Norton and Jagdeo differ on redirection of some budget funds to cater for significant salary increases for teachers and public servants

Norton and Jagdeo differ on redirection of some budget funds to cater for significant salary increases for teachers and public servants

With the strike by teachers across the country growing and appear set to enter its second week on Monday, the APNU+AFC Opposition believes more than $20 Billion could be redirected in this year’s budget to cater for a proper salary increase for teachers and other public servants.

At a press conference on Thursday, Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton said $20B could be taken from the Recurrent Budget, which currently totals $480B but the Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo said such a move could affect critical programmes.

But the Opposition Leader said a careful analysis of the Government’s recurrent expenditure would reveal significant room for optimization and reallocation of resources to pay all public servants a significant increase.

“For instance, if we maintain certain budget lines at their 2023 levels, where justified, or even consider a 5% increase, we could redirect approximately $20B towards improving the lives of hardworking taxpayers in Guyana. This can be achieved without imposing undue strain on the overall budget sum of $1.146 trillion. For example, we can reallocate funds as follows: $38M from refreshment and meals, leaving the government with $504M for this purpose. $2.7B from dietary expenditures, allowing the government to still spend $10.7B for dietary needs, [and] $486M from national and other events, providing the government with $1.7B,” Norton reasoned. 

It was also proposed that $8B be taken from the budgeted sum for miscellaneous expenses and another $2B from print and non-print materials, leaving the government with $3B.

“By strategically reallocating funds from these and other areas, we can easily achieve the $20 billion redirection without significantly disrupting the recurrent program in Budget 2024. This approach ensures that our financial resources are used efficiently and effectively, prioritizing the needs of our poor and vulnerable citizens while maintaining the integrity of essential government services,” the Opposition Leader said. 

He said Government could have even more resources if it cuts down on corruption. 

But the Vice President, in responding to the Opposition Leader hours later, brushed aside the proposal.

Mr. Jagdeo said the reallocation of $20B to wages and salaries would hamper important programmes for the Government.  

Citing an example, he said the removal of $2.7B from dietary expenditures could affect the national school feeding programme. 

“The growth is because we have expanded the school feeding programme under dietary, not for ministers to eat but for our children to have more meals in school. That’s where we are putting the money in,” he said. 

Similarly, he explained that to reduce the allocations for print and non-print materials, would negatively impact the provision of texts in public schools. It was noted that text books alone account for $2.5B. 

The Vice President also rubbished the allegations of corruption and wastage.  

Norton said the Government appears to be more concerned on how many contracts are being dolled out for roadworks to associates of the party, than the wider concerns of citizens.

“He said we awarded a four-lane road [contract] and we are paving it now. Now, we are paving the road from the Kitty Roundabout right down to where the new road started at Better Hope – that piece had deteriorated on both sides but that’s not where we awarded the contract. The man said we awarded the contract to build the four-lane road and it is a waste of money now, corruption. The contract as we know it is being awarded for the four-lane on the railway embankment,” the Vice President said. 

The Vice President accused the Opposition Leader of making wild accusations against the Government on the issue of corruption.

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