Budget Speech - Ms Baveghems—20143473 04 Apr, 2014
Mrs. Baveghems: Thank you, Cde. Deputy Speaker for affording me the opportunity to speak on this Budget 2014. Before I do so I would like to draw an incident of what happened yesterday afternoon. There are two persons in the gallery by the names of Seon Rollins and Muza Haynes. Could they please stand so that people can see them?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Sorry Hon. Member, the gallery is not a part of the proceedings of this honourable House.
Mrs. Baveghems: I am sorry I withdraw that. They came yesterday to listen to the debate and the police chased them away, asked them what they were doing here and that they could not have entered. When they would have stood for me see them when I would have come they said, “Do not stand up here, you all go along. What are you waiting for?”
They are human beings, they are Guyanese, why can they not come and listen to the debate? Anyhow, they made contact with me last evening and I told them to come today and they were here. I do not know if they have left but they were here, and they are blind.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: We note what you have said.
Mrs. Baveghems: I would like the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs to talk to his policemen on that issue.
Now, it is to speak on the budget.
As a grass roots Member of Parliament, I stand to represent the working class and poor who are not catered for in this budget. Value Added Tax (VAT) is still holding a large amount of water and that water is not being used neither is it being evaporated.
The Members on the other side of this House need to visit the post offices around the country on the first of every month and they will witness the large number of pensioners lined up from 6 am, and in some cases earlier, to cash in their pension vouchers. That is how desperate many pensioners are. Wake up Minister, wake up! Sometimes they are in the rain, for example, at the East La Penitance Post Office and the Bourda Post Office. Sheds should be made for them so as to protect them because they are old and they cannot take rain.
With respect to the pensioners, I would love to see the Hon. Minister of Finance treat the pensioners as if they were his parents. What can G$600 do for them? The pensioners have to pay for proper medical care, purchase medication, drinking water and personal products to have them looking and smelling good. Those are not cheap, I assure you. To add to that, the Hon. Member Ms. Shadick said last year, and again this year, that children must look after their parents. Cde. Deputy Speaker, children cannot look after their parents. Is it with this salary they are getting? Come on, Ms. Shadick. Some time when the pensioners get their few cents they have to put it into the children hands to help them to send their children to school. Probably the Member has a personal problem with that.
Pensioners and our senior citizens need assisted living facilities. They have worked hard and given their service to this country, it is only fitting that we should show our appreciation to them by having them spend the remainder of their lives in some degree of comfort and dignity.
The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is an organisation which is supposed to provide relief to workers who become ill, disabled or old. The complaints are numerous regarding the inability of contributors to get their benefits in a timely manner. Some persons even complain of not getting their benefits at all. This state of affairs has resulted in some persons calling this institution, "The National Institute of Swindlers".
The Guyana Power & Light (GPL) Inc. is another sore point for the grass roots. People there have numerous complaints that when they purchased prepaid credit they are being robbed of G$1,000 or G$2,000 worth of credit. Their complaints fall on deaf ears. I hope that the Hon. Prime Minister can look into this. Perhaps the Hon. Prime Minister will investigate and inform us of corrective actions taken by GPL.
According to Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI)'s billboards "Water is life, Save it", however, apparently the persons at GWI do not believe that slogan, at least the first part of that slogan. Before they put “water is life” they should have put an adjective – “good” water. I say this because on numerous occasions when one turns on the tap there is no water. On other occasions, the quality of the water is atrocious. It cannot be used to cook or drink; neither can it be used to do the white laundry.
I turn now to Education. Every year we hear about the billions of dollars that is allocated to the education section, but I wonder who benefits. Teachers are a major stakeholder in the delivery of education but we do not hear anything in the budget to improve the welfare of teachers. I still hear about teachers having to work under conditions that the Hon. Minister and her officials would absolutely refuse to work under. Teachers continue to complain about dust falling on them while teaching, inadequate or poor accommodation, poor sanitary facilities for themselves and students, classes being disrupted whenever it rains. It would appear to me that the welfare of the officials and staff of the Ministry of Education are more important than those of the teachers and students. Why do I say this? I have heard about retreats and fun days being hosted for the officials and staff at a resort along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, annual Christmas dinners and parties for the staffs and officials. To add insult to the teachers, the Gravity Lounge was reserved for a luncheon, not for teachers, but for officials and staff of the Ministry of Education.
I was overjoyed when I was told that women in Education were honoured by having their photographs displayed on large billboards along Brickdam. However, I was disappointed when I only saw one active teacher being honoured and she was not honoured for being a teacher but for being a Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) official. Are there not any active teachers who deserve such recognition? Will some of the $32 billion be spent to improve the welfare of teachers and students? Or, will it be spent on parties, outings, retreats, high power lunches and billboards for education officials and staff?
The budget does make mention of a payment of G$10, 000 to schoolchildren, to assist with their transportation. At thirty-eight weeks per school year, and it is to deduct one week for interruptions and national holidays, that money translates into approximately G$53 per day. We are still short G$7 for a one side short drop fare around the city. That amount is inadequate. What guarantee is there that parents will spend the money, even though inadequate, on the intended purpose? It is my view that providing school buses would have been a better measure. According to the man in the street, "Government is trying to buy their votes." I do not know if the Minister heard the song they are singing. The parents are singing, "Not a blade of grass, not one carass. We love the one-seat majority".
Nurses and public servants continue to be treated with scant regard by this administration. They are humans too and if they are not treated properly we cannot expect to get proper service from them. At the first opportunity they will migrate.
The blind and or visually impaired are always imploring that they need to be treated equally. They have been asking if the Ministry of Housing and Water has any plans for affording them the opportunity of obtaining a “turnkey home” at a low cost, not those homes in which the walls are crumbling. They also said that living with the sighted is not nice.
We have a "Champion of the Earth" and a “Doctor of the Environment" but at almost every street corner there is garbage. The Le Repentir Cemetery has been renamed the Le Repentir Forestry. I am hoping that the funds allocated to clean up our Garden City are indeed used to clean up our city. How can we have a “Champion of the Earth” and a “Doctor of the Environment” and our environment is in such a deplorable state?
I close with two observations. One is that lately I have observed that there is a paucity of carrion crows flying around. When I brought it to the attention of my grandson he remarked, "Granny Joan, the carrion crows have migrated too because people hardly have anything to eat much less to throw away for the crows to get." [An Hon. Member: They will eat garbage.] They do eat not garbage.
Two, I asked a young man "why is your stomach so high?" He remarked, "Miss Baveghems, have you not seen that almost everyone has a huge stomach? We have to have guts to survive in Guyana these days."
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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