Opposition Member of Parliament, Irfaan Ali once again opened the debates into the National Budget and lashed out at the government for putting forward a budget that offers nothing to the poor in Guyana but rather is geared towards making government officials and contract workers richer.
Speaking on Monday afternoon in the National Assembly, Mr. Ali said “the good life is an illusion for most and a reality for a select few. If you are a Minister, definitely you would have enjoyed the good life. The Prime Minister, Vice Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and Junior Ministers are richer today than when they took up office”.
He chided the government for not providing enough for the sugar industry and ignoring the rice industry, although the two sectors continue to contribute significantly to the national treasury.
“Already, the farmers are in financial distress from the sharp reduction in prices due to the mishandling of the Petro Caribe deal. The rate of default by farmers on their loan payments is alarming. Many of the farmers, we hear that rice is not government business. This is an insult to the farmers who support this economy by creating jobs, earning foreign currency and contributing to the national pie”, Ali said.
Ali told the National Assembly that there is no “good life” for the over 1000 sugar workers who could face hardship with the closure of the Wales Sugar estate. The government has indicated that most of those workers will be accommodated at the Uitvlugt estate.
But Ali said, all that budget 2016 offers for those sugar workers, is more hardship and not a good life.
The former Minister of Housing, Water and Tourism under the PPP government, told the National Assembly that the government should also say why it has not kept many of its campaign promises. He pointed to the government’s failure to reduce the 16% value added tax, saying that “from all indications, the reduction of VAT is not something Guyanese cane expect this year or the near future”.
The Opposition Member of Parliament also fired off at the government over its decision to widen the tax net by putting a system in place that will see all persons seeking a public license, having to ensure their tax payments are up to date.
“Imagine the reporting burden that the owner of a taxi, donkey cart, video rental business, ordinary small trader will now have to endure to prepare his returns”, the former government official lamented.
He said the budget should have offered more to pensioners rather than the $1200 increase in the old age pension and also indicated that the government could have done more by further reducing prices for fuel.
Mr. Ali also criticized the move to restrict the importation of vehicles that are more than eight years old. He said the “small man” will now not be able buy an affordable car any longer.
The PPP Member of Parliament called on the government to do more to add confidence to the economy and ensure real development.