Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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2004 Budget
(Aired 6 April 2004)

   I was not going to do a commentary on the budget this year since it is an exercise in futility, I started doing commentary in June 2001 and all of the budgets since then are the same; my friend Christopher Ram tells us in his excellent analysis of the 2004 Budget printed in the Stabroek news of Wednesday 31st March 2004, that the budget speeches have become more of a political event filled with every conceivable platitude and rhetorical nonsense than matters economical, and deliver nothing; this is not exactly a verbatim quote since Mr. Ram is too refined to say it. 

   Funnily enough, you, the members of the public will not let me get away with it, when asked where is my budget commentary and I tell people that Mr. Christopher Ram has done an incredible job of analysing it in the Stabroek news covering nearly 5 pages of that newspaper, people sill want to hear me, personally, take a poke at the government for producing these three large volumes of complete nonsense. Apparently a lot of you out there are more wicked than I am. Shame on you ladies and gentlemen. So here goes!

    It is the same budget since 1999 photocopied from year to year with a few changes in the figures to make them larger and larger 2002; 68.9 billion 2003; 72.95 Billion and this year 2004; 75.6 billion. The actual numbers get higher in terms of the total size of the budget, but the essentials of the actual budget do not change. They are merely photocopies of previous ones showing no plan, no real way to drop the onerous duties on imports and exports, no plan to drop the cost of fuel and other costs to manufacturers to reduce their cost of production, no drop in taxes, no strategies to expand the tax net so that a few don't end up paying for all etc. the spread between our lending rate and savings rate is still over 12 percentage points, last year they put a tax on the savings on old people which yielded practically nothing. This year they are putting an additional tax on the wages and the employees and employers' contribution to NIS.

   The first thing that struck me about this budget was that Jagedo, now remember that I have dropped the pretence that anyone other than Bharrat Jagdeo is the de facto Minister of Finance in this country, Kowlessar is there to read the budget that is all, and from the amount of water he was drinking during his nearly three hour speech, Minister Kow obviously needed a few stiff shots before he made the budget speech, only after some heavy drinking does one need that much water unless of course he is a diabetic, however given the rhetorical nonsense contained in it I would have taken a few myself, Kow, so don't feel too bad. 

   He tells us that 6 plus billion dollars would be allocated to the Health sector this year, but a brief look at the 2004 estimates tells us that the allocation to the Ministry of Health, capital plus routine is 2.8 billion and to the PHG it is 1.99 Billion, now ladies and gentlemen I am rounding of the nearest two decimal places not to confuse this issue with long figures. This is a total of 4.79 billion not six billion, but in the 2003 budget the allocation to the ministry of health was 2.57 billion and to the PHG it was 2.25 billion this is a total of 4.82 Billion. So in 2003 the allocation was 4.82 billion and in 2004 it is 4.79 billion, a decrease in allocation, did any of you see an improvement in the health sector last year? But we estimated to spend more in the beginning of 2003 than in the beginning of 2004 can we therefore realistically expect to see an improvement this year? Are we going to maim less people this year at our public hospitals and clinics?

     The only huge leap in allocation between 2003 and 2004 was at the Ministry of Works and Communications, this year we are estimating to spend 8.2 billion when the allocation for 2003 was 5.6 billion.  That is a difference of 2.6 billion more than last year and makes the difference of 2 odd billion more between the budget of 73 billion last year and 75 this year, now remember that roads and other construction are the easiest way to facilitate corruption and generally what we are building does not last but cost us a lot of money also remember that there is no one watching these contracts since this government has refused to put the Procurement Commission in place. Mr. Panday in Trinidad when questioned about his Ministers and other functionaries stealing over 800 million TT dollars in the Piarco matter said that it was a like a feeding frenzy. Well we can expect another one in Guyana this year.

   We are marching and we are claiming that there is no rule of law in the country, that there are death squads, that the legal system is slow, that the judges take too much time to hear the various cases, that the conditions in the supreme court are atrocious, that the sound of the road traffic interferes with everything going on in these courts, that the employees in these courts are poorly paid since they are not paying enough to compete with private enterprise companies in the country, that there are no employees of the court recording the proceedings either in short hand or with recorders for transcription later, leaving the onus on the poor Judges to trudge through this onerous task day by day of writing down every word spoken in these courts thereby slowing the course of justice to a virtual standstill. What have we done to improve conditions in these courts? Well the estimates show the following allocations to our judiciary for the past three years, 2002; 478 Million, 2003; 506 million, 2004; 503 million. We are giving the Supreme Court less and less compared to other departments of government; imagine ladies and gentlemen that we have allocated less in 2004 for the Supreme Court than in 2003! Who does Jagdeo think that he is fooling? This leaves one with no other option, but to conclude that this Government is not interested in establishing the rule of law as Supreme.

   With 19 ministries/departments and over 7 of the members of the Executive Committee of the PPP working out of the office of the President [which is described by Ram as having become unwieldy and unmanageable] at some very fancy salaries, one would have suspected that there would be some effort by now to reduce government spending to lighten the bureaucratic burden on this nation.

   If it is true that all major decisions are made by the Office of the President why have all of these Ministries, most of which do nothing? Why for example are we employing former Minister Indra Chanderpaul as Prime Executive of the Co-ordinating Council at a salary of 204,750 dollars a month? What may I ask is a Prime Executive Co-ordinating council? These people are failed Ministers, we say that we have replaced them but we re-employ them at higher salaries in the Office of the President and we invent jobs for them at some very fancy salaries, and she is not the only one there are several others. Mr Manniram Persaud for example why is the Office of the President paying him $204,750 a month to be the President's advisor on Investment? What do we have Go Invest and Goffy Da Silva for?

   The 700 hundred thousand poor people in this Heavily Indebted Poor Country just cannot afford these excesses they are being forced to support with their Taxes, paying for jobs created to reward people for being good party comrades of the PPP.

   The budget does not see past the usual Sugar, Rice, Bauxite and Gold as legitimate industries on which revenue can be generated. In fact if any of these Industries experience a bad year the entire country suffers prompting the Guyana Revenue Authority the unenviable task of making up the short fall from an already dwindling business community by taxing them more, no effort whatsoever has been made to widen the Tax Net, to ease the few companies who do file and pay taxes. Of the major industries only the sugar Industry pay their fair share of the taxes, duties etc., the rest do not.