- slashing of bloated Ministries
“We have to use the cutting knife on salaries of the over-bloated Ministerial bureaucracy, on travel on first-class tickets, and allowances to stay at five-star hotels. We must end the travesty of producing champions in globe-trotting whilst our pensioners go without bread”- Moses Nagamootoo
The Alliance For Change (AFC), which holds seven seats in the National Assembly, yesterday called for
government to transfer billions of dollars, said to be held by the controversial state-controlled National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to the Consolidated Fund.
According to Moses Nagamootoo, senior executive and AFC Parliamentarian, there is an estimated $35B that is supposed to be in the custody of NICIL, which handles sale proceeds of government assets. He was at the time addressing the National Assembly as the week-long debate began on the 2012 National Budget.
Nagamootoo also called for government to re-examine the budget, to “comb it for waste” and to find a way where moneys could be found to help disadvantaged workers, pensioners and other vulnerable groups.
“We have to use the cutting knife on salaries of the over-bloated Ministerial bureaucracy, on travel on first-class tickets and allowances to stay at five-star hotels. We must end the travesty of producing champions in globe-trotting whilst our pensioners go without bread.”
According to Nagamootoo, a former senior executive of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) who joined the AFC shortly before elections last November, the administration continues to be saddled with one controversy after another, including contracts for drugs, the US$15.4M Amaila Falls road project, computer and book scams, and host of other damning allegations.
Nagamootoo also cited the $300M Hydroclave waste disposal system for the Georgetown Hospital which cost appears unusually high; the rental of Caterpillar generators for GPL when it could have been bought; the controversial Marriott Hotel in which US$21M of taxpayers’ money is slated to be spent in yet unclear circumstances; the Amaila Falls Hydro project, the cost of which is still mounting and the recently announced sale of the 20% shares government has in GT&T to a Hong Kong company for US$30M.
“No mention was made of this sale in the budget, though our coffers have been getting some $500M annually from our GT&T shares.”
According to Nagamootoo, the sale of the GT&T shares has raised some troubling questions, including whether the deal was a good one. The AFC MP pointed out that Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh is “intimately” involved as Chairman of NICIL’s Board, and he should ensure that proceeds of the US$30M (G$6B) be paid to the Consolidated Fund, which is the central account that controls all government funds.
“It is in the interest of all working people that all funds held in special accounts like NICIL and the Lottery be paid into the Consolidated Fund, since the reasons that have been advanced year after year for wage restraint, was lack of affordability.”
Nagamootoo insisted that the intention of any budget should be to reduce poverty, but this was not reflected in what was presented.
“Yes, I agree that our economy has grown…but notwithstanding the boasts of achievements, there is still acute poverty in Guyana.”
Nagamootoo slammed the “princely” increase of $600 monthly for old age pension from $7,500 to $8,100 and social assistance – by $400 to $5,900 – as totally inadequate. “Indeed, the meagre pension and social assistance is not a lifeline, but a suicide belt.”
The AFC executive insists that it is a glaring indictment of failure by government that it admits 19% of Guyanese lived in extreme poverty in 2006 while another 36% exists in moderate poverty…the more serious impact being felt in rural and hinterland communities.”
“The budget has failed to provide any innovation in new agricultural schemes and industrial zones that would reduce joblessness and prevent the housing revolution from becoming a bubble.
“Instead, we continue to pour large sums into capital infrastructural projects, mostly with borrowed moneys. The latest is for a new international airport for airbuses and jumbo jets, when we don’t even have a national carrier or own a domestic airplane. I am afraid this is a Panday-like Piarco project, the likes of which got him into all kinds of troubles that have attracted criminal charges.”
Nagamootoo also stressed that Guyana has, with a population of 750,000, one of the highest per capita debts in the world. “Each child born in the Jagdeo/Ramotar era would henceforth carry a debt tag at birth of $333,333.”