of their salary in the month in which they proceed on Whitley Council Leave. The teachers of Region 3 would have received that money on the first half or the second half of the year.
Head teachers would have become eligible for duty-free concessions but the last set of concessions were granted in the year 2009 and many head teachers, who were eligible, are no longer eligible for that concession.
In my Budget 2012 presentation, I made reference to the conditions under which our trainee teachers study at the Vreed-en-Hoop in-service training centre. Nothing has changed. I can recall saying that instead of extending the Windsor Forest Primary School senior building the junior building be renovated. This has not being done. The building is still vacant. If that was done it would have allowed the teachers to have a building that they can call their own and be in an environment that is more conducive to learning. In the year 2013, I am extending an invitation to the Hon. Minister of Education to visit the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) Vreed-en-Hoop centre.
I will wish to ask the Minister of Education if any study was done as to the risk being posed to the students of Leonora Secondary School where it is now being proposed that it will erect an e-Governance tower. My colleague, the Hon. Ms. Amna Ally alluded in her presentation to the value for money. As we speak, the students of the St. John Secondary School had to vacate their building this morning because of defects on that building. Millions were spent in the year 2001. Mr. Speaker, are we getting value for our money?
The youths of Region 3 eagerly await the completion of that synthetic track. For they believe that this facility will aid in them becoming sportsman and sportswomen. It was our hope that the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development and the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport would seek to complete rehabilitation of the Den Amstel Youth Camp. We trust that the many sports ground would be upgraded in the year 2013 and our young men and women would find a proper place to occupy their time.
This region is known for its agricultural capabilities and while we can boast that our rice farmers would have done fairly well in the year 2013, despite their challenges at the moment, some farmers cannot find buyers for the paddy. Some cash crop farmers are still awaiting assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to do excavation works, and more particularly in the Nismes sideline dam area.
Much has been touted about the large housing schemes in Region 3, La Parfaite Harmonie and Tuschen. I am recommending to the Hon. Minister of Housing and Water that there should be police outposts in those housing schemes for we know that crime is on the increase in both schemes.
We trust that legislation be enacted to deal with the violence in school. I remember, at this moment, my colleague in Linden who had suffered a fractured skull as a result of violence in school. We hope that the Ministry of Education can place social workers in every school.
We trust that the Fellowship Practical Instruction Centre, industrial arts, be renovated. The Fellowship Practical Instructing Centre, agriculture, this institution has been closed for more than four years and the head teacher is attached to the Stewartville Secondary School.
The time has come for us to arrive at a sensible and practical solutions that will help all Guyanese to overcome the many challenges together and accelerating gains for all Guyana.
I thank you. [Applause]
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