Budget Speech Mr Allicock - 20121640 11 Apr, 2012
April 11, 2012
Mr. Allicock: Thank you very much Mdm. Deputy Speaker.
I rise to make my contribution to the 2012 annual national budget under the theme “Remaining on Course, United in Purpose, Prosperity for All”. I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the Hon. Minister for presenting such a budget.
While the theme seems very appropriate my observation is that the budget does not reflect the reality of the expectation of the masses. The people of the hinterland and Guyana as a whole spoke at the last general and regional elections. The instructions given to us, the legislative and the executive arm, by the people of Guyana is that the pendulum must swing for democracy, justice, and good governance.
In the indigenous tradition the culture of working together is interwoven in the fabric of community life. This noble tradition was copied by the rest of Guyana as we sought to forge and realise our national motto, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”. However, to the dismay of the majority of Guyanese, the dream of inclusivity seems a marriage to be realistically held in our hands. Whom should we blame for this? Everyone will point to the other side and say they are to be blamed, but we represent the lives of the people of Guyana. With this mentality we have to then ask what can we do to improve the lives of the people? In the indigenous culture we at times shed the bad blood and allow new blood to take its place. This tells us that to get we have to give. We have to listen to the other side. I feel strongly that in a democracy the nation must be adequately consulted so as to enable the presentation of a budget that allows the people to feel included. Article 13 of Guyana’s Constitution requires that there be consultation, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision making that directly affect their wellbeing.
As I listen to the prayer that is recited before every sitting, and also listen to the debate in this honourable House, I am of the impression that things have gone wrong for so long that to do the right seems wrong. The past situation in the last parliament is one that has become entrenched. It is one that allowed the majority to make all the decisions affecting the lives of all Guyanese for better or for worse. It is a form of governance that can be described as being a bad marriage in which one partner does not listen to the other. This is a recipe for unhappiness, poverty, marking times in the past, and failure. The analogy of a family, in which the father works his family and uses the benefits gained to satisfy his vices and to fatten himself mainly, can be used for the 2012 budget. No reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT); less than one kilo of beef pension increase; “salary without calories” for our workers; and little job creation for the nation among one… The executive seemed to have deliberately carved this anti-people budget whilst scuffing at the Guyanese people. How long will we allow ourselves to remain in this bondage of modern day slavery?
Having said the above, as a representative of the hinterland people I request that this budget be historical. Let it be the first budget in modern day Guyana that sees the indigenous people of Guyana as the beneficiaries for large projects. I do not believe that the framers of our Constitution wanted us to have a white washed budget without any amendments being made. Let us have a new beginning. Let our bright minds sit together and make the amendments without regard for the midnight oil. Give and take for Guyana. Can we do it? I say we can.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, we the indigenous people hold our lands as we hold our mother. It is from our territories that we get our food, our homes, health and wealth. Throughout our history we have safeguarded the patrimony of utilising the resources in a sustainable manner. We only seek to have ownership of what is rightly ours, and that is enough land to sustain our people for generations to come. Although our peoples have tried to gain their territories to date this has not materialised. In instances the divide and rule policy was used by the PPP/C to avoid being fair with the indigenous people. The village of St. Ignatius is an example of not getting the lands that were traditionally occupied. Instead others are getting lease lands on what the people are claiming. I recommend that no land must be leased to any private person which is located in lands claimed by the Amerindian Village Councils. Also we are still waiting for the granting of our rights to our subsurface lands and our waterways. It must be noted that we are the fastest growing ethnic group in Guyana. I wish to call for a revision of the Amerindian Act to rectify all these issues that continue to stifle our right to our lands.
Realisation dawned on Guyana and the world at large that the indigenous way of sustainable utilisation of our lands is the best way forward. For Guyana this realisation came with a focus on getting dollars for safeguarding our forest. If any name should be given to the initiative it should be called “The Indigenous People’s Initiative”. The time has come to relook at the way the funds from Norway and the others to come will be managed. At no time should we allow the fox to manage the chickens in the pen. You know what the result will be. An oversight body for funds, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, for the indigenous communities must be managed by a Toshaos Council Secretariat. The details of this can be worked out but the hallmark of inclusivity must be visible.
The issuing of lands by the Ministry of Housing in Region 9 continues to be a “bugbear”. The situation has reached a level where the local people are being sidelined for some people from the coast. This is not being biased but it is the reality. Many of those affected are afraid to speak out because they fear victimisation. What kind of government do we have when the people are afraid to vent their issues in public? I recommend that an inclusive land affairs committee be commissioned in Region 9. The committee must include the representatives of the other political parties and the Neigbourhood Democratic Council. 14:17
Also, prior to the elections there were lots of vote-catching projects that suddenly became non-urgent after the elections. One of those was the Culvert City New Housing Scheme. The roads were done and water mains installed. However, to date no water is flowing. Also there is no sign of the installation of electricity, ten years after the scheme was commissioned. How long must this scheme wait for electricity?
The Tabatinga Housing Scheme has left a sour taste in the minds of the local people. After the initial plan was used to commence issuing of lots the Ministry of Housing took over and remade the plan. The residents found that their septic tanks were in other people’s yards, fences were in the wrong position, house lots were divided by roads, just to name few of the confusing things that happened. To date the Ministry is yet to offer the people of Tabatinga any compensation or apology.
Large contracts are granted in Region 9 by the Central Tender Board. It has become the norm for the Region 9 administration and the Regional Democratic Council to be totally ignored by Central Government. Our staff is not even invited to participate in the monitoring of the work done. We are the beneficiaries and will be tasked to do corrective works in most instances, plus we have to align with whatever shoddy work is done. In one road construction the contractor used a large amount of clay from the side of the road to do road repairs instead of fetching gravel from a few miles away. The rainy season is coming and results of the shoddy work will be borne by us, the local people, while others’ bank accounts will be well greased.
A few years ago the Guyana Action Party (GAP) brought in a sound proposal for the construction of a highway from Lethem to Linden. This proposal was not given the green light by the Government. The time has come for this highway to be constructed. Some years ago the indigenous peoples were asked if we wanted to road. Our answer was that we did not want it but need it. Currently the roads and bridges are in need of dire repairs. The strategy of just paying for minor repairs for this road was shown to be very unwise for the past few years. The road surface has reached the surface subsoil so intermittent and big craters develop during the rainy season causing undue hardship for the commuters and shortages of basic foods and fuel for consumers in the region. The wooden bridges are unable to take the weight of the heavy trucks. It is time to have concrete bridges done.
Our hinterland people are being discriminated against by the Government. Just imagine that Government workers, who give service to the people of the hinterland, are not being paid when working overtime. Any Guyanese will know the conditions and the terrain under which these workers have to serve are not easy. Cutting out their overtime is a blatant act of discrimination and being overly malicious towards the people of the hinterland.
In the education sector, one dream that I have is to see our teachers receive a living wage. This is the problem we face in Guyana. In Guyana one has to look at the core problem. The core problem is not the bad Mathematics or English results that we get at CXC; it is the fact that we are not paying our teachers adequate salaries for them to have food on their tables for themselves when they walk the extra mile with our children. Will someone help to correct the situation? If not we will continue to lag behind and give our most vulnerable resources, our children, the least chance of living educated and productive lives.
I wish to propose, after listening to a lot of the speakers from the Government side stating that we have hundreds of thousands of laptops, that we give to the hinterland scholarships students, the University of Guyana (UG) students, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) students, Cuba students and students attending Georgetown Technical Institute (GTI) laptops to be helped in their quest for higher education.
At present, the St. Ignatius dormitory has run out of space. The children have to sit on the floor in the hallway and the kitchen to study in the evenings. An extension to the dormitory should be included in the budget as a priority. Also the majority of students walk several miles to get to school. I recommend that a school bus be made available to transport the Lethem students to school. This is also applicable to the students attending Annai Secondary School, and at this school up to now the cooks have not been paid their salaries for work done during last year.
In the health sector, at the moment we have five nursing students at Linden and they are not supported either by the Region or central government. They need support. These are the people who are supposed to be helping us to have a healthy nation, but we continue to neglect them while we boast that everything seems to be in order and well done.
The Lethem Hospital has another long list of worries, but I just want to say that the Hospital needs urgent attention to have proper administration in place so that we have the best result out of that newly built hospital. Lethem is a growing community. At one time the Brazilians used to come for help to Lethem, now we have to be going to Boa Vista, and many times under some very, very distressing and embarrassing situations. We need to be a country that has independence. We also have a mortuary that has caused problems for many years. This needs to be rectified urgently. In addition to that it has been brought to my attention that the overtime for those nurses that go out into the field has been cut. This is a terrible spoke in the wheel.
Under tourism, on page 28 paragraph 4.3.7, the Hon. Minister mentioned:
“…tourism remains one of the sectors in which Guyana has a significant comparative advantage given our vast and unique endowment of nature.”
This is very encouraging. I am not sure why this industry was not treated with the respect it deserves. Tourism is about the No. 2 industry in the world. Our vast and unique endowment nature speaks for itself; ecotourism is on the rise in the Rupununi and elsewhere. We have all the things in ecotourism, the giants of Eldorado, and one could name them. I do not have the time to explain more. This is the business of hospitality not hostility. Therefore, we need the Government’s support in the following: destination marketing; regulation of the tourism sector; international trade show attendance; the selection of these to be private sector driven; reform or rebuild the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) with senior individuals to have a meaningful board helping the sector; GTA and board to be an independent body - it is currently under the Minister of Tourism; official port of entry status for Lethem for aircraft – currently that is not the case and we need that to be rectified; the GDP recognition must be in place. The Government of Guyana to fund this exercise should bring in an international body to carry out this exercise.
The budget’s $220 million this year is fine for a start and we need this to be doubled next year. I wish that common sense will prevail so that all Guyanese benefit from this budget. Hopefully we could be able to have something to talk about for this year 2012. Thank you. [Applause]
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