April 13, 2012
Mr. Damon: Thank you Mr. Speaker and each and every other Member of this National Assembly. It is a pleasure having me here and to all other Members who are first-timers, as myself, I congratulate you all for being here too.
Mr. Speaker and all other Members, on both sides of this honourable House, I rise in this House today to support our budget presented by our Minister of Finance, the Hon. Dr Ashni Singh, for 2012. This budget, before this National Assembly, comprises of all the ingredients Guyanese would have hoped for. Let us, on both sides of this honourable House, which was once controlled by the Lords and the Governors in the colonial era, remember the masses are out there and to make sure they recognise us as their representatives in this National Assembly because of what we do for them. Members of both sides of this honourable House, let us try our best to be plausible and eloquent during our debates so all of us can understand one another. This is not the time to hold malice against one another. This is the time for the masses to judge us, and judge us they will.
We sat in this honourable House on the 10th of February and listened to our President, the Hon. Donald Ramotar’s address to this National Assembly. Our President maintained, in his speech, that he is prepared to have a working relationship with the Opposition through dialogue. I think the Opposition must also try to accept our President’s offer so that all the parties in the National Assembly can share their knowledge with the Government on the way forward for the people of the Republic of Guyana. I want to suggest to this honourable House that the word “Opposition” must be removed from this National Assembly as the way we identify other Members on the other side and replace it with a word that would sound more cooperating to the programmes of this honourable House, namely the budget. I want to believe that referring to other side of this House as “Opposition” usually causes Members to make sure anything from the governing side of this House must be opposed.
From 1992 to 2012, we came a long way from being a nation power than every other country in the whole of the Western Hemisphere, except Haiti, to a nation that is playing the leading roles in the United Nations. Be it known to Members on the Opposition side of the House that under this Government the World Human Global Order, presented by the late Hon. Dr. Cheddi Jagan, has now become a chapter of the United Nations General Assembly, which is the highest bargaining body in the world. Added to that, under Comrade Jagdeo’s Government, there was the recognition with the Champion of the Earth Award. Let us not forget that it was under Dr. Jagdeo’s and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s Government that we stamped our authority again worldwide in the reduction of greenhouse gases so that we can help in the fight to protect the ozone layer.
Listening to some speakers, on the other side of this House, they behaved as though the Hon. Dr. Jagdeo is branded as a destructive President in his time. He was instrumental in bringing back this country from nothing to where it is today. I have sat here, in disbelief on more than four or five occasions, and heard other Members of that side of the House calling other Members on this side of the House “thief”. Tell me something: Is it true that they do not know where the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters is or they do not have facts?
We have come a long way with foreign currency in the bank to spend under the Hon. Dr. Jagdeo’s Government. The PPP/C administration will continue to serve the people of this country through this budget and we must all make sure our budget for 2012 is debated and approved by the full National Assembly. Doing otherwise and not approving this Budget 2012 is a recipe for chaos and confusion by our people in this beautiful country, who are waiting anxiously for peace, progress and prosperity. Hon. Members, on both sides of this House, we must understand that our nurses, teachers, doctors, policemen and policewomen, our soldiers and all in the sectors depend on the budget approval to continue being employed and receive a salary from Government’s coffers.
Let me now touch on some of the benefits of this budget - how it could benefit the people of Guyana, and I mean all the people of Guyana. We, the people of Region 2, thank the Government and the people of China who made a grant available for the building of the two roll-on roll-off ferries. As I speak, these two modern vessels are moored at the Transport & Harbour Department (T&HD) stelling in Georgetown and very soon they will be commissioned to start plying the route from Parika to and Supenaam return. When this process of building the stelling at Parika is completed I think the Hon. Minister Robeson Benn should invite all Members of this honourable House to be passengers on the maiden voyage from Parika to Supenaam and back. Replacing the MV Malawi and the Makouria with these vessels was a long awaited dream by the residents of Region 2.
In 2002, several new international hotels have been built - the Chic Paris, Xenon, Purple Heart and the Oasis in Queenstown. All those hotels catered for the arrival of guest, locally and further afield, and they are well served.
Not so long ago, in Region 2, two modern pumps at the Dawa pumping station were commissioned in the tunes of more than $400 million to pump water for rice cultivation, for thirty-two thousand acres of rice land. Indeed, as stated by the Hon. Member Mr. Seeraj, new varieties and modern rice research paddy cultivation bounded from some ten thousand acres before 1992 to thirty-two thousand acres in 2012. This yielded in excess of 1.3 million bags of paddy. This is progress. All the drains and canals were silted up before 1992, and working rice was a waste of time. It was a nightmare, in Region 2. Over six new rice mills have been built, after 1992, by some of our rice farmers.
In the Pomeroon, the PPP/C Government along with the regional administration made two excavators available to impolder farmers’ farms to avoid flooding. Essequibo is no more referred to as a “Cinderella County”, but as the food basket of Guyana. This is because of the interest our Government has shown in Region 2. At Charity, there are two entities which are concentrating on the processing of fruits and bottling of coconut water for export. The people of Region 2 have brought Georgetown to Essequibo. Huge supermarkets are everywhere and to purchase a vehicle, be it what model, seven auto sales businesses are available to serve on terms, which is much lower than Georgetown. There are three new banks - Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), Republic Bank, Demerara Bank. Citizens Bank will also be in Charity, very soon. This is because the strong growth and good management by the PPP/C administration in Region 2 under the leadership of the once Regional Chairman, the Hon. junior Minister of Agriculture, Comrade Alli Baksh, who has left no stone unturned to foster development in that Region.
Before 1992 Essequibo was a deserted county by central Government, under the People National Congress (PNC) Government. It is depressing remembering what transpired before 1992, but sometimes it is good to remember the past for the benefit of the Opposition; it forgets very quickly. With the PNC administration, there was only one marketing centre in Region 2 and even to get a file or a cutlass a farmer had to book his name and sometimes waited for three days before the tool was collected from the marketing centre. Under the PPP/C Government, if a farmer needs any agricultural tool, be it tractor, combine, trailer or motor blowers, he can stay at home, telephone a dealer and make all arrangement on one day for what he needs, and it is delivered.
From Capoey to Hampton Court, the Government has installed road lamps as the residents are very happy to receive those lamps. I want to remind the other side of the House that indeed we have brought Georgetown to Essequibo, which was impossible for those Members to do. Very soon we would have to ask central Government to widen the Essequibo road to accommodate a surge of vehicles. We have the benefits of two water purification plants serving thousands of our residents between Devonshire Castle and Adventure. Very soon, there are provisions in the Budget 2012 for continued water upgrading systems all over Region 2. God Bless the PPP/C Government.
Our eight Amerindian villages are no exception where developments are concerned. Mainstay village, Tapakuma, Akawini, Wakapau, Kabakuburi and Siriki, all are recipient of the Government budgetary allocations. I want to believe that all the other Amerindian communities are no exception. The Hon. Member from AFC made mention about water for Onderneeming. It is a new scheme and the Hon. Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Irfaan Ali, is in the process of drilling a well at Onderneeming, opposite the New Opportunity Corp. When it is completed water will flow to all residents of that scheme. Now is not before 1992 when almost all Essequibians had to make good with water from the canals to drink. This Government is for the people; it is not like the Government before 1992 which was self-opinionated and had no interest in us, in Region 2.
Before 1992, we, the residents in Region 2, once wondered if we were not part of Guyana. We asked ourselves then which country we were part of - Guyana or Venezuela. From our hospitals, police stations and all other government quarters and institutions to serve our people were down.
Our hospitals were giving aspirins for our fever, aspirins for ulcers, aspirins for every illness and ailments. In Region 2, I am aware that on several occasions, before 1992, before we came to office, families of severely sick persons started building coffins and made arrangements for their funerals before they were confident, at our two hospitals in Region 2, that they would die. The Hon. Member Comrade Alli Baksh, who for nineteen years was the Regional Chairman, along with the cooperation of the PPP/Civic administration, was very instrumental in turning around Region No. 2 to its splendour and now it is recognised as the cleanest region in Guyana.
I speak about Region 2. We in Region 2 were fortunate also to receive a medical boat with a dental chair that plies the upper and lower Pomeroon river to take care of our farmers, loggers, gold miners and their families. Other Members on the other side of this honourable House… This is progress under the PPP/Civic administration.
Let me touch on our sea defences. In Region 2, our sea defences before 1992 were very old and all that existed were cavities, slippages and erosions, everywhere, but under this administration billions were spent to repair and rebuild them. We have very sturdy sea defences in Region 2. As I speak, contracting company, BK International is repairing and building sea defences in Region 2. From 1992 to 2012, more than $2 billion has been spent on chip-seal roads and streets and no village was left out, be it Dartmouth or Queenstown. Two years ago farmers benefited from a four-mile farm-to-market road which costs $37 million.
The Hon. Member of APNU, Mr. Trotman, made recommendation to this House for the removal of the barriers from around the Parliament Office. All of us, on both sides of this honourable House, were presented on the 10th of February when our President, the Hon. Mr. Donald Ramotar, came to this National Assembly and if those barriers were not there, I think, the police might have had caused to use force to restrain a bunch of indiscipline people who were all decked in green shirts. We know which side of the House they belong to, unless they were all fakes. Let me remind this honourable House that it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure the people’s budget of 2012, and its dispensation, has a smooth passage, and this can only happen by all of us agreeing that indeed this budget has all the ingredients for the people of Guyana.
I thank you. [Applause]