Budget Speech DR Ramaya - 20122686 11 Apr, 2012
April 11, 2012
Dr. Ramayya: I rise in the name of the thirty-five thousand three hundred and thirty-three persons who voted for the AFC to make my contribution to this debate. I want to first of all make a few acknowledgements. I want to acknowledge, from the bottom of my heart, those twelve thousand and eight voters from Berbice who made my presence in this House possible.
They had to make the hardest decision, of all voters, to break from the tribal voting by voting for change. I will do all that I can, as their representative, to bring greater human development in Berbice.
There are two things that I know for sure: The Guyanese people have been misled by this budget, that I am convinced of. I am also convinced that cleaning up the Government is not going to be driven by the PPP/C; it has to be driven by the majority in this House, since the PPP/C has become accustomed to manipulate this House there is a slim chance for it to change course to good governance. This is why we can get a budget labelled Remaining on Course, United in Purpose… What is the course and what is the purpose?
I will debate on the topic of agriculture and I want to start with the good things in this budget for it. We believe that the efforts at diversifying our agriculture base away from the traditional crops will reduce the risk of agriculture failing. Thus we, in the AFC, support the Agricultural Diversification Project, funded by the IDB, which is aimed at helping us to export more cash crops and fruits, and contract farming; increase meat exports with the construction of a state-of-the-art abattoir in Berbice; increase aquaculture farming and export to use lands that are not very productive, such as swamps; facilitate the increase in private investments in the prioritising of products such as pineapple, plantains, pumpkins… and in-land fishing; a commitment to increase the technical expertise of the local farmers to the international standards and soil sanitary standards so that our cash crops and fruits can be accepted in any market around the world. This budget is not all bad; there is the element in it that we, the AFC, want to support.
However, what concerns us deeply in the AFC is how the PPP/C Government is managing the sugar industry and the flood control mechanism which affects all crops. In 2008, the Minister of Finance said in his budget speech that we shall see coming into operation the much anticipated Skeldon Sugar Factory. What was he really expecting in 2008? Cane stock and cane skin since that factory failed to meet its manufacturing capacity of producing Berbice gold. The truth is that the old sugar factory at Skeldon was producing more and if it were in existence, it would have been more efficient and productive than the white elephant at Skeldon. Some G$40 billion has been spent with the publication of the Sugar Turnaround Plan. We are worse off today than we were in 2007 when the old factory was working.
In 2007, Guyana produced some two hundred and sixty-six thousand tons of sugar. Today, we are producing some thirty thousand less tonnage after spending over $40 billion. Where did all of this money go - into whose pocket? Mr. Robert Persaud, were you hiding? You need to answer these questions. It all happened under your watch, and Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo.
Ms. Texieira: Mdm. Deputy Speaker, Standing Order 41 (6) state, “No Member shall impute an improper motive to any Member of the House.”
Dr. Ramayya: My apology, Mdm. Deputy Speaker.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker: Dr. Ramayya, please be careful in your speech. You ought not to impute improper motives to any Member, so just be careful as you proceed.
Dr. Ramayya: Yet, today, the same company, which financially disempowered the people of Guyana, was given another contract by this PPP/C Government for $10 billion to upgrade the GPL transmission lines from Berbice to Demerara. Does this make sense? The PPP/C really likes the Turnaround Plan, since it got it once from this company at GuySuCo and now it is taking it again to GPL. When next will it turn around and ask you, the Guyanese people, to clean up the financial mess? That is, the $50 billion which Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo’s team poured into the China National Technical Import and Export Cooperation and then it had the nerves to tell us that it was a Chinese loan which required a Chinese company to carry out the work. China has millions of other companies, many of which can do better jobs, but this $50 billion relationship has a lot to do with the bank accounts of politicians. Show me the value for our money from the $50 billion relationship.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, is seeking from this honourable House $4 billion to bail out GuySuCo. The industry has failed because of mismanagement and it is not the workers. As I recalled during the 2011 Elections, and recently, GuySuCo utilised its equipment and labour force for cleaning roads and dams, making stages for ovally and for keeping memorial services, and for politicising the PPP/C during the 2011 campaign. It is a cost to GuySuCo and not for the country, and for the PPP/C party which should shoulder its responsibility for campaigns. This is a fact that can be proved at all times.
In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objectives, and often the only objective, has been to achieve, in large measures, equality of opportunity. In the struggle, as for this great end, we, in the AFC, will continue to press forward to expose those acts of financial abuse and spread the word to make the people more enlightened of the real corrupt doings of this Government. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privileges by the few at the expense of the many. That is what we are fighting for here, today, to cut the special privileges and share more of the national economic pie with more of the people of Guyana. As a current Member of Parliament, the people are talking to me all the time; and technicians at the estate have alerted me to the real case of this factory at Skeldon. The factory at Skeldon is currently consuming twenty tons of cane to produce one ton of sugar. Is this what Mr. Jagdeo call development on modern factory in the Caribbean? I did not see…
This was quoted from GuySuCo website. In Fiji, to produce one ton of sugar it is about ten to eleven tons of cane. At the old factory of Skeldon, it is more like twelve to thirteen tons of cane to one ton of sugar. At Albion, it is between eleven and twelve tons of cane to one ton of sugar. At Rose Hall, it is between eleven and thirteen tons of cane to one ton of sugar. Blairmont, it is eleven and twelve tons of cane to one ton of sugar. At Enmore, it is fourteen and fifteen tons of cane to one ton of sugar. At Wales, it is between thirteen and fourteen tons of cane to one ton of sugar, and at Uitvlugt, it is between fourteen and fifteen tons of cane to one ton of sugar. All those factories, more than thirty-year- old of producing, in some cases, are ninety per cent more efficient than the state- of-the-art factory with the most advantage of sugar technology, built by a company that never built a proper sugar factory in its life.
The cost of all this inefficiency is being blamed on God, the weather and the workers’ industrial working conditions, but no blame is taken for the habitual squandermania, at the highest level in GuySuCo. In the real world, when a management team and a Board of Directors approve $40 billion in expenditure it is to cut cost and improve production, but in reality the opposite happens, which is unusual the consequence for such incompetency.
Under the guidance of GuySuCo’s Board, and the senior management team, production at Skeldon deteriorated by ninety per cent and the cost increased so much that the taxpayers of today are being asked for another $4 billion in this budget. In the real world, before the marching orders come from the President, that Board and top management team should have done the decent thing which would have been to resign for gross incompetence and for perpetrating the greatest of betrayal against the people of Guyana. What happened under this PPP/C Government? The Chairman got promoted to the Minister of the Government. This is a joke, because we are the people who have to pay the bill for all the squandermania, mismanagement and incompetence.
Let us expose the truth. GuySuCo is not asking for $4 billion to benefit the eighteen thousand workers in the industry. This $4 billion is being asked for to fund the master plan to cover up the poor decision made by the past presidency and Mr. Robert Persaud’s ministerial stint. This $4 billion is being asked for to cover up for the incompetence of the GuySuCo’s Board and for the co-leadership under Mr. Paul Bhim, and this is just the beginning. All the trends are pointing that next year, again, it will ask for more and give workers less, to remain on course, united in purpose to generate prosperity for the PPP/C’s kabal. That is why there is no money to pay salary increases. The AFC remains committed to paying all state workers, including sugar workers at the bottom of the economic ladder, a twenty per cent salary increase, and we know this is very possible. Because of Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo’s state-of -the art sugar factory at Skeldon, the workers’ Annual Production Incentives (API) has been delayed and is under clearer and present danger of being significantly reduced to the point of worthlessness. Well, I am in a difficult position to support this budget unless the workers of Guyana get a reasonable salary increase, since there is more than enough money in the budget to fund it. All that has to be done is to cut back on the $75 billion the Government plans to spend on capital works. It will cost this Government some $5 billion to fund a ten per cent salary increase to all the state workers, including GuySuCo workers at the parastatal agencies. From a business point of view, if the Hon. Minister reduces the capital works from $75 billion to $70 billion, it will be no big deal, no big difference. From the perspective of thirty workers, $5, 000 more in disposable income means more milk for the children, more bread for the children and more food on the table. It is a world of a difference.
The Ministers play musical chairs while the sugar workers and the industry remain in trouble. I am being told that GuySuCo has bought a number of tractors which have no warranties. Is this competency? What kind of cake shop procurement there is at GuySuCo? A senior procurement manager told us, in the AFC, that all they do is to follow instructions of the Board to do procurement, and many of those procurement contracts are wrong for GuySuCo, since deals have been made with people who do not understand the real needs of the company. Everyone in the company stands to lose greatly from the current extremes of mismanagement, even the managers themselves. As one manager told us, GuySuCo is bleeding profusely from wounds inflicted by a corrupt Board and top management.
I want to turn to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Hon. Minister told us that security of every resident of our country is of paramount important to this Government. Yet, to date, there is no justice for Simone Mangar; there is no justice for sixteen-year-old Kevin Fraser, who died at the hands of the police bullet; there is no justice for the young Keiron Thomas, who allegedly had his private part severely burnt by two policemen; but, to date, there is no respect for his rights from the state. I can add to that list many times more.
The Minister said that in 2011 the Government spent $15 billion dollars in the security sector. One of the things he claimed, which was done in 2011, was the operationalising of the integrated crime information centre, but in 2008 budget, the same Minister, again, claimed that $660 million was to set up the integrated crime information system and a state-of- the-art forensic laboratory. Again, in 2008, one wrote in the Kaieteur News newspaper boasting of how our Government would have spent $13. 6 billion dollars to do projects, including implementing the integrated crime information system and the forensic laboratory. Again, in Budget 2010, the Minister proudly boasted that spend some $473 million would have been spent on a state-of- the-art forensic laboratory. In March 2010, the Home Affairs Minister officially launched the integrated crime information system in front of all Guyana, including diplomats. In Budget 2011 the Hon. Minister of Finance provided some $1.1 billion for the construction of, again, the forensic laboratory. The Hon. Minister of Finance claimed this, again, in the Budget 2012 that the Government is progressing with the construction of a modern lab of $16.2 billion.
How many times we are paying for the same thing in the Ministry of Home Affairs? Is this plain incompetence and disrespect for the taxpayers? Or is it just plain doltishness? The Government cannot spend $1.1 billion dollars on the security sector in four years and it comes to this House to ask for $75 billion to be spent, in 2012, on capital works. So we shall change the name of the story from Alice in Wonderland to the “Ministry of Finance in Wonderland”.
The Minister in his budget, our Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh speech, alluded to the training of over six thousand persons in anger management. I hope the first person on this list would be the man who is famous for running up in front of the microphone, at rallies, cussing anyone who exposes wrongdoings. And might we add to that anger management class those who parade as human beings, as the cussed out professional officers, as well, at the law and to accuse them of indiscipline when they do not…
The saga must stop. We can look at Mr. David Ramnarine who exposed the $90 million with the budget. We can recommend, again, Mr. Merai, Mr. Paul Slowe, all those people, who got the courage to come and tell us what is happening in our professional system. I ask now: When will the forensic laboratory be fully functional and in service to the people of Guyana? I do not want to hear any Alice in Wonderland story. This honourable House wants a fixed date and deliverance of those facilities in the service and protection of all our people. Only then we can be lectured that the Government is placing security for every resident in this country, and that it is the top priority on the list.
I now come to the question of salary increases for members of the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service and Guyana Prison Service. Every day many of these officers put their lives on the line in service for the nation and now to have another budget that offers them no salary increase is shameful. We, in the AFC, stand ready to support a twenty per cent increase in salaries to be recognise, in the Budget 2012, for all members of the joint services, and, I might add, to members of the Guyana Defence Force.
I stand here today as one of the two Members of Parliament from Region 6 to say, without exception, there are some elements in this budget that we, the AFC, can support, but there are some elements, such as the $75 billion in capital works, we cannot support. I stand here today to say that there must be a better deal for the workers of Guyana, including salary increase for the sugar workers, the police officers, the nurses, pensioners, the teachers and all the other workers of the state. This nation, more equitably, is to cut out the squandermania; then the people would be hurt badly if we do not. I humbly ask all in this House to have a conscience and do what is best for the working class who is the most dependent on what we do, in this House, over the next five years. Here, in this House, the PPP/C is talking about transparency, and the transparency can be viewed in this paper here about Dr. Jagan’s legacy from Nadira Jagan in what she said about it. This is very important for us to see what is going in this Government. This generation faces a great test in respective of all the squandermania and financial wastage. Shall we allow it or shall we confront it?
Unlike the Ninth Parliament, or the People’s National Congress (PNC) days, the people do not have to surrender themselves to that. What are we going to do… The Government then controlled the National Assembly and the budget. This is the first time that a Government of Guyana has truly listened to the people of changing the PPP/C into an Opposition in this House, and the Opposition is the majority today. With this new dispensation, and with this new political culture, a new history has been created in this National Assembly where the people outnumber the dictatorship Government. This is our duty as a political party to ensure that the majority of the people of this nation get a fairer share of the economic pie.
In Region 6, 2009, a sum of $156.743 million was expended on the purchase of fuel lubricants and no log books were presented for the entire year to be audited, yet in, 2012, $193. 326 million for lubricants is again allocated for drainage and irrigation, and, by the same token, trenches, schoolyards, playgrounds and cross streets are poorly maintained and there is quantity of substandard work being done. Black Bush Polder is a good example which is in a deplorable condition, that even the schoolyards are filled with garbage. Because of the lack of transparency and accountability, I , again and again, vent my frustrations when diesel is being utilised for personal enhancement and the planting of rice for people of Region 6, and when regional machinery is used for the personal cultivation. Today, it is a blatant shame that…
Yes, can we do it? But this budget is not a favourable one to such process and I call for a thorough review of the measure and promises in this budget. Thank you. [Applause]
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