Budget Speech Mr Morian- 20122938 12 Apr, 2012
April 12, 2012
Mr. Morian: Mr. Speaker, I give God thanks and praise for this opportunity so that I could be here to make my presentation in this 2012 Budget, but it would be remiss of me if I do not correct some presentations that were made out of context.
First of all I wish to bring to this Hon. House comments made by the Hon. Mr. Hamilton concerning Region 10, Linden, where, at the hospital, Lindeners are working. Let me put this into context. These members of the board were not elected or selected by the leaders of Region 10; they were elected by the Government, hence, they hold themselves aloof from the residents. I have in my hand here a petition that was signed by 50 workers of the Mackenzie Hospital seeking to be a part of the very board the Hon. Member Mr. Hamilton spoke about.
A number of Hon. Members, in their presentations, spoke as though agriculture was a misnomer before 1992. I wish to make a presentation here and to supply the evidence that these pronouncements are just conjectures or, basically, they are anachronistic currently. “Agriculture sector loan, 1991 to 1995, funding by the IDB, total disbursement US$41 million…” and it spoke to the sector goal of improving production and competitiveness of agriculture – “Exhibit A”. I speak to Agriculture Hybrid Programme, Loan 839SFGY, that spoke to the rehabilitation of both the sugar and rice subsectors. Here I have that GUYSUCO received 153 tractors from this programme, 107 motor cycles, pumps, ditchers, harrows, Perkins engines, irrigators and I could go on and on. Hence, to say that before 1992 agriculture was a misnomer is misleading and truly out of order.
I wish to bring to the attention of this honourable House a matter that is engaged, or is engaging, the residents of Region 10 to a level where tension is rising. One needs to note that the average speaker on the Government side spoke somewhat on the impending rise in electricity tariff in Region 10. We need to look at the legend that has brought Region 10 to where it is as it relates to electricity generation.
The Government of Guyana approached a company by the name of Texas-Ohio Energy and it went into a lease purchase arrangement, contrary to all of the agreements it has made with the residents of Region 10. But, more than that, this arrangement never embraced or had any dialogue with residents or their elected leaders. Within a short time the Texas-Ohio Energy folded. I wish to read here the report of the arbitration that the Government went into with Texas-Ohio Energy and it will point to a situation that has brought electrical generation in Region 10 to where it is right now. Report of American Arbitration Association hearings held in Washington during the period 29th March to 9th April, 2004 - The Government of Guyana vs Texas-Ohio Energy. The Government and LINMINE claims against Texas Ohio Energy - and it summarises as follows: - This will tell us that Texas-Ohio Energy, with support from the Government of Guyana, destroyed electrical generation in Region 10. This is part of the deal that has brought us to where we are - failure to use new materials in the rehabilitation of power facility in breach of article 11.2; failure to keep the power generation facilities in good order, repair and condition to supply continuous, safe and reliable source of electricity and to operate user best practices of North America.
Texas-Ohio Energy falsely represented and warranted that it had financial and technical capacity to rehabilitate, operate and maintain the Linden power generation - a clear point here that the Government of Guyana did not do a thorough due diligence on this company. Texas-Ohio Energy misrepresented that a $5million loan from Republic Bank Ltd. would have been exclusively used to fund the rehabilitation of the plant. The question is asked here: What has happened to the funds that the Government has claimed during that arbitration? I wish to state the sums - US$998 million for loss of bauxite sales. It is a clear case that because of the folding of Texas-Ohio Energy, the bauxite company suffered. I need to submit to this honourable House that during that period blackouts were widespread in Region 10 to the extent that small businesses also folded. This is the Government’s arbitration case which was before the courts in the United States of America.
“US$1.2 million for failure to apply insurance proceeds to repair or rebuild the plant.” After the plant folded, Texas-Ohio Energy got insurance benefit which should have come to Guyana. The Government of Guyana claimed that. The question is asked: Where are these moneys that are needed? I guess the Hon. Member Mr. Samuel Hinds is well aware of these businesses that I am talking about here.
“US$2 million for loss of the power plant.” It was the loss of the entire power plant. This is part of the legend that has been omitted while the Government proceeds to bring this huge sum in Region 10. One needs to note that at no time, except in war or when there is galloping inflation, there is a three-digit increase in anything. There is not a three-digit increase in prices unless there is galloping inflation or there is a war going on
I wish to continue. The Government of Guyana then moved in a deal with OMAI Inc. to produce electricity in Region 10. They were using generator sets. An agreement was made with OMAI Inc., the Government and the leaders of Region 10 that they would cease using the more costly bunker C fuel and they would change over within twelve months to a lower fuel cost for Region 10. This was never changed. [An Hon. Member: …inaudible] I made a mistake, Mr. Speaker. I can correct myself. They were using a heavier, costlier fuel. They never changed that. Then we moved to BOSAI. It continues in the same vein Is it right for us to be asked to shoulder the entire cost of this operation when it was by the Government’s intervention that the whole electrical generation system in Region 10 folded? [Mr. Neendkumar: Are you a pastor?] I think I enjoy some protection with this being my maiden speech, Sir. When I speak again, I guess you could comment. These are facts.
Under Programme: 802 Public Works, “Roads”: This regional administration requested $173 million towards roads and received $40 million or twenty-nine per cent of its request. One needs to take into context that all of the programmes in Region 10…We are working towards creating jobs because currently twenty-five per cent of the working population in Region 10 is unemployed. This excludes young people who will be leaving the school system in 2012.
One needs to look at the socio-economic environment in Region 10 in context of this impending increase that swings like the sword of Damocles over the heads of residents in this Region. Let us look at the socio-economic foundation that is operating in Region 10. Under Public Works, “Education Buildings”, the regional administration requested $79,920,000. This was to do works in the Kwakwani and Berbice River. The construction of buildings for teachers and nurses, what is important here is that it received a mere $44 million. One needs to note that with these works in the Berbice River we would use these works to empower our indigenous population through force account or by those indigenous persons providing the material for these houses. My question here is: What have the indigenous people done to the rest of Guyana, especially the Government? While we attempt to promote inclusivity and we are saying, “One people, One Nation, One Destiny,” it is difficult to comprehend that a Government which purports itself to be so caring and loving will want to take bread from indigenous people in the Berbice River.
The regional administration and the people of Region 10 waited anxiously for Budget 2012 because we thought, given all of the pontification by the Government and all of the speeches, that by now we would have been enjoying a good environment of communication and information. But, despite the many applications made by residents of Region 10 to establish private television stations, we are still saddled with one station in Region 10. Our focus in Region 10, when we look at setting up new television stations, we are looking at job creation, we are looking at the establishment of small businesses, especially to provide equipment and new technology needed for the promotion of communication in Region 10. It is a shame. One does not come to a budget debate with a view of not supporting the budget. I do not think that any responsible person in Guyana would come to this honourable House not to support a budget. But it is difficult to support the entire budget with some of the elements which are contained in this budget. How would one from Region 10 support a budget that does not speak to communication? How does one from Region 10 support a budget which speaks to one television station and is being bombarded with some crazy things 24-7? The environment which is being created by the Government, in Region 10, seems to be an organised programme of underdevelopment.
Development is not just about buildings and roads. The Hon. Minister, and his team, who has fashioned this budget will support me on the fact that development speaks to sustainable livelihood. There cannot be sustainable livelihood when people are unemployed and there is a television station that does not speak to the needs of the people in Region 10. One of the Hon. Members on the Government side alluded to Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) in one’s presentation. Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF), the loan part of the LEAP, made a number of loans available to residents in Region 10. Some received first trance, some second trance and the programme stopped. The Government, in discussion with residents and their elected leaders, had promised to supply funding to the now Linden Economic Network (LEN) programme. We perused the budget and there is the word “LEN” but there are a number of noughts or zeros which follow it. We need to put this into the context of what it has done to small businesses. All those businesses which had received part loans have already folded for want of parts 2, 3, 4 of the loan. Hence, it is difficult for us to truly say that this budget speaks to development in Region 10. What we are experiencing here, Mr. Speaker…and a lot of numbers have been thrown up. One of the things I have learned in the course of Statistics 101 is that numerical data must be supplied, or must be supported, by a legend. We await the legend that speaks to development in Region 10.
Again, we searched the budget as it relates to development between Brazil, Lethem and Region 10. Let us put this in proper context. About three years ago, Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Businesses (SEABRAE), the umbrella body for businesses in Brazil, paid a visit to Region 10 and held discussions with elected officials. The need was for a fast track initiative because the Brazilians were mindful of shipping forty thousand tons of fertiliser as to be involved in agriculture in Brazil. This was not the entire package. It was a continuous programmme in which a deep water harbour was to be established in Region 10, and storage facilities. The programme was so imminent that a local company built bond and developed storage facilities. We, for our part in Region 10, cognizant of the job spin-offs that would have been accrued to the residents of Region 10, moved with alacrity to do our part for this project. We were called to work on fifty bridges between Linden and Lethem. We approached the Ministry of Public Works and we approached the Hon. Prime Minister who lent support and even encouraged us to increase the tonnage of the bridges. All of the specifications for the bridges are complete. Three years have passed. That is why the Hon. Member just spoke that Suriname, recognising that we were waffling on this huge investment, is moving with speed to build a comparative facility there. One needs to understand, when one looks at this huge project, over five hundred direct jobs, spin-off businesses - restaurants, gas stations, servicing …
It is difficult to agree with the Government’s proposal in this budget in its entirety. I submit that the Hon. Minister of Finance did make some very good proposals in the budget, but one needs to be objective, especially when one comes from Region 10, and to be aware that poverty is widespread in Region 10. Over the past decade, as we continued to look at various budget presentations, we failed to see initiatives that will stimulate growth, jobs and investment in Region 10. It is with these words, I will say that when I left Linden yesterday morning, I was surrounded by a milling throng of people who sought answers. “Mr. Parliamentarian, you are going to Parliament, you need to say something and come back with something.”
Mr. Speaker, residents await, anxiously, the outcome of this budget debate. I should extrapolate, at this point, in saying that I have had discussions with members of the APNU; I have had discussion with members of the AFC; I have had discussion with the members of the PPP/C, who are ordinary citizens, and you need to understand this that residents do not trust us when they look at the television and see what is coming out of these debates. We need to rise against political tribalism and we need to work conscientiously to see development in Guyana, but more pointedly, I find it difficult to support this current budget in its present form. The Hon. Member, my brother, Dr. Rev. Gilbert spoke passionately, and I believe that he is very sincere, that we should move to embrace a more inclusive framework, drop the politics and work for the development of Guyana.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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