Mr. Nadir: First, I join with all my colleagues on this side of the House to congratulate the Hon. Minister of Finance for once again giving us an excellent budget that will continue the expansion of the economy as we have seen over the past eight years.
I also want to offer congratulations to a Minister, a woman, I have great admiration for and that is the Minister of Education, the Hon. Priya Manickchand. In spite of the monsoon of criticisms and heckling she stood like a woman passionate about progress and passionate about the largest sector of this country, a sector that she is leading. We offer, once again, to the Minister, she and her staff, our admiration and congratulations.
I want to talk about Region 7, strange. I am not going to talk about the economy now. I want to talk about Region 7 and this is the state it:
• Construction is currently ongoing on two new schools in Region 7 at 72 miles and Itaballi while several others have been given a facelift. As a result of the inclement weather work was delayed but will be completed early this year, not soon, but early this year.
• We continue to strive for improvement in education.
• We hope to achieve even more this year once our budget is approved.
• Rehabilitation of roads has been completed at Bamfort point, West Indian Housing Scheme, Agatash, Caribisi Hill.
• In terms of health care delivery, extension works were carried out at the Kamarang Hospital and the new nurses’ hostel was constructed.
Speaking of Region 7, the region has developed a mechanism to facilitate residents who are in need of surgery especially those in the outlying communities to do those surgeries in Bartica. Yes, in this regard, health workers are deployed to various communities to make house calls and diagnose patients. Those who are recommended for surgery are transported to Bartica where the medical procedures are done. After post surgery treatment patients are transported back to their respective communities. This is done on a monthly basis.
There is a shortage of teachers in some remote areas such as Kurupung. This is as a result of teachers not wanting to be posted in those areas. Efforts being made to train more teachers are recognised. The region will be making efforts to provide furnished living quarters for teachers and health staff which will hopefully be an incentive for them to take up jobs in these areas.
Over the last 20 years Guyana has moved from a place where 30% of teachers were trained. Today it is 70%. I expected some noise and some heckling, especially from the Hon. Member Ms. Amna Ally, but I did not get this from the Hon. Minister Priya Manickchand. I got this quote from Kaieteur News of March 17, 2014. These are the words, which Kaieteur News quoted, coming from the mouth of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Regional Chairman. I raised this because every single thing that we have done, which is good, they, on the other side, have said that it was bad. If you listen to them we had the worst budget ever. Nothing good has happened if we look at this budget and the performance of this Government through the eyes of the Oppositions, except what we saw as an assault on the hard-working people of this country. The hard-working rice farmers and other staff of Leguan were called grass cutters.
Mr. Speaker: With respect, one second Mr. Nadir, I have seen the transcript. When Minister Irfaan Ali said that they will be giving money the retort was “to do what, cut grass?” I have the transcript and I am very firm on this. At no time did the Member say that they are grass cutters. He said, “to do what, cut grass?”, so be careful. I will supply you with a copy of the transcript if you wish, but you may proceed.
Mr. Nadir: With due respect, I never said any particular person. I never named anyone. I never called a Hon. Member of this House as uttering those words. I said... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker, we have heard that there are 130,000 vehicles in this country and there is climate change and there are some of the hottest periods today. Enterprising people, especially single parent women, have found it as good honest hard work to sell a bottle of cold water on the roadside and that honest hard work, which has built this country, has been denigrated by the other side.
The 4,000 honest hard-working families last year that built homes were accused of laundering drug money, because you, yourself, Mr. Speaker, said that you have seen many reports which states that in the construction sector there is money laundering; there is the proceeds of drug money. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, and tell the House, about the information that I have, that is, that last year 4,000 people built homes in the construction sector that today accounts for 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), $80 billion in construction. [Dr. Norton: [Inaudible]... like that.] I will come to you just now Dr. Norton. You just hold tight. I will come to you. Let me quote you the figures before... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Before you quote the figures, and your time will not be taken away, what I said was that the narco trade has permeated every sector. I did not single out the housing sector to say that “it is only”... I said that it has permeated every sector. I did not say that it was only and every investment in housing is from that. Just let me qualify that. I said every sector has been affected across the board in the country including... That is what my statement was. Please go ahead with your...
Mr. Nadir: I can list every single sector in this economy which we monitor and you did say every sector and the second largest sector in our economy is construction and the construction sector was specifically mentioned by one Member of Parliament. Let me get back to the facts. The construction sector today has $80 billion of hard-working Guyanese investment and people who are taking risk, and I will come to the Member too. One financial institution, and I will quote “the New Building Society”, is one of the number of financial institutions which funds construction in our country.
The year 2009, mortgages approved, 1,103 totalling $4 billion and 173 persons had a $170 million to expand; in 2010, there was a lull, 633 mortgages at $2.4 billion. Let us come to 2012. The year 2011 was remarkable; there were 1,100 mortgages at $5billion and that was remarkable. There were 1,607 mortgages to the value of $7.2 billion continuing to expand... [Dr. Singh: Those are not figures; they are real people.] There are real people and it is not drug money. The year 2013, 1,754 persons had mortgages which value $8 billion and in January of this year alone over $1 billion were disbursed.
All of this here represents facts. We do not need this, we could deal with all of the innuendos and all of the wrong information that a hippopotamus critical Opposition has been levelling to us. I heard the former Minister Carl Greenidge mouthing when he heard these fantastic numbers which this economy is generating. We have heard all of the quotes from the Hon. Member Dr. George Norton quoting Hamlet and quoting the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but let me tell the Member about the albatross which was put around the necks of the people of Guyana by the PNC regime of the past, especially of the past 1980s. Let me tell you about that Mr. Speaker because we are still today suffering from it. We are being lectured that we cannot manage anything but the PNC regime in the late 1980s and early 1990s signed an agreement to divest the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph (GT&T) Company, 15%... That was a Cabinet decision. Every Member of the PNC Cabinet would have been guilty - very guilt.
I will tell you about this albatross. Hon. Dr. Norton, where were you? You had your say in Cabinet in the 1980s and you screwed it up. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Nadir, I am asking you to monitor your emotionalism and your words.
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I would withdraw the words “screw up”, but I can say the word “mess up.”
Mr. Speaker: I am asking you to stick to your presentation and not allow yourself to be sidetracked. That is what I am asking.
Mr. Nadir: I am sticking to it. That albatross, which is around our necks today, is by the people who claim that they know better than us. You know what they did... [Interruption from Members of the Opposition.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, could you allow Mr. Nadir to make his presentation please.
Mr. Nadir: They signed an agreement that gave GT&T a twenty-year monopoly over landline and a twenty-year monopoly over international data and voice, and we must let the people of this country know this. It could have been automatically renewed solely by the company, not with negotiations with the Government. For all of the children, today, who have to pay extra for GT&T internet service, we are suffering from this albatross which the PNC regime put around our necks.
Today, we are trying to privatise the telecommunications sector and you know what we are going through. Any business with a guaranteed rate of return of 15% would recover its investment in about six years, not twenty. This country is being saddled by the albatross of GT&T and we may end up having to pay it 100 times more than it pays for the company just because we want the children to have access to internet.
When we hear the pontificating from the other side about the mismanagement of this Government we have to get passionate about it. We are accused of plagiarism, instead of saying we quoted from people... The budget speech cover, we were accused of plagiarising when we quote it. We are even accused of plagiarising the PNC manifesto title which had something like a good life for all. We are not talking about good life; we are talking about a better life for all Guyanese, not a good one - a better one.
The one thing that really banged in my ears was when the Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge mentioned the issue of how he manipulated exchange rate so that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) could show a paper profit. He was giving us a lesson in economics.
Mr. Speaker: You have five minutes within which to wrap up.
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, I do not recall making any mention of the word “manipulation.” I would like the Member to stick to what I said. I spoke of exchange rate policies and what I spoke of is quite acceptable monetary policy. I do not know what he is talking about manipulation.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Nadir, indeed when you use the word “manipulation” I was, at the time that Mr. Greenidge rose, searching my mind to try to recall whether that particular word was ever used. I ask you to proceed. I personally do not recall the word being used but I am asking the Clerk to have the transcript provided on that.
Mr. Nadir: “Manipulation” is not a word that is...
Mr. Speaker: Yes, but it does have a certain connotation attached to it. It does have a certain negative...
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, if you allow me one minute on it but...
Mr. Speaker: Hear me. If it is that the word itself was not used...
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to withdraw the word “manipulation” and use his exact words.
Mr. Speaker: Right, but the word “manipulation” does have a negative connotation attached.
Mr. Nadir: I hope I will get back my ten minutes.
Mr. Speaker: No, you are paused.
Mr. Nadir: The Hon. Member said that devaluation was a means of ensuring that the largest foreign exchange earning shows a profit. I also interpret that because all of us who do mathematics can massage numbers.
Mr. Speaker: We are going to get the transcript, but proceed.
Mr. Nadir: I have it.
Mr. Speaker: I have to get the official transcript which is produced by the National Assembly. No, the official transcript of these proceedings is produced by the Hansard Department. Any other document purporting to be a transcript is not a transcript, permissible and admissible for these purposes, so the Clerk to be advised about that.
Mr. Greenidge: I had risen to...
Deputy Speaker [Mr. B. Williams]: Mr. Nadir, sit. It is a Point of Order.
Mr. Nadir: I do not have to give... You do not know the Standing Order. You are a bluff.
Mr. B. Williams: You do not have to give...
Mr. Nadir: The Speaker has to tell me to take my seat.
Mr. Speaker: I can take a Point of Order but if it is a Point of Clarification the Speaker has to give way. If the Speaker does not agree to give way it cannot... but if it is a Point of Order I will take it.
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, it is not a Point of Clarification. I have a Point of Order. The Member is claiming that I explained that we devalued in order to give the largest foreign exchange earner profits in Guyana dollars. He does not understand the economics. It had nothing to do with the largest foreign exchange earner. I specifically made mention not simply to the largest foreign exchange earner. If you want the exact formulation I will give you but that was not what I said. He must not be making up things as he goes along.
Mr. Speaker: I will get the transcript. [Interruption] Hon. Member a Point of Order is that a Member had violated one of the Standing Orders of the House. A clarification, Mr. Greenidge, is an explanation or a misinterpretation. A Member has to agree to give way if it is a clarification based on a misinterpretation, but unless there is a specific Standing Order that has been violated a Point of Order will not be upheld. I will be getting the transcript and I cannot, therefore, in those circumstances, unless Mr. Nadir agrees to give way, allow the clarification.
Do you agree, Sir, to give way?
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I stand on firm ground with what I quoted and I am not giving an inch.
Mr. Speaker: We will have the transcript at the earliest available point. Mr. Clerk, please take note. Proceed please. You have five minutes within which to wrap up.
Mr. Nadir: We were told that this devaluation...We do not understand economics. This is the economics I understand that when that devaluation came from $4.80 officially to $45 every person who had a dollar in the bank the money was zapped by devalued by how much per cent. Ms. Shadick is a maths teacher. That is what I understand. It is just to show... [Mr. Greenidge: When was it?] It was 1987, I think, January. I understand that albatross. Professor Clive Thomas has lengthened that devaluation to say that this country owes the worker a social debt and that is slashing the hard earned earnings that they were saving to build their homes.
We are here today listening to the Members of the Opposition promising to cut the billions of dollars we have earmarked for GuySuCo. Let us go back to the history of the budget cuts. In 2012 the Hon. Finance Minister produced a $192 billion and they cut it to $171 billion. In 2013 the Hon. Minister produced a budget of $208 billion and they cut it to $177 billion. We hear of a $220 billion what they are really going to be cutting is the serious investment in developing the physical and social infrastructure. Why would they want to do that? We agree that this is a maintenance budget but we also know that it is an expansion budget because what they will be cutting is the investment that will propel us into double digit. We do not want to be seeing single digit growth again. We want Guyana to experience double digit growth. Why I support this budget even more than the last one is that for the first time real wage increases outnumbered inflation by 400% in 2013.
With this Budget 2014, I am confident that the Hon. Minister of Finance has produced another wonderful one-year plan as part of our multi-year programme for the development of this programme so that every single Guyanese will enjoy not a good but a better life.
Thank you very much. [Applause]