Minister of Local Government and Regional Development [Mr. G. Persaud]: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, please permit me to join with those who have expressed congratulations to the Hon. Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and his team of dedicated and committed staff members for preparing the $192.8 billion Budget 2012.
The budget is undoubtedly pro-people, pro-development and pro-progress. All aimed at bringing greater joy and happiness in and comfort to all Guyanese, across the length and breadth of this beautiful country of ours. I also wish to endorse all that was stated so far by the Hon. Members of this House in reference to the good news embodied in Budget 2012.
During the year 2011, the Ministry and its ten administrations received budgetary allocations of $3,540,241,000 on the capital side and $16,971,689,000 on its current allocations. The Ministry and its regions expended $3,409,286,000, or 96.1 per cent achievement on the capital side and $16,697,964,000, or 98.1 per cent of its allocation on the current side for 2011.
Overall, the allocation to the Ministry and regions was $20,395,840,000 and the expenditure was $20,223,338,000 or 99.1 per cent in fulfilling the programmes and projects identified in Budget 2011.
It must be noted that the expenditures in the regions which were dominated by Opposition-affiliated councils were appreciatively very high in comparison to previous years and were reflective of greater dedication and commitment exhibited by the Regional Chairmen, Regional Vice Chairmen and Councillors in those regions. I wish to applaud those Regional Chairmen, Regional Vice Chairmen, Councillors and staff for staying the course by putting Guyana’s development first, rather than focus on partisan politics, something we can all learn from in this House, although 2011 was an election year. Similarly, I wish to commend those Regional Chairmen, Regional Vice Chairmen, Councillors and staff in those regions which were dominated by PPP/Civic-affiliated councils for their commitment and dedication displayed in significantly completing both capital and current work programmes identified in Budget 2011.
Commendation is in order, especially when one recalls that there was a period in our history, when significant sums of money were returned to the treasury due to the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) inability to execute planned programmes and projects, thus denying citizens the benefits which were embedded in the execution and completion of those projects. I must also point out one of the contributing factors to the success story in 2011 would have been the continuous retooling, retraining and building on our human resources base. Having said that, I acknowledge the comments made by some Members of this Hon. House of instances where infrastructural works were not done in keeping with the specification, and also in some instances where some of our contractors were found wanting.
However, I do not share the less than favourable comments that were attributed to some of the contractors. I am certain that these comments and statements that were made, were not intended to paint all infrastructural works done in 2011 and also, all contractors who worked on Government projects in 2011, with the same brush. It is my hope that the Hon. Members will seek to assist the Government to monitor and evaluate all infrastructural works while they are being done so that accepted quality and value for money, so much talked about can be achieved. It is noted that both Opposition parties in this House have representatives at the level of the Regional Democratic Councils and even, in some instances, some of the Works Committees in these councils are chaired by Members of the Opposition. I will, therefore, anxiously await timely feedback from all Hon. Members of this House in this regard during 2012 and beyond.
I listened to repeated comments of “stealing” and “thieving” coming from the Opposition benches during this debate and I am certain that the Hon. Members on the other side of this House, recognised that they, like all of us as Members of Parliament, have a distinct role in protecting public funds and to take the necessary actions to prevent the alleged abuse, misuse, “stealing” or ‘thieving” of public funds as was stated by the Hon. Members. I wish to urge all Members to ensure that they carry out their obligations in a responsible manner to Guyana’s taxpayers, by reporting all incidents and providing evidence to the police, without delay, so that the appropriate actions can be taken against person(s) who are alleged to have abused, misused, ‘steal” or ‘thief”, as was stated, public funds. To do otherwise, like withholding evidence, and coming to this Hon. House and making statements is failing the taxpayers of this country.
The Hinterland and deep riverine communities continue to pose their unique challenges with regards to infrastructural development and sustaining human resources development. Since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Development Plan continue to cater for all villages and communities in this our beautiful country, we are committed to overcoming the difficult terrain and challenges to deliver the approved programmes so that all Guyanese can continue to experience the joy and happiness which are derived from continued growth and development.
The Ministry continues to engage innovative and creative approaches in addressing and resolving problematic issues. Frequent engagement with other Ministries and sectors is something that one of the Hon. Members has called for. I wish to inform that Hon. Member that we already have, in 2012, met with the Ministry of Education and not only the Ministry of Education, but with other sector Ministries and have that kind of necessary collaboration. Sharing of resources, skills, et cetera, strengthening and monitoring of our evaluation unit, discussions with contractors and service providers, greater emphasis on enforcement of penalties, and more investment in retraining and retraining of our human services across the Regions are all part of the Ministry’s 2012 approach to deal with some of the issues identified earlier.
Based on sound macroeconomic policies, effective governance and appropriate management strategies, Guyana continues to achieve economic growth. This has resulted in consistent increases in our budgetary allocations, especially from 2006 to 2011 and this trend has continued in Budget 2012. The Budget, as presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, reflected a capital allocation for the Ministry and the Ten Regional Administrations of $3,493,914,000 and $18,280,548,000 on the current allocations. Thus presented, the allocation of the 11 budgetary estimates under the Ministry is $21,774,462,000. This is an increase of $1,378,622,000 or 6.7% in comparison to Budget 2011. We wish to thank the Hon. Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Ministry and the ten regional administrations, for making additional resources available to us.
I wish to assure this Hon. House that the Ministry stands ready to work conscientiously with our ten regional administrations to implement the programmes and projects contained in Budget 2012 as presented. Further, the Ministry is committed to working with the six municipalities and 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) in the execution of the subvention programmes which will be funded by Budget 2012.
Before I continue on Budget 2012, I wish to respond to some statements and concerns which were expressed by Members on the opposite side of this House. The Hon. Members, Mr. Greenidge and Mr. Trotman, with regards to solid waste management and public health dangers, expressed serious concerns with regards to the collection, disposal and management of solid waste in the city of Georgetown. I cannot help but agreeing with the concerns expressed by both of these Hon. Members because this is something that the PPP/C Government and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development have repeatedly and publicly expressed as concerns and have sought to work with the municipality of Georgetown to improve the situation. May I remind this Hon. House that all rates and taxes collected by each NDC and municipality is retained by those municipalities and NDCs to provide the services required by the residents in those municipalities and NDCs. Much talk is heard from some quarters that the Ministry has not supported the city’s proposal to widen its revenue base. However, it is interesting to note that the city is collecting less than 60% of its present revenue base. And so there is in excess of 40% of revenue to be collected by this very city. And so, for whatever reasons best known to this city, it is either unable, unwilling or has not found the mechanism to enhance its collectable rate, but it continues to lament and use this excuse of a narrow revenue base to confront the issues and allegations with regards to proper collection of solid waste, disposal of solid waste and management of solid waste. The problem in the city will continue unless there is behavioural and attitudinal change at the level of the Council, and we here in this Parliament, the Members, can make a difference, but that is another story which we will deliberate on subsequently. Nonetheless, as stated by the Hon. Minister for Finance in his Budget speech:
“The disposal of solid waste in a safe and efficient manner in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of our citizens continues to be a priority for this Government. In this regard, the establishment of a National Solid Waste Management Division is expected to be in place by the end of the year.”
In addition to the city and its own revenue base, it is a known fact that the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, through approved Budgets by this House, provides an annual subvention to the municipality of Georgetown. That sum was $20 million in 2011 and from budget support in 2010 it was also $20 million. Apart from that, the Ministry continues to meet all expenditure for the closing of the Le Repentir dumpsite, formerly known as the Mandela dumpsite - but we have dropped the use of that terminology - and the construction and operations of Haags Bosch sanitary landfill through a Government of Guyana/International Development Bank (IDB) loan agreement. Further, the Ministry of Public Works, as a rescue act, has taken over most of the roads in the city so that there is no cost to the city itself.
We have heard earlier in this debate and outside of this House, the term “bail out” used by many and on many occasions during the Budget debate so far. This is not an unfamiliar term to the municipality of Georgetown since every year the city turns to the Government with “bail out” requests. We are debating Budget 2012 now in this House, but we have good news: the municipality of Georgetown has already submitted its “bail out” request for 2012 to the Ministry.
The Ministry is responsible for managing and implementing programmes and projects included in the 11 budgetary allocations. Across these programmes, there are 11,259 employees and 7,000 of those are within the education programme. It must be noted that the staff of the six municipalities and the 65 NDCs are not included in this total. These 11,259 staff will all benefit from the increase in the income tax threshold contained in Budget 2012. Moreover, their families, especially their children, will continue to benefit from the free school uniform programmes, the hot meals and other nutrition funded programmes, and free education at the nursery, primary and secondary levels. They themselves, their children and their parents will continue to benefit from free health care services available across Guyana.
My colleague Minister, the Hon. Norman Whittaker, would have shared some of the 2012 Budget highlights of Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10. I will, therefore, in the interest of time, focus on some of the major projects and programmes contained in Budget 2012 for the Ministry and Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. But before I do so Mr. Speaker, please permit me to assure the Hon. Member, Mr. Bulkan, that the PPP/C Government has not breeched the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and has no intention to do so. The systems, procedures and processes established within the present legal framework for the consultations, compilations, preparation and presentation of this Budget were all followed. The Programme Heads, be it education, administration, public works, health or agriculture, had to present their respective proposed budget to the relevant subcommittees of the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs), after consultation with their various constituencies. After those presentations, from subcommittee level, the proposals were taken to the Regional Democratic Councils. There the debates and discussions continued and after approval those draft budgets were presented to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and then on to the respective subject Ministries. I am willing to guide the Hon. Member through the process but time does not permit. However, I wish to assure him that I am available upon request.
Please permit me to address a statement made by the Hon. Member, Mr. Trotman, and which was repeated by the Hon. Member, Mr. Williams. The statement accused the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, of providing more resources to the PPP/C controlled regions with smaller populations than the Opposition controlled regions. I wish to inform this Hon. House that using the number of listed voters for the 28th November, 2011 Elections, it can be readily seen that for Region 10, there were 24,065 eligible listed voters. This was ranked no. 6 in comparison to the other Regions, yet the Hon. Minister for Finance provided a total of $1,938,359,000 in Budget 2012 for Region 10. This allocation is the fifth highest allocation for the ten regions, ahead of Region 5 with a voters’ population of 32,807 and an allocation of $1,659,900,000 which is $278,459,000 less than the allocation for Region 10. The story gets sweeter. Similarly, for Region 8, I think that that is a no contest; lowest rank population, lowest rank allocation. I think we have commonality with that. [Members: Region 4.] Well I am coming to that. If I started with the top then I have to go down a little bit. Old people take some time. Region 7 which is ranked no. 9, based on 9,598 eligible voters, received an allocation of $1,411,733,000 which is the eighth highest allocation for the ten Regions. This is a larger allocation than Region 9 with a listed voters’ population of 10,204 and rank no. 7 in terms of number of voters. Region 9’s allocation is $1,263,904,000 which is $147,829,000 less than the allocation for Region 9.
My colleagues, the Hon. Members, were calling for Region 4. Well here I come. Region 4, for budget purposes, excludes the entire area of Georgetown, is rank no. 1 based on the number of eligible voters listed, but received an allocation of $2,949,478,000 which is ranked as the second highest allocation for the ten Regions. This is so because most of the central Ministries, undertake and fund programmes in Region 4 from their respective central Ministries’ allocations. The East Coast Demerara Highway, the East Bank Demerara Highway: all those streets and internal roads that are being done in all those villages across the East Bank and East Coast of Demerara under the Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP) programmes are allocations that are credited against Region 4 in the Budget. [Member: It is the same thing in the other Regions.] That is not so. We only have one East Bank Highway and one East Coast Highway. It bothers me because these allocation figures are available in the budgetary Estimates which were given to each Member of this Hon. House. Yet the Hon. Members, Mr. Trotman and Mr. Williams, seek to ignore the facts as presented in these estimates and opted to make sweeping, incorrect assumptions and conclusions. The question is: how can these Hon. Members make such loose and incorrect statements and to what end?
The Hon. Member, Ms. Kissoon, stated that there was no development in Region 10 under Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo’s presidency. I leave the residence in Region 10 to judge the credibility of that statement as well as the credibility of the maker of that statement.
The Hon. Member, Mr. Bulkan, stated that some $137,621,000 was provided to procure all drugs and medical supplies for Region 8 for the entire year 2012, a grossly incorrect statement. The Hon. Member is urged to spend some time in understanding how the PPP/C Government works and the holistic principles governing budget preparation under the PPP/C Administration, thus avoiding future embarrassment.
The Hon. Member, Mr. Trotman, stated that the money for the road in Port Kaituma cannot be found. Had the Hon. Member taken a minute to consult with the Hon. Member, Mr. Allen, on his side of the House, he would have found out that the Hon. Member, Mr. Allen, attended a community meeting, in my presence, in March, 2012, when similar comments were made and the Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Nigel Fisher, provided documentary evidence to that meeting to suggest two things: one is that the former Regional Executive Officer, Mrs. Mary Williams, had written terminating the contract and that the sum of money was reimbursed into the Consolidated Funds. [Ms. Ally: Does she have a receipt?] As I said, documentary evidence was provided. Sometimes this communication barrier is right among and between benches, much less across the other side of the House. [Mr. Trotman: Make that information available to me.] Do your research.
I can go on with my responses to several flawed statements which were made during this debate by the Hon. Members from the other side of this House. But I must move on, Mr. Speaker, because you are going to call time on me just now.
Through the capital budget allocations in 2012, the Ministry will seek to acquire a server, furniture and equipment, pay retention to the market tarmac at Mahaica, procure solar panels for some government facilities in the remote communities as well as to meet costs with regards to the solid waste management facilities at Haags Bosch, and upgrade the Ministry’s compound. Further, the Ministry will continue to provide subventions to the 65 NDCs and six municipalities across Guyana.
Budget 2012, at a glance, contains the following programmes and projects in its capital legend: Region 2: the total allocation for Region 2 is $2,214,410,000. [Mrs. Backer: You cannot even tell us how much Region 6 got.] I am coming, but I take long. $1,868,460 is for the current programme; $345,950,000 is for the capital project. The capital programme in Region 2 will account for the procurement of furniture and equipment for all programmes in that Region; purchasing of vehicles for the agriculture and public works programme and boats for the health sector; construction of sanitary block; construction and rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation systems at Golden Fleece, Coffee Grove, Perseverance, Middlesex, Good Hope, Three Friends, Devonshire Castle, Annandale, Dartmouth, Hampton Court, Reliance, Zorg, Adventure, Huis t’ Dierens, Columbia, Capoey, La Union and Una Creek...
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Minister, your time is at 30 minutes. Keep going.
Mr. G. Persaud: ...construction of bridges at Golden Fleece, Coffee Grove, Perseverance, upgrading of community roads in areas such as Charity, Perseverance, Queenstown, Adventure, Somerset and Berks, Zorg en Vlygt, Riverstown, Columbia, Anna Regina, Bush Lot and La Belle Alliance; construction of access bridges to schools at St. John’s, Martindale Annex, Hampton Court and Land of Plenty; construction of teachers’ quarters at Akawini; construction of schools at Karawau, an extension of Wakapau school; construction of bridges to health centres at Dredge Creek, Abrams Creek; extension and rehabilitation of health facilities at Mora and Siriki; and construction of a health post at Mashabo.
The total allocation for Region 3 is $2,797,815,000 of which current allocation stands at $2,517,315,000 and capital allocation at $280,500,000. The Hon. Member, Ms. Bibi Shadick, highlighted, in her presentation on Friday last, the major projects which will be undertaken by regional administration in Region 3 hence I do not wish to repeat.
Region 4: like Regions 2 and 3, the development trust continues in Region 4. I must point out that the total allocation for Region 4 is $2,949,478,000 of which $2,755,328,000 is on the current side and the capital allocation is $195,150,000, an increase of 10.6% from the 2011 allocations.
The 2012 allocations will facilitate the purchase of furniture and equipment for the Administration, Education and Health programmes; purchasing of vehicles for the Public Works and Health programmes; construction of revetment and rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation systems in areas such as Enmore, Clonbrook, Cane Grove, Buxton, Soesdyke, Craig, Melanie Damishana and Paradise; construction and upgrading of roads in areas such as Victoria, Dochfour, Enmore, Land of Canaan, Supply and Kuru Kuru; construction of schools and teachers’ quarters at Golden Grove and Low Wood in the Demerara River; rehabilitation of school at St. Cuthbert’s Mission, an extension of a primary school at Soesdyke; construction and extension of health facilities at CC Nicholson Hospital, Cane Grove, Friendship, Mocha and Low Wood; construction of bridges in areas such as Vigilance, Buxton, Golden Grove, Melanie Damishana and Little Diamond.
The total allocation for Region 5 is $1,659,900,000 of which the current allocation is $1,392,800,000 and the capital allocation in Budget 2012 is $267,100,000. Budget 2012 will result in the residence of Region 5 benefiting from the following projects and programmes: purchasing of furniture and equipment for administration, education and health programmes; purchasing of boat and engine for the health sector; construction of drainage and irrigation systems across Region 5 in areas such as Cottage, Planter’s Hall, Governor Light, Mokomoko, Washclothes - Manuel canals, Baiabu, Grass Hook, Rutherford Canal, Yankee Branch Canal, Dantzig, Columbia; construction of bridges in areas such as Recess, Calcutta, Zorg en Hoop, Dundee, Ithaca, El Dorado; construction and upgrading of roads in areas such as Number 5, Number 10, Number 11, Number 28 and Number 30 Villages, Recess, Calcutta, Fort Wellington, Onderneeming, Bush Lot, Ithaca, Waterloo, Zorg en Vlygt and Burma; construction of annex at Fort Wellington Hospital and Number 8 Village; extension and upgrading of health facilities at Bush Lot, Forth Wellington and Mahiacony.
I trust that the representative from Region 5, the Hon. Member, would have also identified those projects in the Budget and would have highlighted it here for our knowledge as well.
The total allocation for Region 6 is $3,885,268,000 of which the current allocation is $3,523,568,000 and the capital allocation in Budget 2012 is $361,700,000. The 2012 budget allocation will facilitate residence in Region 6 benefiting from the following projects: the purchasing of furniture and equipment for administration, education and health programmes, purchasing of vehicles for the agriculture and health programmes, construction and rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation structures, canals, bridges and embankments in areas such as Number 51 Village, Vryburg, Johanna, Zorg en Vlugt, Pleatanker, Orealla, Number 51 Village, Number 52 Village, Lesbeholden, Mibikuri, Sandvoort, Adventure, Amaco, Rotterdam, Manarabisi and Belmont. Construction of bridges in areas such as Port Mourant, Warren, New Amsterdam, Letter Kenny, Friendship, Limlair, Number 19 village, Grant Number 1804, Grant Number 1806, Whim, Auchlyne, Number 72, Yakusari and Belvidere. There will be rehabilitation of roads in areas such as those of Number 68 Village, Number 71 Village, Friendship, Grant Number 1803, Mibikuri, Cumberland, Manchester, Albion, Johanna, Auchlyne, Canefield Village and Adelphi. There will be the construction of Nursery schools at Albion and Glasgow. There will be the rehabilitation of Number 48 Village Primary School, and it will facilitate the extension of the New Amsterdam and Black Bush Secondary School as well as Skeldon Primary School. An x-ray clinic and health centre will be constructed at Port Mourant while a storage bond will be constructed in New Amsterdam.
The current allocation for all Regions will seek to meet the cost for payment of wages and salaries, benefits and allowances, fuel, stationery, travelling and subsistence as well as meeting other operational costs. Further, the current Budget 2012 will facilitate all Regions, to effect maintenance works to their buildings: administrations, schools, health centres, health posts and hospitals including sanitary blocks, vehicles, equipment and machinery thereby enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness in providing greater comfort to employees and citizens across the Regions. The maintenance of infrastructure will feature very high in budget 2012. Similarly, we are hoping that the municipalities and NDCs will listen and respond positively to our call to pay greater attention to solid waste management collection and disposal as well as to provide better services to residence within the local authority area.
It is a known fact that many budget agencies will be executing projects and programmes included in Budget 2012 across the 10 Regions. The Ministry is committed to provide the required support to aid the implementation of such projects and programmes. Training and development of our human resources for both elected and appointed officials are very high on the Ministry’s agenda for 2012, so much so that the training for elected officials as a result of elections 2011 first phase was completed. The Ministry has completed its training schedule and is awaiting the outcome of the budget to move ahead with implementation. The Ministry is working acidulously to support the PPP/C commitment to the holding of Local Government Elections in 2012. The Ministry is hopeful that this Hon. House will fast tract the pending legislations so that GECOM can move into preparation phase for the holding of these elections in this year.
Please permit me to remind us in this Hon. House that the Budget presented is for the fiscal year 2012. So it must be viewed within the context that within another 12 months or so Budget 2013 will be presented to this Hon. House and the cycle will go on annually. Hence, we must be optimistic that many more opportunities will be available for us to address whatever shortcomings, if any, and whatever disappointments, if any, we perceive in Budget 2012. No National Budget can and will be able to address all the problems and difficulties existing in a given society. The world, and no country is stagnant, especially third world countries, like ours, where what happens on the international scene has a direct impact on us at home.
Nation building, as we all know, is a task that could never be considered as complete. Rather, it is always a work in progress. No matter in which country of the world we are living, this will be a truism. So, we must not see Budget 2012 as being the end of whatever Government expenditure will be. This is represented in this following statement “Budget 2011 when presented to this House would have brought completion to several projects and programmes, equally, several other projects and programmes which were initiated by Budget 2011 will be completed in 2012 and some of those projects have completion dates after Budget 2012.” So, it is a continual process of incremental growth and development.
In closing, I wish to urge all Members of this Hon. House to support and approve the allocations made to all programmes and projects included in Budget 2012 as presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh. In so doing, we will all be recognised as individuals who have expended our effort and time in ensuring the progress growth and development continues in this beautiful land of ours. I thank you Mr. Speaker. [Applause]