Ahead of the presentation of the National Budget, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday laid out his expectations even as Finance Minister Winston Jordan has refused to give any insights into his annual fiscal plan.
Jordan told reporters earlier on Wednesday that Guyanese should wait for the unveiling of the budget, especially since they have exercised admirable patience since the last budget was presented in August last year.
However, Jagdeo was far more forthcoming in outlining his expectations, which included salary increases for public servants and pension increases for the elderly.
The Opposition Leader told reporters on Wednesday that he believes salary increases for public servants is a necessary measure to be included in the 2016 budget, particularly against what was offered last year.
“I’m hoping that public servants will see a substantial increase,” Jagdeo said as he also plugged the need to pensioners to also see increases in their monthly allowances while reminding the coalition government of its 2015 campaign promises in this regard.
Under Jagdeo’s presidency and that of his successor Donald Ramotar, public servants did not receive more than a 5% increase in their salaries for several years.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jagdeo said the budget should also unveil a reduction in electricity rates and fuel charges to reflect the fall in the price for oil on the international market.
He said a reduction should have been continuous in wake of the falling fuel prices globally.
Earlier this week the Private Sector Commission called on the government to ensure that fuel prices in Guyana are reduced in keeping with the global trend.
Jagdeo argued that the monies saved from importing cheaper fuel and the non reduction of prices at the pump has created a windfall which the government could tap into to finance his proposed measures.
Through this and other touted mechanisms, Jagdeo insisted that there is money to finance his expectations without creating inflation.
He claimed that the government has been able to save some $200 million due to cheaper acquisition prices for fuel. The Opposition Leader said he is also looking to see support in the budget for the mining, rice, sugar and services sectors among others.
Jagdeo also noted the People’s Progressive Party’s support for the government on tax reduction measures and the reinstatement of the $10,000 cash grant to school children. That cash grant began in the final year of the PPP’s 23 years in office and was expected to be discontinued.
The Opposition Leader also said the budget should include measures that would help Guyana’s economy to mitigate the global financial recession.