Budget Speech - Mrs Volda Lawrence—20144286 01 Apr, 2014
Mrs. Lawrence: In 2011, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) campaigned across this country inspiring and arousing this nation to its call and promise of “A Better Life For All”. This theme is now owned by every Guyanese, irrespective of where he finds himself on the political divide. For us in the APNU, however, it is not the words but the action that matters. When the Minister of Finance stated that the theme of Budget 2014 is A Better Guyana for All Guyanese we knew that APNU’s call for “A Better Life for All” was heard by the Government. It is said that imitation is flattery, nevertheless it is an encouraging sign to APNU that this Government has chosen its theme to be used in its Budget 2014. Where APNU leads, Sir, others follow.
It is in this context that I rise to speak in this debate on the Budget 2014, laid in this National Assembly by the Hon. Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate him and, more particularly, those persons who worked tirelessly on compiling these documents. I want to encourage them not to tire in their endeavours, despite this budget fails to make any provision, whatsoever, for any increase in their wages and salaries. Be assured workers that we are over the halfway mark to another General Elections and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) shall keep its promise of better wages and salaries for our public servants. We will never hear from an APNU Government, as the nation heard many years ago, “not a cent more.” The leopards do not change their spots.
At page 16 paragraph 4.1 the Minister spoke of the Government's vision:
“Government's vision is one where Guyana makes the leap from being a country of promise and potential, which it has been for a long time, to a country where that promise is fulfilled and that potential is realised. It is one where all Guyanese can live and work comfortably and harmoniously in pursuit of personal prosperity and the collective wellbeing.”
These are excellent words to the ear. The Minister continued in very much the same vein and in paragraph 4.3, on the same page, it states:
“...the richness of our human resources, are all harnessed in service to the national good.”
Having read that, I wanted to see what provision the Minister had made to address the levels of poverty in our country, a crucial issue at the heart of our socioeconomic development. I surely expected to read of wide-ranging programmes which would address that part of our population deemed to be poor and living under the poverty line, but to my dismay nothing substantial was evident.
One would expect this Government to demonstrate its commitment to improving Guyana's Human Development Index ranking of 118 out of 185 countries. Perhaps the Minister in his response will tell us what measures the Government has put in place to decrease our present Human Development Index ranking. Where is the human face of the Government?
Our teachers are migrating by the hundreds because of poor salaries; our policemen work for a pittance and are disgruntled, small wonder that there are so many roadside courts; our pensioners barely eke out an existence and other vulnerable groups suffer as poverty escalates. Political officials and some privileged contract workers live on the fat of the land and fly when they are sick on Learjets to get medical attention, while the majority of sick people cannot get basic medication.
Stabroek News, on September 15, 2013, carried an article entitled, "Guyana and its Human Resources", which spoke to the trend that has been taking place for ever long, but it is one that seems to have gathered speed over time with no discernible policy to stimulate such an increase. It is appalling to note that for every three young persons you engage in a conversation two plan to migrate. This remains the case, notwithstanding the penultimate sentence in paragraph 4.3 of the budget specify reads, “That Guyana is one we would all be proud to call our home”. The Minister has not mentioned a “p” much less a peep about how we are going to retain our skilled Guyanese. This gives credence to Mr. Rawle Lucas’ article, which went on to state, and with which I agree:
“The administration seems quite happy to let Guyanese go since it seems to thrive in the social and economic chaos that it has created, and the insecurity that emanates from it.”
So many omissions, so many areas not addressed, but let me call attention to some of the very pressing needs.
First, I would like us to take a closer look at a special group of people — our differently abled. Unlike many of us, there exists, in our society, a group of persons who, unlike some of our youth, are unable to seize the opportunities to migrate. These persons continue to be left by the wayside in the Minister's plan each year and are only given recognition during special occasions such as, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) day for disabled persons. After much lip service, these persons with disabilities are still to be properly recognised as important. The Minister of Human Services & Social Security could not say it loud enough last evening when she said that you judge the humanity of government by the way it treats its seniors and differently abled. By her own measurement, her Government would be declared inhumane.
The APNU calls on the Government to rigorously review its programmes with a view to comprehensively and cost effectively assisting the differently abled in our society for they too deserve the right to a better life.
A visit to the David Rose School in Thomas Lands, Georgetown, tells a sad story. The teaching methods, resource materials and the environment take you back to the 16th century. The teachers and caregivers all should be given national awards for teaching differently abled children in the 21st century with methods used in the middle ages.
The School for the Blind housed in the St. Roses’ High School is the most inappropriate place for any child much less a child with a disability. I call on parliamentarians to visit that area set aside for these children, especially at lunch break when they will see the horror which takes place there. The Minister is saying that she is removing them and I am happy to hear that. The conditions are deplorable for lack of suitable accommodation and 2lst century teaching materials. Children are our most vulnerable. A group of global leaders said, at a UNICEF conference last September, that children cannot wait as they are voiceless and helpless. Did not our Lord Jesus say, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”?
It is a fact that our society lacks information on how to treat persons with disabilities and as a result disabled persons are side-lined and oft times their needs are misunderstood. Madam Minister of Education, it is time we have a reformed programme for educating our differently abled children so that those less challenged can be integrated into regular schools and others can be taught, where possible, to be independent and go on to live a good life.
As we look around us, we cannot remain oblivious to the many young adults who are disabled in our society, hence it is also imperative for our Government to make provision for them in every possible way. We note the following –
• Buildings continue to be constructed with no ramps for the disabled.
• That disabled persons must compete with able-bodied persons at many places of business, even Government offices.
• Despite the reprint of the $1, 000, $500, and $100 notes, no features were added to assist the visually impaired to identify these various notes.
• They are still being discriminated when seeking the use of public transportation.
• The failure to encourage the sale of computer software, for example, audio books, audio watches and clocks at VAT free and subsidised prices.
Allow me to reiterate that the Government must allocate funds to provide buses for disabled persons, ramps and special seats to cater for those persons with cross disabilities - our differently abled, a grave omission, Mr. Minister.
Alcohol abuse. Another area not properly addressed is that of alcohol abuse. The time has come for us to look at those factors which can cause persons to behave and act in a violent manner. One of these factors is the consumption of alcohol. In a workshop conducted by the Ministry of Health and PAHO in April, 2009, it was revealed that alcohol has been identified as the country's number one drug problem.
Alcohol is consumed by a large percentage of adults, teenagers and surprisingly among a growing number of young women in our society today, as a result several problems have emerged in our society and in families. While people indulge in the consumption of alcohol as a means of relaxation and to forget, for a moment, about their many problems, Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that their thoughts do not linger on the negative effects which can arise. Studies have shown that consumption affects one’s judgement, mood, reaction time, physical coordination and concentration and most times lead to inappropriate sexual behaviour, unwanted pregnancies and many times violence. Yet, according to the man in the street, alcohol is the cheapest commodity on the market and continues to get cheaper as vendors continue to operate outside and above the laws.
During the conference the Minister of Health Dr. Ramsammy told this nation, “Guyana is now one of the countries to become engaged in the evaluation of the impact of alcohol and life in Guyana.”
He was further quoted in the Kaieteur News article of September 2009 as saying:
“Apart from being one of the primary causes for underdevelopment in Guyana, alcohol has also been identified as the country's number one drug problem.”
What steps, then, is the Government taking to monitor and curb the high alcohol intake which is at the core of the loss of life through accidents, not to mention the alarming incidence of violence and violent related activities? What about other factors leading to violence - little or no schooling, dropouts, lack of guidance and counselling?
Moreover, I am concerned, as several members of the teaching profession, of the high rate of consumption by our children and women. The easy access with which our children acquire this drink is worrying and ought to be a concern to us, the legislators and the Government. The increase in 2013 of over 114%, according to the reports from the Ministry of Labour, Human Services & Social Security, in the number of our children who are before probation officers, those sent to New Opportunity Corp (NOC), those under supervision, those on parole coupled with the many cases which never passed through our system, is alarming and worthy of our attention. Should the authorities pay a visit to the various night clubs, bars and open air dances, they would find an alarmingly high number of our children under the age of 16 consuming alcohol. What about the high rate of suicide among women? Guyana is ranked number two after Haiti in the Caribbean.
Like our children, our women have turned to alcohol for pleasure, as a past time relaxer, and to deal with stress. A survey would have shown that our women are consuming high levels of alcohol. Magistrate Tejnarine Ramroop, who sat at the Albion Magistrate Court, said to Stabroek News that 100% of the domestic violence cases, which came before him, were related to alcohol. He further stated that he was saddened when he heard wives say their husbands were good men when they did not drink alcohol. He also mentioned Blairmont and Kwakwani magisterial districts where he saw more and more women appearing before the courts for abusing men while being under the influence of alcohol.
If our women, who have been bestowed with the gift of producing and nurturing nations, begin to display unhealthy practices, become incapable of performing their duties of providing care and nurture for their offspring and their families due to intoxication, our children, families and nation are in trouble. What will be the effect on our health system, education and social services? May I say to the Hon. Minister of Finance, that it matters not how large the budget is, or how substantial the increase allocated to the social services sector, once there continues to be easy access to cheap alcohol in the communities of our dear land we, as a nation, will surely pay the price. I urge the Government to stop covering for its friends and address this country’s number one drug problem, which according to Minister Ramsammy, is that of alcohol.
Another area of concern is the girl child and her concerns. We surely need to pay more attention to the girl child and her concerns and vulnerabilities. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 declaring 11th of October as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves. It is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility to poverty reduction and equitable growth. Having said that, I wish to inform you, Mr. Speaker, and Members of this honourable House that our nation faces a threat, not from outside forces but rather from inside. Our girls are in trouble. The need for immediate and concerted action cannot be overemphasised.
I speak of "Motherhood in Childhood" quite nicely put by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s State of World Population 2013 report, the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Ms. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, coined it as “Grave danger facing the nation's children”. For me, I would declare, in Guyana, “Guyana chicks, endangered species".
While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls plagued with low aspirations, low self-esteem and self-worth, the lack of good role models coupled with promises from older men of a good life are all factors conspire to prevent them from achieving their full potential.
According to the UNFPA’s 2013 report, despite an overall fall in total fertility rates, adolescent birth rates remain relatively high in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region. The CARICOM Secretariat reported that among girls aged 15-19 years old, the birth rate ranges from 26 to 27 per one thousand adolescents. Guyana, it is reported, has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the region.
Our problem in Guyana is that everyone knows that there are children under the age of 16 years... [Interruption] Mr. Speaker, could I have some protection?
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we are doing well. I am not hearing Mrs. Lawrence. Thank you very much.
Mrs. Lawrence: Our problem in Guyana is that everyone knows that there are children under the age of 16 years who are sexually active, yet nothing is being done about it. Men are getting away with statutory rape, for many of the fathers of underage teen mothers are between the ages of 25-40 years. [Ms. Manickchand: Ask your Member Sharma; A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member; chief Member]. There are girls under the age of 16 having babies and no one has ever been charged...
Mr. Sharma: Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Member, Ms. Manickchand, referred to Mr. C. N. Sharma when Mrs. Lawrence was speaking about statutory rape. She needs to apologise for what she said.
Mr. Speaker: What I heard, Mr. Sharma, was even beyond that. She said, “Ask your APNU Member” so I think it went further. Ms. Manickchand, we were doing well and there is no need for us to even venture there. I know that you are capable and I am asking you to both refrain and to apologise for that comment. It is a very, very dastardly comment to make against a sitting Member of this House. It is dastardly.
Minister of Education [Ms. Manickchand]: We are in a bit of a tight position here, Sir, and I will tell you why. I have never refused to heed your advice but it goes against...five children...
Mr. Speaker: Ms. Manickchand, you will be speaking later. I will not recognise you to speak in this Assembly.
Ms. Manickchand: I am not speaking today, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: On any day of this debate, if that is the attitude you are going to take against a sitting Member of this House who has done nothing...
Ms. Manickchand: I was not...
Mr. Speaker: You said, “Ask your APNU Member.” I heard you. You said, “Ask your APNU Member,” and that was out of order. I said we should refrain from bringing in members of peoples’ families or anyone.
Ms. Manickchand: C.N. Sharma has declared himself to be an APNU Member.
Mr. Speaker: If that is the attitude you are going to take, I am really, really very disappointed.
Ms. Manickchand: I will say without reservation that I was not referring to...
Mr. Speaker: You said, “Ask the Member of APNU, Mr. Sharma.” I heard that.
Ms. Manickchand: Sir, I did not know that only persons who are sitting here are members of the APNU.
Mr. Speaker: Come on. Let us not try to split hairs.
Ms. Manickchand: I was not speaking of the Member in this House and I say that without reservation.
Mr. Speaker: I am saying, Ms. Manickchand, that I have deemed it to be highly improper. I am deeming it highly improper and I am asking you to both refrain and to issue Mr. Sharma an apology. You can decide whether you would like to give it or not. That is your right. You have said that you are not and that is fair enough. Thank you.
Proceed, Mrs. Lawrence.
Mrs. Lawrence: There are girls under the age of 16 having babies and no one has ever been charged despite the enacting of the 2010 Sexual Offences Act. I reiterate, no one has ever been charged.
Section (2), subsection (3) of the Act states that a person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for five years and on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for ten years. This, like so many other legislations, remains on the shelf although created to protect our girls and meet international standards. The human rights of our girls are being trampled upon. Any girl, Mr. Speaker, who becomes pregnant, regardless of the circumstances or reasons, is one whose rights are undermined. The report, on page 101, states that our adolescent birth rate per 1,000 women aged 15 through 19 is 97.What a dilemma!
All is not lost, Mr. Speaker. At Women Across Differences (WAD), provision is made for young girls whose rights were violated. At WAD, girls can find persons who respect and care about their wellbeing and that of their child. The horror stories are many, but the successes are great.
Despite our education policy that girls may return after delivery to complete their education by enrolling in another school, very few do so given the challenges they face. These include: someone to keep the child, abusive partners, neglect, hunger and homelessness and lack of family support. So, Mr. Speaker, here is another vulnerable group and topical issue which the Minister made no mention of in her presentation. These girls do not only deserve a better life, but they deserve protection from predators within our society.
Mr. Speaker, in my hand, I hold a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) titled “Guyanese Girls Gone Wild 2”. One may mistake it for a Compact Disc (CD) which has lewd music. I wish to inform you and this honourable House… [Ms. Kissoon: At Sleep In.]
Mr. Speaker: One second, Ms. Lawrence. Ms. Kissoon, you will refrain from any such comments because we are going to get personal and when the dirt starts to fly, none of us could handle it.
Mrs. Lawrence: Mr. Speaker, one may mistake it for a Compact Disc (CD) which has lewd music. However, I wish to inform you and this honourable House that it is not so. Rather, Sir, it is a pornographic film, or a “blues” or a “BM”. Mr. Speaker, I hold in my hand another form of exploitation of our teenage girls and girls younger than 12 years old. These can be had across the length and breadth of our country and just like alcohol, it is big money business. These pornographic films cut across all barriers – race, class, colour and age. Some are done in homes, hotels, back yards and back dams. In many instances, you can detect that the girls appear dazed and one may assume that some form of drugging took place.
Sir, right now, at this very moment, we can send across the street and pick up several such films. When I began a few minutes back, I said that our nation faces a threat not from outside forces, but rather from inside. My question to the Minister is: who will be our Kamla Persaud-Bissessar? Who will bell the cat?
Mr. Speaker: Mrs. Lawrence, your time is up. You will need an extension.
Ms. Ally: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Hon. Member be given 15 minutes to continue her presentation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Mrs. Lawrence: Mr. Minister of Finance, the APNU stands ready to support an increase in the allocation for the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to set up a strong and fearless body to fight against this scourge which seeks to engulf our society and to deprive our girls of their dignity and human rights.
And now I will embrace the misfortune of the elderly in our society. When the United Nations (UN) in 1999 declared the “Year of the Older Person”, the main thrust was to see older persons as equal subjects of their development and participants in all spheres of social life and not just as objects of public policy. The Minister, as he concluded on paragraph H on page 72 and began paragraph I on page 73, began like the Christmas song, “Here comes Santa Claus, here Comes Santa Claus, pap tat pa dat pap” [singing] as he began “Old Age Pensions”. In summary, what the Minister outlined using many words were: pensioners would not get the $15,000 they had hoped for and pensioners would also not receive the $1,500 which they got as an average yearly increase since 2006. Rather, they shall receive $625 in the fifth month of the year and they will not receive any back pay for the months January, February, March and April. This measly sum is reflective of the callousness and inhumanity of a Government whose squander mania and corruption are unparalleled in the Caribbean.
He further went on trying to hoodwink the pensioners by telling them that there is an increase in the amount for the Electricity Assistance Programme by 50% and that this has resulted in an additional increase of $300 million dollars.
Mr. Speaker, Notice Paper No. 284 dated February 13, 2014 saw the response from the Minister of Human Services and Social Security that for the year 2013, only 7,283 pensioners applied for electricity subsidy of which only 7,026 were eligible. Therefore, Sir, of the $590 million which the Minister told us last year was allocated for the Pensioners Electricity Assistance Programme, only some 16% benefitted from that dollar amount. Perhaps, the Minister of Finance will tell us what has happened to the remaining balance. Let me then, Hon. Minister, posit the question: why did you not give our pensioners $1,500? Why pretend you are doing something wonderful for pensioners when, in fact, all you have done is to shift moneys to the two failing entities – the Guyana Power & Light (GPL) and the Guyana Water Inc (GWI). This is nothing but a crying shame.
Mr. Speaker, it is a crying shame that we witness the lack of provision for our homeless elderly. The headline in the Sunday, 16th March Kaieteur News titled: “Abandoned elderly patients at GPHC” attests to this. As far back as 2003, studies were done on the elderly in the Caribbean. We were told that older persons in the Caribbean are living longer and the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) Report 2013 reported that a Guyanese’s life expectancy at birth is 70.2 years up from 69.2 years. One would expect that a caring Government would plan for the provision of health care, increases in pension schemes, both contributory and non-contributory, increases in housing or homes for the elderly and, in some cases, assistance to caregivers, indigent homes, to name a few.
Further, over the years, there have been consistent increases in the number of residents at the Palms Geriatric Home and the Night Shelter, which is now a 24-hour shelter for the indigent and less fortunate in our society. Mr. Minister, after telling this honourable House last year that $54 million was provided to complete and operationalise the Hugo Chavez Centre, which would cater for 180 street dwellers, why, after five months of being commissioned there is no occupancy? Is this another Family Court which, according to the Hon. Attorney General, is still sourcing furnishings after one year? Are you waiting for the rains to come and wet the many persons living on our streets or are you waiting on a visit from a foreign head of state?
The wellbeing of our citizens is paramount to us in A Partnership for National Unity. Hence, we believe that unless the Government is accountable and transparent, unless we the people can have value for money in every area of spending, unless people can participate meaningfully in the events and processes that shape their lives without fear, unless citizens can access health care without being spoken to in a crude and rude manner, unless our medical centres are provided with modern equipment, thus eliminating the long hours persons must wait for results, and unless every Guyanese is governed by the same laws, we cannot and will not achieve a better life for all Guyanese.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus my attention on the fate of our women. The incidence of cancer amongst women in Guyana today is much higher than ever before. Over the years, it was reported that the main causes of death among women were ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and neoplasm, which represented a mere 9%. Subsequently, deaths by neoplasm increased to some 20%, followed by diabetes with 71%. Presently, 53% of all deaths in females is due to cancer – breast and cervix amounting to some 36.6%.
Cancer is a growing medical problem in Guyana and the number of persons, especially women, continues to grow at an alarming rate. This ought to be a major concern for the Government. Over the last two months, I have encountered nine women with whom I am personally acquainted who have been diagnosed with this dreaded disease. Of these women, two have died. Of those remaining, six can hardly afford to exist comfortably much less meet the high cost for treatment such as mammography, pap smears, chest X-ray, chemotherapy, radiation and Computerised Tomography (CT) scans, to name a few.
Further, the time has come for the Government to place more emphasis on the availability of more oncologists at the various medical institutions whereby our women can benefit from continuous service. Important to note, these services must be available not only in Georgetown, but rather to women and men in all the regions. Mr. Speaker, let us give our people, especially our women, a fighting chance with early detection. The subsidising of these expensive medical tests, I assure you Minister, would certainly increase the chances of these Guyanese enjoying a better life.
Rights of our pregnant women: while employers are not legally obligated to make it easier for a pregnant woman on the job, it is illegal, however, for employers to discriminate against women because of their pregnancy.
It is expected that the women in our society, like those in developed countries, would be given protection by their Government. Likewise, it is expected that the working women in our country will be protected by our Government and more so the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security.
A chat with our young girls and women, especially those who work in the hospitality, security and commercial entities inside and outside the city, reveals their daily exposure to the blatant discrimination which they face at the hands of their employers. These women are robbed of their earnings on a weekly basis. The calculation of their overtime pay is always incorrect. In most cases, when challenged, they are threatened with dismissal or told that there is no time to pursue stupid requests for recalculations. They are required to work long hours, carry large boxes up long flights of stairs, work in stockrooms which have no proper ventilation or cooling equipment such as fans or air conditioners. What is most alarming is the continuous deprivation of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) coverage for these women. In most cases, one of the following applies: amounts less than that deducted from wages and salaries are paid to NIS. It is said that employers note smaller salaries on their contribution forms. No contribution is remitted to NIS though deductions are made from employees’ wages and salaries and remittances are always paid long after deductions are made.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, those women who become pregnant are not paid their 30% as required by the National Insurance and Social Security Act. This very Act states quite clearly that women are entitled to a further 13 weeks if they are incapable of work as a result of complications arising directly out of the pregnancy and delivery.
The time has come for the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to bring to this house a Bill on maternity protection, one which, no doubt, will provide the much needed protection to women who work in agriculture and domestic fields and hospitality and commercial industries and all working women, skilled and unskilled, for these persons too deserve a better life.
One cannot deny the fact that our women are being trained under the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) Single Parent Training Programme. What concerns me, however, is that there seems to be no provision for review of the programmes offered. For several years now, we have been training women in the same fields without any feasible study effected to ascertain the needs or demands in the various regions. As a result, there is over training in some areas. For instance, how many cosmetologists, seamstresses or caterers do we need and where are they needed? Come on Madam Minister, have a feasibility study done by region and do not give training in fields which have become redundant. Many of our single mothers may be capable of becoming nurses, agricultural officers, plumbers, goldsmiths or even farmers. Let us improve the relevance and effectiveness of such programmes based on the trajectory growth the Minister spoke about on page 7, paragraph 3.4.
Mr. Speaker, It would be remiss of me not to extend congratulations on behalf of the women and men of the APNU to the two women in our society who were recently honoured. Sir, I speak of Ms. Karen De Souza, who was bestowed with the 2014 Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Award, and Hon. Pauline Sukhai, honoured with the Order of Congolese Merit. To them, we say congratulations.
Mr. Speaker, women are the bedrock of this nation and must be given the care and attention they need to enjoy a better life.
A better Guyana for all Guyanese is good and should be embraced by all, notwithstanding, unless people can participate meaningfully in the events and processes which shape their lives, national human development paths will be neither desirable nor sustainable.
Just to highlight a few of those which hinder the mere thought of inclusion: Friday, 6th December edition of the Kaieteur News carried the headline, “Money spent on overpriced drugs could pay 20% increases to nurses and teachers”; “Jagdeo authorized radio license for 'Ghost Company”; Sunday, 9th February edition of the Stabroek News carried the headline, “Parents withdrawing students over feared collapse of $77M Rupununi School. Repairs needed just I year after construction”; Sunday, 16th March, 2014 Stabroek News carried the headline, “Pumps from India still to be commissioned one year after contract ended”; “Cops accused of ignoring report of Port Kaituma man’s threats to kill family”.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, your 15 minutes are up. Conclude in five minutes please.
Mrs. Lawrence: Mr. Speaker, how can we build a better Guyana for all Guyanese when there is no participation and involvement by the stakeholders?
Mr. Minister, the billions are not being shared by the indigent and the elderly, nor are the majority of women and young adults being offered any substantial relief to their plight. Unless there is adequate allocation of funds to improve the wellbeing of all Guyanese, the theme of your Budget would remain meaningless for a vast majority of our dear country’s population.
In concluding, Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay homage to one of our fallen heroines, the late Deborah Jan Osman Backer, a stalwart who relentlessly championed the cause of women at all echelons of society. I dedicate this speech to her honour and to her unstinting quest to improve the quality of life for all women folk. As we move forward, may we be catalysts of change for the status of our women who the late Deborah Jan Backer strove so valiantly for. May her soul rest in peace.
Thank you, Sir. [Applause]
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