Guyana’s Opposition party, the People’s Progressive Party has announced that it is supporting the call by a number of stakeholders for urgent talks on the national budget measures before the budget is passed and signed into law.
The Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Trades Union Congress and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly seeking dialogue on the budget measures before the budget is passed.
Before the budget was presented, many of the groups were invited to consultations with the Finance Minister and Budget Office officials. The PPP never attended the consultation.
But in a statement on Monday, the party said for its part, it has “rejected the budget and the measures contained therein and has called for its withdrawal.”
It said the call by major stakeholders in Guyanese society is a manifestation of efforts at national and working class unity on issues of grave concern to the Nation.
“Further, the call by stakeholders give the lie to government’s view that the measures contained in the 2017 budget will put more money in the people’s pocket”, the party’s statement added.
Additionally, the PPP believes that it has become “pellucidly clear that contrary to the nay-sayers that the PPP opposing the budget for opposing sake and for its own selfish reasons, the Party is not alone in calling for a re-consideration, if not, withdrawal of the 2017 budget.”
The government has dismissed the concerns of the PPP and has continuously pointed to the need to improve the government’s revenue base while supporting major government projects.
Most of the groups, including the PPP, appear to be concerned about the addition of the 14% Value Added Tax to water bills over $1500 per month and electricity bills over $10,000 per month. VAT was introduced by the former PPP government more than a decade ago at a 16% rate. The reduction to 14% by the current government is the first reduction of the tax since it was introduced.
The Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, has indicated that the move forms part of the administration’s efforts to encourage conservation. According to the Minister of Finance, more than 70% of customers of the Guyana Water Incorporated will not be affected by the move since their bills are below the $1500 mark.
Additionally, he has pointed out that a similar number of Guyana Power and Light customers will also not be affected by the move since their monthly bills are below the $10,000 mark.
But many persons worry that the business community might want to pass on additional costs to their customers.
The PPP said that the call by the non-political stakeholders “reaffirms the view that the budget measures are not exclusively about politics, it is about the livelihood of the Guyanese working people and the continued existence of every sector of Guyanese society.”