April 11, 2012
Mr. Adams: Thank you Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I rise to present to this Hon. House, the views of a large segment of the population of Region 3 pertaining to the national 2012 budget, which was presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance on March 30, 2012.
I hasten to observe that apart from its eloquence, it was a marathon presentation of a scorecard and plans that offered little hope for the ordinary man, the downtrodden worker, artisan and the peasant who forms the majority of residents residing in the Essequibo Islands/West Demerara area.
Many of these folks posses a clear understanding of the issues that matters and can unequivocally determine the measures required to move them and their families out of the doldrums of hopelessness, to a path of improved standard of living, in other words, a good life, which APNU campaigned to deliver.
The constituent that I have the honour to serve has sent me to this Parliament to say that the Government’s case, as presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance, which seeks to offer ideas for remaining on course, becoming united in purpose and achieving prosperity for all Guyanese, was fundamentally flawed.
Of course, the budget reflects a propensity on the part of the Administration to remain on the course of economic suppression, with the privileged united in deception, to achieve a continuation of the Orwellian status quo, “All men are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
My colleagues, on this side of the House, have dealt with many of the disappointing features in the 2012 budget. Features that demonstrate the governing party’s intention to dishonour campaign promises such as reduction of the Value Added Tax burden- President Ramotar said so-, equitable distribution of wealth and reduction of lawlessness at the national level. So permit me to highlight some of the uncaring situations that this Administration seems bent on keeping, “On course”.
For a Government that prides itself on being internationally recognised for its advocacy for climate change issues, Region 3, and most of the Coast and riverine areas, experience flooding almost once per quarter. This occurrence whether from overtopping of the Atlantic, our rivers or rainfall, leaves residents with much damage and loss to property, not to mention the irretrievable nature of important and sentimental documents that becomes water soaked. I urge that Government pay close attention to expanding the programme objective for public works in Region 3, to include, “the continued enhancement and sustainability of the physical infrastructure with emphasis on combating floods and its effects”.
My second observation has to deal with Education delivery, for which $1.5 billion was allocated. The programme objective, “To ensure equal access for all children and young people in the region” this is laudable. However, the programme must go beyond words to be meaningful and I submit with the implementation envisaged, it is bound to be restrained because of some deep-seated condition that the Government continues to turn a blind eye on in this budget and has seemingly ignored. For example, the Vreed en Hoop Secondary School is a public health disaster waiting to happen. It is flooded frequently and such flooding always spills over to the adjoining cemetery which is still open for burial. This school should be re-sited or the relevant engineering skills and resources be brought to bear to alleviate this problem.
The problem is not only public health in nature, for both students and teachers suffer from loss of tuition because the in service teacher training college in Region 3 is housed in this very building. Contrary to what is bandied, in some quarters, about those who occupy this side of this Hon. House, as being a minority dictatorship, I wish to point out that we are not in the business of criticising for criticising sake. So permit me to suggest how a part of this problem could be resolved in the short term by referring to the estimates presented. In Programme 734 - Education, reference 295 of the 2012 Capital Projects Profiles, reference 2 at “Description of Project states, “Extension of Essequibo Island Secondary and Windsor Forest Primary School”.
I recall this school was housed in separate buildings for a number of years. Recently, the senior building was extended to accommodate pupils from the junior building, which is now vacant. My humble suggestion therefore, is that the vacant junior building be refurbished to house the Cyril Potter College of Education in-service teachers’ training centre in Region 3. This, I think, is an example of how we can maximise on scarce resources to meet the challenges and needs of our communities.
Before moving away from Education, Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I wish to draw to your attention the fact that the department of Education building, in Region 3, was destroyed by fire in September, 2009 and is housed in crammed surroundings in the Region 3 Resource Centre. I am not aware that any provision was has been made in the 2012 budget for this deficiency to be addressed.
I would now like to focus on Health delivery in the Region. There is a shortage of technical specialists and nurses at the West Demerara Regional Hospital. The staff has been working overtime hours consistently to meet demands, and while some may welcome the opportunity to make ends meet in this overtaxed economy, we are painfully aware of the implications of this situation, for the proper health delivery.
Added to this is a shortage, and in some cases absence of an ambulance driver and dispensary services which do not work on a 24-hour basis… I would suggest that these services be made available on a 24-hour basis to serve the patients visiting that hospital. In some instances drugs obtained expire within weeks – a waste of taxpayers’ money.
I note that the 2012 Budget makes provisions for allocations to the Madewini Youth Camp but nothing is proposed for the Den Amstel Youth Camp, which also belongs to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. One would have thought that in this modern age of integrated planning, with a modern outdoor synthetic athletic track and a technical institute in the works it would naturally follow that the youth facilities at Den Amstel would have been rehabilitated and upgraded.
Unto a few years ago, Mdm. Speaker, we in Region 3 were proud of the relative absence of criminal activities. Today crime is on the increase. Residents are fearful of being attached by bandits when they go to bed. We have Police Stations without functioning generators to meet the constant power outage experience. Can you imagine that ranks on duty at night have to resort to the lighting of candles and kerosene lamps?
It has been brought to my attention that the Supernumerary Constables – properly known as the SCs – have to be working long hours, some for as much as 36 hours, receiving little pay and having to wait several months to get there overtime payment. Is this how we intend to improve security and grapple the upsurge in criminal activity in the communities?
In closing I must refer to the topic of agriculture. The steady agitation of cane farmers for improved working conditions is not political in nature; it is a real industrial challenge resulting from poor management of the industry that leaves much to be desired. The rice farmers are currently benefiting from the lucrative Venezuelan market, but I wish to caution for us not to abandon the traditional markets in CARICOM and Europe and put all of our eggs in the Venezuelan markets for with one swoop the farmers and the industry could collapse if something goes wrong in that direction.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I close as I started by requesting the Hon. Minister of Finance to consider the suggestions posited from this side of the House to improve on the 2012 Budget. This will help us truly in uniting the nation in purpose and assist in facilitating prosperity for all Guyanese and to ensure a better life for all.
I thank you. [Applause]