Budget Debate 20133263 03 Apr, 2013
Mr. Morian: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give God praise and thanks for this opportunity again to address the 2013 Budget Estimates and I hold myself to an encouragement I hear yesterday, “to be reasonable and responsible”, but before I get into the budget, proper, I want to expand on information given to us by the Hon. “Orphan” Ali. He gave some information yesterday and my information…
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, it is “Irfaan”, not “Orphan”.
Mr. Morian: Sorry, Sir, “Irfaan”. My information is dated 27th July, 2012, and it reads thus, I just want to read one point of it which speaks to drinking water in Guyana and this is a report by the US Embassy:
“The water supply throughout the country should be considered contaminated…”
Mr. Speaker: What is the year of that report?
Mr. Morian: 2012. I could go it over again, 27th July, 2012, US Embassy, 100 Young and Duke Street, Georgetown.
The water supply system throughout the country should be considered contaminated and travelers should treat all boiled water before consumption or purchase of boiled water.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care does not meet general international standards. Skills available for minor medical conditions, although quality is very inconsistent, emergency care and hospitalization for major medical illnesses and surgery are very limited due to lack of appropriately trained specialists, below standard in-hospital care, poor sanitation.”
I did write on this some time ago and I came under a lot of scrutiny from a good friend of mine. It also said that tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Guyana. Finally:
“Driving in Guyana can be potentially very hazardous. The traffic accident fatalities in Guyana are higher than in the United States.”
There is another piece of document that I want to read before I look to the budget and this document is from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and it is entitled “The Role of the Legislature in the Budget Process – Recent Trends and Innovations” and it reads:
“…legislatures have the capacity to amend or reject the budget proposals of the executive and to substitute one of their own…”
This is happening in Sweden and the United states. It also went on to say:
“…legislatures can amend or reject executive budget proposals…”
In Brazil – I am drawing on precedence – the Congress now has the power to cut and to extend the budget. Finally the European-empowered Parliament rejected the $1.3 trillion EU Budget Proposal.
I now turn to ours. As I said, I want to be reasonable. I want to be magnanimous too. As a student of economics I understand the serious nature of putting a budget together so I want to acknowledge the work of the Minister and his staff in putting the budget together.
According to the economists Milton Keynes and Professor Kosner, a budget proposal or a budget estimate should produce sustainable livelihood for its people. I am not here to condemn the budget but I am here to draw a parallel with budget provisions and what is taken place in Region No.10 and leave you to draw your own conclusions.
If one is to look at a budget, especially in the case of Region No.10, one needs to examine to socioeconomic conditions prevailing at the time of the budget. We need to look at the challenges and opportunities in Region No.10. Then we need to look at the budget and examine the kind of provisions that are made available for Region No.10.
The socioeconomic conditions on the ground are as follows:
Somebody spoke of the “Chinese company”. I need to bring them up to speed that the “Chinese company” employs 450 workers and they are working them overtime, triple the time because truly…
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, are you referring to BOSAI?
Mr. Morian: Truly they are supposed to have hired over 1,000 persons. In previous years, during the PNC Administration we had 5,000 persons working at the bauxite industry. Contractors had 2,000 persons working. I am saying that there is a rising cost, increase in poverty, run-down infrastructure, broken road, hundreds of our young people who graduated from secondary schools with grades in CXC who are unemployed and are languishing at home in poverty.
Conservative estimates have placed unemployment in Region No.10 as 35% of the working population. We do not have a television station that we could call our own. Our television station is run like a Russian GULag. I am looking at the budget and one would feel that I am looking at an elegy instead of a budget proposal.
I want to be more specific. For Agency 80, Upper Demerara/Berbice, we see his provision or allocation from the budget in four areas: Regional Administration and Finance, Public Works, Education Delivery and Health Services. I challenged this budget as it relates to promoting sustainable development because residents in Region No.10 have recognised that agriculture is the next frontier for development in the Region. I submit here consultancy work by Vogatti and Associates of Trinidad and this is what they wrote. I have the assessment here:
“Region No.10 with its large unoccupied space, 22,975 arable land ready for agriculture, 1,775 forested lands are available for agriculture. There is a large labour pool.”
They have identified Takama Savannah, Ebini, De Velde, Kimbia, Wiruni and Kwakwani. It is troubling that, as these areas are occupied by indigenous population, a shortage of funding for Region No.10 is also a serious attempt to starve and malign and under develop our indigenous peoples in Region No.10.
There is a second document prepared by the Government – “Land Use Plan, a Pilot Area in Guyana” and I wish to quote from it. It is a collaborative effort between the Government of Guyana and the German Government and it reads:
“Ituni has great opportunity for kaolin while generally there is good forestry land for logging…”
Here is the conclusion in this document.
“Linden could become the next economic center and a transit point to the hinterland, along with the promotion of cash crops and ecotourism.”
But in our budget estimates the budget releases funding under four heads and no money was released for agriculture, while there is great potential in Region No.10 for agriculture. I should note that this year in the releases, under Public Works, we have seen a reduction of $16 million.
I submit in the midst of what I might call a comic opera, comic situation that for the residents of Region No.10 there seems to be a deliberate attempt to under develop Region No.10. If a budget is supposed to provide for sustainable development, the macro focus of a budget is to promote sustainable development and a good life for all Guyanese and here we have thousands of acres waiting for funding and this budget has failed to provide any funding for agriculture.
Somebody asked me to be reasonable. My question is: Can I be so reasonable to support a budget that speaks to my underdevelopment?
I want to be specific in some more areas.
The budget provision for Region No.10 has failed to address the issues of women in Region No.10.
We are at a severe disadvantage in Region No.10. Our women are employed in low-pay security jobs. I rose this last year and a good friend of mine on the other side had promised to look into it but we are friends so I would not call a name. They are occupied as sweepers of Government facilities and earning less than the minimum wage. One would have expected that in this new budget provisions would have been made to address issues affecting women. Most of them are under the minimum wage. There is high unemployment among the women. There is high unemployment among the men and there is serious migration from Region No.10 because our men folk are going after jobs outside of Region No.10 so one could understand what is happening in the homes.
We have asked for years for the erection of a halfway home for women that are exposed to domestic violence. Every year there is the promise, but this year, again, there is no provision in the budget. This also sets out the women that are in Kwakwani, Ebini and all of those areas that our indigenous people occupy and I am telling the framers of this budget that they need to take a visit to these communities and be aware and see the underdevelopment that is taking place in indigenous communities.
The budget omits the contribution and the struggles of our women in Region No.10 to survive. Today, I salute the women of Region No.10 that in the midst of all of the economic decadence and the orchestrated struggles placed on us by the PPP/C Administration our women folk are still living and they are working hard, producing for their families.
The budget for Region No.10 failed to address issues affecting our young people. The budget has failed to address the issues affecting school leavers who are unemployed. I submit that the United Nations Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (UN PRSP) has identified that youths have a role to play in their development. We recognise that poverty reduction is not just an attempt to meet the young people. Basically, it is also the participation of young people in their own development. Throughout Region No.10 youth development programmes remain drastically under resourced, ill equipped. The budget presentation should be a format or a tool to develop our young people. I checked this budget, cover-to-cover, because basically it is under four programmes. The question is asked: Where do our hundreds and thousands of young people go, where do they turn, for better livelihood? How could I as a representative of Region No.10 go back to my community, go back to the thousands of young people who are unemployed, who are eking an existence. Some are washing bottles and selling. Most of them are just languishing and unemployed. How reasonable could I get to go back to the Region and say, “I have supported a budget that speaks to the underdevelopment and marginalisation of the people of Region No.10”?
The budget has failed to promote a programme to reduce extreme hunger and poverty among our young people. There is no initiative. There is no programme. There is not plan. If one checks the budget, there is nothing dealing with young people in Region No.10. At Wismar there are 25 grounds that are in disarray. When one goes to Ituni there are four grounds. When one goes to Kwakwani there are three grounds right now. If one goes across to McKenzie, as we counted, there are 18 grounds. All are in a state of disrepair. Do you know what I like in Region 10? The young people are fighting back. They are aware of their struggles. They are playing basketball using bicycle rims as the hoops to throw the balls into while millions of dollars, we are told are in this budget. How could we support such a budget when our young people are seeing us as failing?
These are the facts. Do you know what I am happy about, Mr. Speaker? Despite our presentations here, the Members on the Government side who, from time to time, would say to me, “I am coming to Linden” because of the fact that I am always reasonable and responsible but I promised my good friend, the Hon. Neendkumar – we are friends. [Mr. Neendkumar: We are friends. Man, talk the truth.] I promised him…
Mr. Speaker: Wait. Based on what I heard just now, is that your friend?
Mr. Morian: The word of God said that even one’s enemies or those who are perceived to be enemies one needs to love. That is the diction that I follow. There is no agenda. Check the budget. I listened to the Hon. Minister of Education and the truth is that a lot of work is being done in the Ministry of Education, but I am saying there that there is no specific programme or budgetary allocation to deal with school-based violence. It has gone beyond beyond. Even speaking to the framers in the department or in the Ministry of Education, mano a mano, they are at their wits end because these things cannot be fixed by political rhetoric. Moneys have to be spent. Moneys have to be committed to the Regional Democratic Council, to the people who are elected to serve their people, who understand the nature of the problems so that they, themselves, could work and solve these problems, but we cannot stay in Georgetown and promote a budget with huge numbers but basically there is no output from such a budget.
In the land use plan prepared by the Government, it speaks to opportunities in tourism. Every year, as this document is updated there is much talk about development in Region No.10 about tourism but again I draw your attention to the budget releases and provisions. This is more hot air than reality. There is nothing in the budget that speaks to tourism. Places have been identified. The mined out areas, Rockstone, parts of Ituni, parts of Kwakwani have been identified as places for ecotourism and every other thing that relates to tourism, but do you know what? At the end of the day we are faced with yet another budget, a lot of figures, a lot of numbers, but Region No.10 seems not to be a part of the agenda of this Government and we are suspicious that there is an organised or orchestrated programme to under develop Region No.10 because – check it – there is nothing in the budget.
Even in the areas of agriculture, we have been brining this year after year – the issue of land titles. It remains a contentious issue. I could go further. Over the past three weeks we had reason to eject persons that claimed that they were sent by the Government to occupy lands in Region No.10, but I need to sound a warning that Region No.10 is like Fort Knox. Once one is coming into Region No.10 to occupy property that does not belong to you, well… The rest is in the fine print. We are yet to release land leases and there is nowhere in the budgetary allocations that addresses this issue and it is a contentious issue, year after year, but overall it marginalises the people who want to get involved in agriculture because they cannot go to the bank for a loan, they cannot use the land as collateral, hence they are at square one.
While the Hon. Minister of Education made a good presentation of works in the area of education the budget provision is yet to address the state of our teachers in riverine areas. If one checks the record, in the month of December teachers had to leave riverine areas. Roofs were blown off, steps had collapsed and a whole lot of things went wrong. Minister, if this was not reported to you I am very sorry but these are facts coming out of Region No.10. There is nothing in the budget that speaks to improving on the lack of teachers in the riverine areas. This is a fact.
I am speaking now concerning disaster preparedness and by extension I need to drop in a caveat here as it relates to disaster preparedness, even in this House, before I turn to Region No.10. When the budget was being read by the Hon. Minister of Finance there was a movement of a glass and one felt the tension because all along the corridors were cameras. As a disaster preparedness practitioner I was a bit tense that if something would happen in this House there would have been a catastrophe. I posit, despite this is not in the Region 10 estimates or budget, that we are sitting on a disaster where Parliament is concerned in the way it is currently configured.
Let me go back to Region No.10. Macroeconomic forces, fragile physical environment and the local economy have seriously affected our vulnerability as it relates to disasters. The people of Region No.10, the economy, the infrastructure, the funding that has been released, there is no way that we could respond to a disaster in Region No.10. We have been calling, over the past five years. Some persons remember that in the year 2005 that Region No.10 played host to over 2,000 persons that migrated from the east coast during the flooding and we had to put up makeshift provisions for disaster situations. While some persons look at this as a misnomer, as a practitioner in the area of disaster preparedness, our budget, again, is like a skeleton and I could repeat what I said again, Hon. Member. The budget is like an elegy – a mournful poem, a mournful reading. Those who did literature would remember “elegy” as a graveyard, a country churchyard. This budget is an elegy. One looks in a budget, despite who prepares the budget, for the impetus to take a community forward. Region No.10, based on all of the shenanigans of the Government, based on all of the masquerades… [Mr. Nandlall: Got to be “eulogy”.] …right now… Not a “eulogy”, Sir, an “elegy”. I guess that I just had to help his English. I want to submit here that there is no new investment in Region No.10 listed in this budget.
I want to conclude by using a precedent from another country. We have been hearing about the one-vote majority and one has heard it so often that one wants to know if the record is stuck but there was a time when there was a five-vote majority. That record is supposed to be playing simultaneously with the one-vote majority, but it is not. There is precedence though. There is precedence in the world and I need to share it here.
In Kenya the Government has passed a 1.4 trillion shillings budget, basically it took that budget to Parliament. It was a very contentious. It had some of the same situation that we are going through, right now, but the Government found common ground with the Opposition because it recognised that at the end the day what was at stake was the development of the country and this was the agreement that came through. It agreed to pass supplementary provisions of fifty-six billion shillings. I do not think that we have gone beyond redemption at this point. The Parliament in Kenya had to pause, had to examine where it was going and the Government was pragmatic and said to the Opposition, “We need to meet again”. Hence, the fifty-six billion shillings, a supplementary provision that pleased the Opposition. I need to move on.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, your time has elapsed. You have about three to four minutes to give your total…
Mr. Morian: In the Marshall Islands, based on the parliamentary discussions and the problem that the Government is having to pass its budget as it relates to the Opposition. In the Marshall Islands the Government, right now, is considering a $32.7 million supplementary budget because its agreements was fostered with the Opposition.
I posit here, Sir, that in this House we still have a number of days to conclude the budget proceedings. Hence, I am saying to you, Sir, that whatever comes out of this budget is as a result of what we would have done here, but this might be our last and final moment to do something positive for Guyana.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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