Budget Speech delivered by Hon. Minister Winston Jordon at the 23rd Sitting- Eleventh Parliament of the National Assembly of Guyana857 03 Feb, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I rise to move the motion for the approval of the Estimates of the Public Sector and the Budget for the Financial Year 2016 and, in doing so, I wish to indicate that Cabinet has recommended that the National Assembly proceed upon this motion, pursuant to Article 171 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
Mr. Speaker, this is the second budget of the Coalition Government, following the first, which was presented on August 10, 2015. It is the first full year budget of the Government - the last one being a truncated budget that, nevertheless, had to be presented, if only to fulfill the requirements of the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. I am pleased to have the honour, as the 10th Minister of Finance, of presenting this budget, in this Year of National Renaissance; in this momentous year of the Golden Jubilee of our Independence.
Mr. Speaker, this year is a time for great joy and celebration. Nearly fifty years ago, we were birthed as a nation in strife and disunity. Distrust stalked our country. Dark clouds hovered over the land, as if overseeing the political division and ethnic conflict and insecurity that was wreaking the country. Recalling the state of our economy at the time of Independence, His Excellency President David Granger, in his New Year's Address said that "We subsisted in a dependent colonial economy. We languished as a small, servile satrapy ruled by a colonial governor." But we became independent, nevertheless. We emerged, slowly, from the mayhem and destruction, to the new reality that we were now masters and mistresses of our own destiny.
The path to peace and national reconciliation has been long and arduous, but we have weathered the storm to progress to where we are currently. It is written in the Good Book, in Psalm 118:24, "... let us rejoice today and be glad!"
Today, there is a lot for which we should be thankful and be glad. From the numerous schools, hospitals, health centres, roads, bridges and sea defence structures to our symbols of nationhood to our search for unity and social cohesion, successive governments have struggled to mould this nation we now call Guyana: Land of Many Waters; the Magnificent Province; Land of the Mighty Roraima; and so many other sobriquets that this fair land has come to be known. For most of us, this is the only home we know. It is where our heart is. We must strive manifestly, therefore, to keep it intact.
Mr. Speaker, last year was a difficult one for our economy. While I do not wish to chronicle all of the events that were responsible for that state of affairs, suffice it to say that because the characteristics of the economy, bequeathed to us at the time of Independence, have changed little, we suffered tremendously. In
2015, perhaps for the first time in recent history, all of the country's key
industries - sugar, rice, bauxite, gold and forestry - found themselves in various states of distress. Even remittances, which have contributed significantly to income, consumption, investment and employment, and upon which so many of our people depend, was a victim of the slowdown in the world economy. It is obvious that our excessive reliance on these generators of foreign exchange will continue to expose the economy to volatile external developments. It is a tribute to this young Government's prudent management of the economy, including timely policy interventions, that the economy's growth trajectory continued; that there were no reported job losses; and, as was evident in the last two months of
2015, the business community's confidence had been restored. This must come as a bitter disappointment to those in the Opposition and elsewhere whose forecast of gloom and the 'tanking' of the economy did not eventuate.
Mr. Speaker, this budget builds on the policies and programmes which were first outlined in the Manifesto of the APNU+AFC Coalition and, subsequently, extensively elaborated in my maiden budget speech. That presentation focused on the path to realizing our vision that every Guyanese must enjoy the Good Life. This was reiterated recently, on Thursday 14th January,
2016, by His Excellency, President David Granger, during his address to this Honourable House. He was sage in his reasoning that while achieving the good life should not be a dream, its reality would not be easy. It would call for each citizen being given the opportunity to unleash his/her talents to become productive citizens of the Republic. It would entail the removal of inequalities that act as obstacles to economic progress and prosperity. Among the known inequities are the divide: between rich and poor; between the hinterland and the coast; and between the educated and the uneducated. Mr. Speaker, we must close the gaps and bridge the divides wherever they exist. It is our duty; it is part of the reason why we were elected to govern this nation. The year 2016 offers us the opportunity to harness our natural and human resources to build a resilient nation - one in which our people enjoy the Good Life.
The platform for Budget 2016 is anchored on the five pillars outlined in His Excellency President David Granger's New Year's Speech. These are summarized thus:
- National Unity: We will implement policies aimed at reducing, if not eliminating, division and divisiveness in the society; and foster a more harmonious environment. In this year of our jubilee celebration, we will strive to reaffirm our motto - 'One people, One nation, One destiny.'
- National Infrastructure: In an effort to foster integration between the coast and hinterland, with a view of increasing access to the resources of the hinterland so as to accelerate the country's development, we will be renewing, extending and expanding our physical infrastructure.
- National Institutions: We will strengthen our national institutions in furtherance of a stable legal and constitutional environment, and will pursue democratic renewal at the local government level to empower our people to better administer their communities.
- National Security: We will strengthen the national security network to better protect our country's patrimony and our citizens from both internal and external threats and aggression.
- Public Services: We will improve and extend education, health, sanitation, pure water supply, electricity services, safe and secured communities, affordable housing, adequate recreational facilities, and social protection to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with these pillars and the direction in which we are steering the economy, we have chosen the theme for this budget as, Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence: The Good Life Beckons. This theme highlights the imperative of growing and 'greening' the economy in an atmosphere of renewed hope and expectation for an improved quality of life of the citizenry. As has been the practice, this budget benefitted from widespread consultations with private sector organizations, trade union bodies and women groups, among others. For the first time, youth representatives from all ten (10) regions were invited to participate in shaping a national budget. We were particularly encouraged by our interface with them, as it gave us a first-hand understanding of many of the issues that are of immediate concern to youth. They brought with them, refreshing perspectives and inspiring thoughts that resonated with the 'fresh approach' which the Coalition Government has been advocating. It is an approach we commend to the Opposition who, though invited to budget consultations, found it inconvenient to attend. I thank all participants and wish to remind that our door remains open to anyone who would like to make a meaningful contribution to the development of our society.
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