Budget Speech - Mr Ronald Bulkan—20142326 31 Mar, 2014
Dr. Persaud: Mr. Speaker, I should have been inure by now at the ramblings without substance that seem to emanate from that side of the House, but I have to confess the sheer emptiness of one particular presentation by someone who seems to have been in a time warp boggled my mind. But I still live in hope that one day the alternatives which are touted all the time, in every presentation of better than this budget, I will hear of them coming from that side of the House.
Budget 2014 offers Guyanese a comprehensive and integrated approach to improving the quality of their life. It emphasises Government’s commitment to poverty eradication with focus on vulnerable groups and generation next. Budget 2014, aptly titled “A better Guyana for all Guyanese” recognises the importance of enabling our young people with tools to carve a future for themselves. It opens new doors for our first people, allowing them to improve and market their traditional skills and products. Budget 2014 unapologetically, takes Guyana into the exciting world of technology, with a visionary trajectory of enabling all, from the youngest to those in the most far flung recesses with the resources required to utilise computers through the One Laptop Per Family Programme (OLPF), tied to the very visible and timely agenda of e-governance, interconnectivity and job opportunities. Women, the differently-abled, the athletically inclined, the young couple looking to own their first home, the single parent who now becomes the breadwinner in the home – every Guyanese is offered an opportunity to ascend the steps towards their goal or their dream.
I have to say thought that what really gladdens my heart is that Dr. Jagan’s name resonated from that side of the House. I have to say that the Dr. Jagan I know would have sat and quietly smile because when once in eight years, when he was unable to speak, and you know why, today...
Mr. Speaker: It was not eight years.
Dr. Persaud: Today, his words still resonate in the House today from quarters we never would have thought.
If last year’s Budget proffered an unshakeable foundation, the 2014 Budget offers up strategically placed building blocks to take Guyanese many stories upwards to heights which are not flights of fancy as some like to move into, but which are tangible and accessible. This Budget offers real solutions to people who are embarking on life’s journey and speaks to crucial areas which influence, not only the individual’s welfare, but our country’s economic stability, progress and development.
Budget 2013 provided relief through tax incentives and this year Government continues to demonstrate its commitment to all people as the budget seeks to increase disposable income in the hands of the contributing population, as well as those who have contributed and are now ready to spend their days enjoying the fruits of years of labour and simultaneously ensures that the very young have that chance to access education and opportunities at every stage without hindrance. Education and gainful employment implies that Governments’ mission to eradicate poverty is in full swing. Our Government does not preach hand outs or laziness; it allows people to develop to their fullest potential, by offering and other things.
Mr. Speaker, for me the education/cash grant provided to parents of every child attending a nursery, primary, or secondary school in the public education system in the amount of $10,000 per child, benefitting some 188,000 more, at a cost a total of $2 billion, demonstrates that commitment vividly.
As a passionate advocate for education among other subjects, I feel that this sector, which prepares our youth for the next stages of their life, has been strengthened with the emphasis on scholarships, not 5 or 10, but over 400 to our Hinterland students. All around the country more schools will be built and rehabilitated; that 100% of our schools will be equipped with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) labs, for me, that is heartening.
The other thing, this is but the beginning. This hammers home the point forcibly that we should never look at succeeding budgets in isolation, but as the harbinger of continuity knowing full well that Government has not traversed the road of ensuring the best for our people to its end, but this PPP/C Government will continue to fight to improve our people’s welfare steadily every year, by crafting new empowering initiatives as the dynamics of our country changes. Government remains committed to Guyana, her people and their upward mobility. An objective person will acknowledge this much.
The fact that over 3,000 youth will benefit from continued training to increase their employment potential and their earning capability, whether we mention, training in marketing, research and entrepreneurship we were still investing in hinterland communities, by allowing our indigenous people to reap the fruit of their traditional skills by empowering them to market these traditional skills. That we are utilising the cultural traditions as feasible marketing possibilities, that is, utilising the Arawak language by programmes. This cannot be dismissed like I heard one Hon. Member dismiss our important sectors; sugar and rice, as pet projects. What is wrong with you? I could not decide whether to be appalled or to recognise that vision is only granted to a few.
I must mention the Guyana Women Leadership Institute (GWLI). More women and single parents continue to be trained in isolation or along with the Board of Industrial Training (BIT). One of the greatest initiatives that we have embarked upon is to not only to train these women, but to find them markets so that they can have an income. How are we going to do this? We are piloting a sample office at the institute where any woman can bring their product or skill and that product or skill will be improved so that it could be marketed for the best benefit for the woman. It is real the empowerment of our women financially, as well looking out for them in a caring manner because we are not only confining these programmes to one institute or institution, but we are taking these programmes to their doorsteps. We are incorporating within these programmes, elements dealing social issues, such as domestic violence so that they can face vicissitudes of life and triumph over them. That is commitment.
Employment for our youth has always been the subject of heated debate in this Chamber. I too feel that while training and education are imperative in young people’s progression, job opportunities must abound for them to demonstrate their potential in leadership abilities.
Public- private partnerships highlighted in the 2014 Budget is a big step in the right direction, as is Governments foresight in Budget 2014 to enable Guyanese with the resources to earn a livelihood.
Today, our Minister detailed the cultural diversity of our country. He spoke about the many programmes implemented so that our young artistes, those who have creative ideas and expressions can take those to another level so that those creative concepts and perspectives could be marketed. These people will no longer see that as just a hobby or just something they do on the side, but now they can become recognised, not only in our country, but in the outer world. I think that is the right step for culture in our country.
When we speak about entrepreneurism, loans applications for new and established entrepreneurs are currently being assessed and processed that is intended to create more small businesses. We recognise that small businesses have been the mainstay for communities for generations and have provided livelihood and comfortable lives for hundreds scattered across Guyana. By encouraging these entrepreneurs to have their own business, for having an encouraging and enabling climate, we are in essence encouraging our young people to think outside the box, not to be confined to the traditional professions, but to go out there, to reach for the stars, climb higher and make a name for themselves in Guyana.
The vision continues as does the training, as over 1,000 persons will be trained in business development and technical skills. The Government is empowering the leaders, not only for today, but for tomorrow. The Government is saying, “Young people, we have got you covered”.
The value of ICT can never be over emphasised as it places us a country and people on par with the developed world. More importantly, it opens vast areas of opportunities to our people. Coupled with that thousands of laptops which are continuously being distributed, Government has now placed our people in the enviable position to not only be poised for the advent of E-Governance and be well informed, but they are now allowed to access global opportunities and enhance educational resources. Government through this, has facilitate the youngster who wants to make his name by accessing the wherewithal to do non-traditional jobs or someone who wants to work from home, if need be, through the software that will allow those who need jobs to be registered and those who have vacancies to be registered. This connectivity ensures that those who are in need that their needs will be reach by those who want the skills they offer. The single mother can work from home that is the power of ICT. The school child who wants to excel in his studies, the elderly who wants to explore income generating options after retirement, the average Guyanese who wants to connect to her family and relate to world developments of opportunities, it is all online. So, will we soon have online degrees, offered at the University of Guyana. Please, let us be very objective and rational today. Let us not look at that how we can cut, axed and chop, instead let us look at how we can be adding to what already exists so that if one really wants to do it, better the welfare of all our people.
Budget 2014 offers that level of exposure and opportunity. Who can deny that? Hold on, actually, I do know who can deny that. I am sure you know, Mr. Speaker, all those opportunities can and will become real if they if they are allowed to. That is, if our Colleagues on the other side of the House lead by those with scissors and the perpetrators of dark depressing years... Is that it Mr. Neendkumar or was it the lost years? I cannot recall. Do not deprive our people of what should have been theirs, as you did last year by slashing without understanding, compassion or rationale. Being the eternal optimist I think I am, no, I believe that if like this Government and I, you are serious about progress and you care about my Guyanese brothers and sisters, you will not continue to deny and deprive; you will not relegate them to a time of ineptitude and hopelessness.
Guyana has offered the world athletes and sports personalities who have not only captured fame and medals, but hearts. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport open new vistas to the young athlete whose dream it is to blaze trails through the athletic track and the National Aquatic Centre. Millions have been poured into this area – justifiably so. Why should our youth have to give up their dreams or go elsewhere to access these facilities? They should and will be offered those, right here, at home.
Budget 2014 continues to ensure that, from its community grounds enhancement initiative to the development of professional venues in the arena of sport. I cannot help, but applaud the continuing initiative of offering land to our valued and hard-working citizens, police officers, nurses and teachers to construct their homes. This is in recognition of invaluable service.
Budget 2014, it is all in here. Colleagues read it carefully or should I say, at least read it. If you are serious let us hear of the solutions you have, of the better that you have to offer. Let us not go off into flights of fancy, if not heard it as yet. Most of all, let us remember that the welfare of our people must be paramount as this Budget says, “A better Guyana for all Guyanese.” Do not let what you are offering today be tainted by politicking and partisanship, but let objectivity, maturity and rationale be the hallmarks of this debate in 2014. I, unhesitatingly, commend this budget to all my Colleagues, the people of Guyana and I congratulate the Minister and his dedicated team on Budget 2014.
Amongst all of this, I miss one voice and that is the voice of the late Deputy Speaker. She would have chimed in with her witty rejoinders and kept everyone busy. I am sure wherever she is, she is smiling today because I am sure that she believes that you will do the right thing and give this budget a chance to provide for people. Mr. Speaker, I say to my Colleagues, let us debate, but in this debate, let us be objective and most importantly, let us fulfil the clarion call of Budget 2014 and it is simple, “A better Guyana for our people.” Do the right thing. [Applause]
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