Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Budget 2003
(Aired 1 April 2003)

   This year's budget is a photocopy of the last 10 year's. Sure a few numbers have been shifted around but in this budget there are some acts of desperation that were predictable given the lack of vision, creativity and focus of the previous ones. Taxing the interest of old retired people being one such act of desperation.

   In its simplest form this budget visualises the expenditure of 73 Billion dollars. The total current receipts will be 46 billion of which the Guyana revenue authority will be collecting 92.4% or 42.5 billion in taxes, duties etc from the citizens of the country and the non tax revenue will be only 3.5 Billion.

   To simplify this further this government is only capable of having a budget of 46 billion dollars and of this 46 billion 42.5 billion is collected from its already poor citizens in taxes, duties, stamp duties, consumption taxes etc.

    This is not currently a rich country ladies and gentlemen the citizens are poor and are incapable of paying these huge taxes and duties and that is why such a large proportion of our people live in such abject poverty.

    It is therefore time for some moderation in the incompetence and corruption that goes on daily, we must be aware that every cent is precious and we must spend wisely, awarding corrupt contracts, accepting inferior work from our employees and from contractors, paying huge amounts to International companies for work and management fees that can cost much, much less, should be major areas of concern to all Guyanese.    

    But we are not learning, we, for example give a contract to Severn Trent for 5 million US when another company with the same bona fides offered to do it for 3.5 million US but we give it to the company that has a local representative who is connected to the PPP. We currently have 22 Ministries when we only need 11, it is patently unfair and unspeakably cruel  to the taxpayers in this country to be carrying this huge bureaucratic burden on their backs. If 11 Ministers can't run the country you fire them and find people who can, but this government consistently places incompetent people to be Ministers, these people, have, to all intents and purposes, no schooling, no qualifications, no management skills but since they are loyal to the Party in power they are not replaced when they do not perform, other Ministries are created to carry out some of their functions.

   Let's translate this to you, the individual, you have a business, your manager is totally incompetent to do your job and bring you profits, which one among you would not fire him and get someone who can, which one of you is foolish enough to hire another manager to back him up and waste your already limited resources paying two managers when you only need one. Incredibly the more Ministries we create the more overseas managers they bring in at exorbitant management fees to manage our national enterprises, it is becoming a national crisis and a disgrace.

   After years of economic pressure the business community has begun to show tangible signs of decline. This is because the businesses are not capable of functioning beneficially in such an unfriendly economic climate and therefore they are importing less and less, so customs collections are declining. The Minister of Finance does not drop the duties on imported items to generate opportunities for the business community and lessen the burden of more expensive goods on the population, he tells the customs people do the negative thing, get stricter, refuse to accept legitimate entry papers and revalue goods so that they can maintain their quota of the revenue authority's income. But it is not working so personal and company income taxes will be increased from 52% of the total Revenue Authority collections to 54% this year.     

   Not satisfied that they are taxing the Guyanese people into further and further poverty they target Guyanese as yet unborn. In every budget for the past 10 years we have been borrowing, our ability to generate current routine revenue to run the country is only 46 billion but the budget is 73 billion, where is the other 27 billion coming from? Well we are borrowing 13 billion this year from the IDB and other lending agencies. 7 billion is grant aid and sale of national assets of this poor HIPC nation; the rest is a declared as a loss. This budget not only visualises borrowing and sale of national assets of nearly 15 billion, it visualises a deficit of nearly 7 billion which we will pass on to our children along with the 13 billion we are borrowing from the Lending agencies, in this ONE budget we will pass on to our children a total debt of 20 billion.

   If we were seeing development that would be OK but the monies we have been borrowing is being wasted in corrupt contracts and transactions such as the Lama conservancy dam for 400 million dollars, which now has to be rebuilt for another 400 million dollars since if any significant rain falls it will all give away. Almost all of you live near to, or have children going to, schools. Ladies and gentlemen the corruption in the awarding and execution of contracts involving schools is unprecedented in our history. Look at the school near to you and ask yourself whether what was paid to renovate that school was reasonable? Ask yourself if the condition of the school two years after its total renovation is acceptable? If you know what the school cost to renovate the answer will have to be a resounding NO. 

    I have warned the Minister of Finance that I will be looking at the 2003 budget to see what he allocates to region 4 in which 42% of the population reside well Kowlessar did not listen, he has again awarded an allocation of 1.455 billion to region 4 whilst region 3 with 1/3 the population of region 4 gets 1.5 billion and region 6 gets 1.8 billion with only 19% of the total national population. Last year the region 6 administration was investigated for several months and when the investigation ended both the Regional Chairman and the REO were quietly removed.

   Once there is this level of corruption in any country and those of you with a computer can look up my commentary on HIPC's then there are fundamental non-systems that have to be put in place to hide the corruption and to protect those who perpetrate it, first you hogtie the Auditor General especially if he is fearless and competent so instead of the 256 employees Mr. Goolsaran needs to police the corruption on our behalf, they give him only 147 million and 144 employees.

   Next you have to mutilate the judicial system, so that no citizen can have legal recourse from abuses by the administration, we currently have 7 puisne judges we should have at least 12 because of the backlog, so you appoint a totally politicised Chief Justice and you starve him of funds, but he will not complain since he knows where his bread is buttered so when the entire judicial system gets a meagre allocation of 479 million the Chief Injustice does not utter a word of protest. Ladies and Gentlemen no country can prosper unless its citizens have a rudimentary access to justice and as it exists in this country there is no justice system and therefore no justice. 

  Then you have to completely marginalise the police force, and create your own private army to enforce your will on the public. So you mutilate the powers of the Divisional Commanders in the current police force, you strip them of most of their statutory powers, the force is then micro managed by evil political appointees who establish private armies, black clothes squads, death squads, phantom gangs etc to keep the population in subjugation by terrorising them. We hear that there will be major increases in the allocation of funds to fight crime this year, where is it? The Ministry of Home Affair's budget in 2002 was 3.9 billion in 2003 it is 4.1 Billion. The GDF allocation was 2.9 billion in 2002 and 2.9 billion in 2003. Maybe the phantom gang needs phantom allocations because I can't find it in this budget.

  This budget gives the Ministry of Education 7 billion, but only 1.8 billion of that amount is salaries for the all of the staff and teachers in the entire education system. The rest, 5.2 billion, is mostly borrowed money to award corrupt contracts and services. This government can fool the public all they want to, but I see a different picture and the picture I see disturbs me.

    So to satisfy myself I looked at the Trinidadian 2003 budget their budget is for 17 billion TT dollars [2.83 billion US dollars our budget is a measly 350 million US] education in TT takes 2 billion of this 17 billion or 11.8%. Recurrent expenditure, salaries, maintenance, cleaning etc is 1.9 billion and development costs repairs, renovations etc is only 0.1 billion. The Trinidadian education system does not visualise renovation and maintenance as being a higher priority than salaries to their teachers, but ours does, triple the money to renovate buildings as salaries for the teachers. Since 1992 we have been renovating these school and listening to the same old tune about how bad their condition were, but people are getting rich off of it and the teachers are getting poorer both financially and functionally, since no one in their right minds will find the salary of a Guyana teacher acceptable.

   Finally after weeks of pressure the Ministry of education has released the CXC results for the past 7 years to me. In 1995 Grade1 passes were 6.15%. in 2002 Grade 1 passes were 5.85%. Grade 2 passes 1995 were 23.5% in 2002 it was 16.56%. Grade 3 passes in 1995 was 29.76% in 2002 it was 30.77%. In 1995 grade 4 passes were 31.67% in 2002 it was 23.95%. Grade 5 failures in 1995 was 9% in 2002 it was 20.31%, there were no grade 6 failures in 1995 but in 2002 it was 2.5%.  To summarise this, if you took grades 4-6, very low passes and failures the percentage in 1995 was 40.67% but in 2002 grades 4-6 were 46.83%. In mathematics the failures [grade 5] were 34.25% in 95 and 53.4% in 2002. In English the failures were 7.92% in 1995 and 26.6% in 2002, so what are we renovating? It certainly cannot be the education system.

   I therefore reject this budget as total nonsense, the judiciary must get 1 billion dollars and the President must accept the appointment of Bovell-Drakes, we should hire 5 highly qualified persons regardless of their perceived political persuasion to fill the vacancies in the judiciary, the Auditor General must get 300 million, Region 4 must get 3 Billion dollars, we must cut the amount of ministers to 11, the teachers must get more of the allocation to the Ministry of Education, I am asking the PNC to return to Parliament, the crucifixion of the PPP cannot be accomplished from Congress Place, but it can be accomplished in the Parliament since in Parliament there is no libel or defamation and the media will be there to record the accusations. The resumption of the dialog should remain a matter between the leader of the PNC and the President. Perhaps the time has come to ask CARICOM to mediate in this matter; the return to Parliament can be conditional on this. 

  On the lighter side I discovered that in the 2002 budget Prisons was allocated 540 million but only 259 mil was actually spent, I suppose that it was pointless spending money on the stable after the horses had escaped in Feb. 02.

  I have decided to go to Iraq for my holidays this year, ladies and gentlemen I need a rest.