Budget Debate 20131823 03 Apr, 2013
Mrs. Chandarpal: Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members. The Budget theme, Overcoming Challenges Together, Accelerating Gains for Guyana, speaks to the challenge that confronts us and points the direction we need to go in accelerating the gains for Guyana.
This Budget aims to fulfil the promises made to our Nation in the Manifesto of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in the last Elections. In his message introducing the 2011 Manifesto, His Excellency President Donald Ramotar, who was then the Presidential candidate, set out the direction of the new term as follows:
“The Guyana that the next PPP/Civic Government will build will be a Guyana where the world’s most modern technology is available and accessible by all Guyanese. Where connectivity with the rest of the world is assured and affordable; where very single Guyanese will have the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to use this technology for personal and professional development; where tens of thousands of world class jobs are created and filled by Guyanese harnessing this technology and; where aided by technology, the barriers of geographical distance from our traditional trading partners and the vulnerabilities that arise from our smallness will be overcome.”
The Minister of Finance in analysing the macro economic factors refers to a number of achievements that were made in 2012. The key among them is real Growth Domestic Product (GDP), which grew by 4.8% for the seventh consecutive year and varying percentages of growth in all the other sectors. Prudent management of the economy has borne dividends for the country and we need to collectively thank the Hon. Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh for his stewardship.
The Minister points to the challenges that we need to overcome together and I want on the onset to encourage the joint Opposition to support the Budget which seeks to accelerate growth in a number of key and critical sectors and has also provided a number of positive budget measures.
The PPP/Civic Government has always sought to manage the economy in a way that provides development at a macro level, while satisfying the needs of people at a personal level. The allocations of resources in the social sectors such as Education, Health, Housing, Water and vulnerable groups were sustained throughout our tenure in office. However, we have sought over the years to strike a balance between the needs of the people and the physical infrastructure of the country while ensuring macroeconomic stability at the same time.
As legislators, we need to recognise the difficulties facing young people who are coming out of schools and university and who are being challenged continuously as they seek to enter the world of work and careers. Globalisation and the influence of external values and way of life have permeated all sections of our society.
Citizens will be demanding more and more facilities from Government and society at large. Already competition is changing the way how businesses are operating. Generally, people are demanding better services, more recreation and more access to all types of facilities. This new attitude will keep challenging us to reform and to do so quickly since people want to see development now.
Who will dispute the fact that our country has been growing in a number of ways. One of the most visible signs of that growth is in the development of our infrastructure. This transformation is in all regions and includes both the public and private initiatives. The Government as the facilitator has laid the ground work for a number of important developments that have taken place over the years. Last year alone Government expended $9.4 Billion on land transportation network.
Many communities are happier now because they were able to see improvements in some of their local roads in all the regions of Guyana. There are other areas where people would like to see more development. We are mindful however, that there are still contractors who do shoddy work and it is necessary for citizens to be alert to what is taking place in their communities.
The various initiatives that will be taken this year will give yet another boost to this important sector that seeks to bring people closer, expand production and provide goods and services at an affordable cost to all Guyanese. The difficult terrains pose a problem to development. Therefore, the Government is grappling with this reality as it seeks to develop the far flung areas of Guyana.
I would like to digress for a moment to respond to the statement by the Hon. Member Mr. Morian when he said that, “We got Linden locked down like Fort Knox.” This type of statement and threat do not augur well for the future development of Region No.10. I would urge the Hon. Member to desist from this type of threat.
I want to return to my presentation and say that, the steady and continuous economic growth achieved by Guyana under the PPP/Civic Government would not have been possible without our substantial investments in infrastructure. It is for this reason that we will continue to invest in this critical sector. It is also for this reason that all Members of Parliament must support the budgetary measures required to invest in critical infrastructure.
The year 2013 will see a massive injection of resources to help in this sector which will improve the lives of those persons who have to use the air and river transport. When the Minister of Finance points to the acceleration of gains made, these are some of the measures that will help to modernise Guyana and make it easier to travel from Region to Region. Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who have not had the opportunity of visiting some of our hinterland communities to see and appreciate the beauty of these regions; while a large amount of Guyanese travel regularly to Suriname because of easier access.
The Hon. Minister of Finance reminded us of the type of Guyana we are seeking to build in Page 14 of his Budget Presentation when he said:
“It is a Guyana that is modern and prosperous, whose economy is strong and resilient, whose institutions inspire confidence and provide protection and whose citizens are motivated and accomplished. It is a Guyana that is physically integrated with its neighbours in South America and economically integrated with its neighbours in the Caribbean Sea. It is a Guyana whose comprehensive infrastructure network allows easy access to harness our resources and to move our goods and our people. It is a Guyana where all citizens have access to high quality education, health care and other social services and where the Millennium Development Goals are met.”
These are indeed lofty goals which all of us should want to work towards. Not because we are poor and underdeveloped means that we should not be strategic in our thinking. We have heard about the very many initiatives by Minister Ali, when he spoke about the need to promote and showcase Guyana. There is still much more to be done, but at least let us be honest and acknowledge the progresses that have been made thus far.
I have alluded earlier to the need to strike a balance and in this regard I wish to refer to various initiatives that have been taken and sustained as well as those that are being introduced and will be sustained by our Government.
Minister Webster, in her presentation, referred to the advancement that has been made in terms of Woman and Gender Equality and I want to quote from the PPP/Civic Manifesto of 2011, page 36, when we said:
“We have stated our unequivocal commitment towards the improvements of the lives of women, children, the elderly and those that are physically and mentally challenged.”
The Minister went on to provide the statistics as to how we have progressed. I will not repeat those.
I will now refer to the targeted and direct initiatives to citizens for 2013.
- The $2.5 Billion hat has been allocated for the One Lap Top per family, where 34,000 laptops will be distributed, of which $500 Million is earmarked for the implementation of the programme in the hinterland.
- $500 Million allocated to fund the establishment of a farmer fertiliser and planting material facility, which will target more than 3,000 farmers.
- The Woman of Worth (WOW) programme will be launched in un-served or underserved areas including Region 1to include 100 applicants.
- Training for 1,000 business owners specific to their needs.
- $1.1 Billion is budgeted for the School Feeding Programme which will see 64,000 children benefitting.
- The School Uniform Programme will continue to provide one school inform for every child attending public school from nursery to Grade 2.
- Procurement and distribution of over 6,000 long lasting insecticide treated bed nets for hinterland communities, primarily in mining areas.
- The expanded Mahaica Children’s Home is set to open this year targeting 100 boys and girls.
- 2,500 young persons will benefit from the National Training Programme for Youth Empowerment, the Apprentice Programme and the Youth Entrepreneurial skills training.
- 4000 single parents will benefit from the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) single parent programme.
- $54 Million has been provided for the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of 180 street dwellers. We heard the Ministry reminding us about all the things that are required to be done in that regard.
- $350 Million is provided to finance the implementation of 180 Community Development Plans.
- $66 Million has been allocated to benefit 388 students.
- 42,500 senior citizens will receive their old age pension of 12,500.
- Each pensioner, who is a recipient of Guyana Power and Light (GPL), will get assistance of up to $20,000 per year with the GPL bill.
I am sure my colleagues on the other side will say that is not enough and we should do more for people. That will always be true. However, we always have to be mindful of the finite sums available and the need to sustain and keep increasing allocations.
As one of the Regional Representatives for Region 4, I wish to speak to some of the developments that are taking place. We are all aware of the dynamic nature of this region not only in terms of population, but also its inclusion of the capital and the seat of Government.
Substantial sums of money have been expended for important work in this Region from Central Government as well as the provision for Regional Development.
Under infrastructural work $4 Billion is allocated for the completion of the four lane access road to Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA); the continuation of the East Bank Demerara (EBD) four lane highways; the completion of the designs and commencement of work on the Sheriff Street to Mandela Avenue roadway and; the continuation of the widening of the highway from Better Hope to Golden Grove. The design for the extension of the four lane highway from Diamond to Timehri will be completed. Preparatory work will commence for the design of a parallel secondary road to the EBD. Expansion and modernisation of CJIA will continue and $5.3 Billion will be expended for this. A safety feasibility study analysis will be completed for the East Demerara Water Conservancy Dam (EDWCD). $600 million is allocated for rehabilitation work on nine sewer pumping stations in Georgetown. This will benefit 40,000 households. Over 900,000 tablets to treat filarial and other tropical diseases will be distributed to residents between Enmore and Timehri. Seven hundred and thirty two million dollars is budgeted for Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill, which serves over 300,000 residents from Cane Grove to Timehri. The National Aquatic Centre at Liliandaal will benefit from $52 Million for the warm up pool, while new fire stations were completed at Diamond and Mahaica. The Magistrates Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the High Court Registries in Georgetown are identified for rehabilitation in this years’ budget. These are just some of the main activities that will be undertaken by Central Government for Region No.4.
The Regional Democratic Council of Region No.4 has been allocated $206,534,000 for 2013. A number of sectors will benefit from this allocation. Agriculture will benefit from $37 Million, which is earmarked for Agricultural Revetment.
The Ministry of Public Works will receive $58 Million for the construction and rehabilitation of bridges and construction and rehabilitation of community roads. The communities that will benefit are Nabaclis, Paradise and Melanie Damishana on the East Coast. On the East Bank of Demerara resident of Eccles, Convent Garden, little Diamond and Diamond will be the beneficiaries.
I know that there are some very bad roads on the East Coast of Demerara and as one of the Regional Representatives I wish to encourage the Regional Authorities and the National Democratic Councils (NDCs) to pay more attention to some of these roads, such as a number of roads in Enmore, Enterprise, Mon Repos, Better Hope among others.
The Education sector will benefit from $44.448 Million for the construction and rehabilitation of schools, living quarters and sanitary blocks. A new nursery school is identified for Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), while Bladen Hall will benefit from the rehabilitation of the teachers’ quarters. Providence Primary School and Annandale Secondary School will be rehabilitated.
The Health sector will also benefit from $37,644 Million. This sum is earmarked for the construction of a patients’ waiting area at Lusignan and Enterprise Health Centres and the construction of a Health Centre at Moblissa among others.
Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members, the 2013 Budget will bring relief to those who are vulnerable. To the young people who are aspiring to become students at the University of Guyana; to the first time home owners; to the student whose parent sometimes cannot afford to send them to school; to the entrepreneurs who want to shape their respective destinies; to the elderly and; to all those who want to see Guyana as a nation on the move.
This Budget is based on the philosophy of the PPP/Civic Government as set out by Dr. Cheddie Jagan, when he said on March 14th, 1993, in his address to the 109th Annual Delegates of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, and I quote:
“We see development as people-centered. When some speak of development they see only foreign capital and private investment. We see, also, social capital and human resources and when we talk of development we mean development with a human face. For us people come first. They are the center of everything and education is important for the all-round holistic development. By ‘people’ we mean all of the people of this country, across the barriers of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, political affiliation, whether they live in the hinterland or on the coast; whether they are able bodied or handicapped, rich or poor.”
President Ramotar in his 2011 manifesto message also emphasised the PPP/Civic Government’s commitment to working together when he said, and I quote:
“Development for us is an all encompassing process and while over the years significant progress has been made in deepening and entrenching an inclusive constitutional democracy the PPP/C remains open to working with all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society and labour.”
I would like to encourage all Opposition Members, who in the budget debate of 2012 used their one-seat majority to cut some budgetary allocations, to take a responsible approach this year. I guess the novelty of the situation last year accentuated the hype and fanfare. Now that a lot of water has gone under the bridge I hope that the Combined Opposition would support this budget aimed at overcoming the challenges together so that we could accelerate the gains for the betterment of our people.
I wish to conclude by asking that we put our hands together for the Minister of Finance and his team for the hard work in crafting a budget that seeks to propel our country forward. I commend the budget to the Assembly and urge support in its entirety. I thank you. [Applause]
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