Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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2002 budget
(Aired 16 March 2002)

     The 2002 budget is out, the newspapers and the Minister tell us that this budget contain no new taxes but that incentives for investment in the value added fields of agro-processing, eco-tourism, garment manufacturing, Jewelry and information technology will be given.

   There will also be a reduction in Entertainment taxes for cinemas.

   There will be the following Poverty reduction programs.... SIMAP, 861Million: Poor rural areas, 315 million: The poverty program, $387 Million: Linden advancement program, 352 million, and the basic needs trust fund, 54 million.

   This 5.3 billion poverty relief package is offset by the HIPC relief and Grant Aid package of 10 billion dollars this year. Where is the other 4.3 Billion going?   

   This budget is no different than the 2001 one or for that matter the 2000 one, our total current receipts remains 44 billion, 41 billion of which will be collected by the revenue authority, ladies and gentlemen over 93% of all of the revenue in this budget will be collected from its citizens in one fashion or the other through consumption taxes, property and income taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes, Tobacco, domestic goods, Oil, fuel etc. whatever you use, eat or drink ladies and gentlemen you are paying directly from your pocket for it..... TWICE.

   So 41 billion will come from our pockets you and I! Where will the other 25 billion come from?? Well, as usual we are borrowing 11.2 billion from the IDB, we are getting 3.4 billion in Grant Aid, we are selling assets of the nation to the tune of 1.3 billion and we are getting HIPC relief to the tune of 6.4 billion. The non tax revenue in this country is only 2.9 billion. This government will run the country in the year 2002 and the only revenue they will generate which is not from our taxes, loans from the World Bank, the IDB and the HIPC relief program, will be 2.9 billion Guyana dollars out of the 66.2 billion budget. The same thing happened in 2001 and 2000. Taxes and more taxes. 40 billion in 2000, 41.5 billion in 2001 and 41 billion this year.

   No provision has been made to put in place any other kind of revenue generating entities whatsoever over the past three years. We have attracted no investment, nor have we created any other source of income which will contribute to the national purse and this heavy level of taxation is destroying our business community and pauperizing our salaried people, not to mention the nearly 20% interest the commercial banks charge for loans. The 2001 PAHO report tells us that 40% of our citizens live below the international poverty line. I wonder why?

    To keep us happy they are telling us that they will conduct a comprehensive tax reform study by year end and this will help us next year, anyone remember the National Development Strategy we did in 2000 has any Minister ever even read it?  Has even ONE aspect of it even been implemented? I can give you the answer... NO.

    As for the tax relief areas identified in the budget, The eco-tourist industry is in serous trouble, the people who have already invested in it to date are in deep financial trouble. But we are offering any new kamikaze type investors, up to 50% reduction in duties and consumption taxes, just in case they want to commit economic suicide.

   Giving the cinema boys a reduction in entertainment taxes AFTER they are bankrupt seems a little silly to me but that is only my impression.

    As to the other areas of relief, Agro-processing, etc. which moron will invest in these areas when the electrical costs are so high and reliability so low. Agro-processing additionally requires enormous amounts of water, will Mr. Baksh's 130 liters/person/day be sufficient?

   There is one area that I do not yet understand, in 2001 the tax revenue in agriculture was 4 billion dollars, in the 2002 budget it is only 50 million, I am unable to determine why we estimate 50 million and then collect 4 billion. 

    Are there any provisions in this budget to strengthen the Judicial system, to depolitize it and to make it more effective, the answer is no. In fact this budget allocates about the same money to the judiciary as in 2001, so no improvement in that important area this year, no new judges, to fill the huge shortage existing in our system, no better salaries or conditions for them.  

    Ladies and gentlemen I don't want to annoy any of you who want fair elections but does it make sense that the budgeted expenditure of the elections commission in 2002 is 700 million, whilst the Supreme Court is only getting 279 million?? Can someone explain it to me please?

   The people in this country continually complain about the poor police service and the fact that we can't defend ourselves from little Suriname or 5 escaped convicts, would it interest anyone to know that the Ministry of Home Affairs which includes our police force when combined with the GDF, cost us nearly 7 billion dollars per year, MORE than 10 % of our TOTAL budget. What are we getting for it?

   Our favorite Ministry Water and Housing is costing us more than half a billion dollars MORE this year as compared to last year, 3 billion instead of 2.5 billion, this increase alone is more than it cost to run our entire Judicial system including the Magistrates courts. Our Ministry of Culture Youth and sport is also costing us more to run than our Judicial system, is it any wonder then that we have no judicial system?

  Ladies and gentlemen, I will not rest until this country establishes a judicial  system which is efficient, fair and impartial, and to hell with who is in power, I don't care, it was destroyed during the Burnham years and we must rebuild it now, none of us will be safe until we do, none of us will have justice unless it does, and without it we will not have a proper and accountable administration in the country, since any perverse decision made by ANY public official, will not, and cannot, be challenged legally, it is the most important check and balance to protect our citizens from executive lawlessness by the government and to all intents and purposes, as it affects our people, it does not exist.

    We want to attract investment in this country? Which investor will invest in a country where the public officials are the biggest criminals in the state?

     This budget is a photocopy of the 2001 budget in every way, there are no provisions to reduce the interest rates of loans, to give the rice industry a real boost, to promote external investment in any meaningful way, the Bank Of Guyana is slated to make half of what it did previously and is not manned by competent persons who can set proper fiscal policies for this nation. 

    In this budget we are informed that servicing the total national debt is 11.6 billion dollars, the interest on our external debt is now nearly 2 billion dollars LESS than the local one. The local debt of 3.5 Billion dollars is being wasted on an effort to curb inflation which may not be working.

   Ladies and gentlemen our Auditor General's office which informs us of all the irregularities, corruption and incompetence in the running of the affairs of this nation, is authorized to have 256 staff, it has 152 staff. Someone is deliberately starving the system of accountability, of financial resources in order to hide wrongdoing. And they are starving our courts of resources to dispense justice properly. 

    These deficit budgets which depend heavily on external borrowing to meet the expenditure of the nation, 11 billion in 2002, 13 billion in 2001 and 12.2 billion in 2000 are a joke, in the past three years we have borrowed more then half of this year's budget to run the country, more than 36 billion dollars.

    This is your budget ladies and gentlemen, we are generating no wealth, we are borrowing more and more money and taxing our people into further poverty.