Budget Speech Ms Jennifer Wade- 20124163 12 Apr, 2012
April 12, 2012
Ms. Wade: Thank you Sir. Tabled before this National Assembly is the 2012 budget, it is before us for debate and passage, thereafter, authorising the Government to expend these sums in the various sections. The budgeted amount for 2012 is $192.8 billion and many are of the view that with this increase expenditure, things will improve somewhat.
We all know that every year’s budget has been bigger than the previous year, yet there has not been any significant improvement in the standard of living of our citizens.
The purpose and function of any Government is to sustain the welfare and wellbeing of its entire people – rich or poor, young or old. As such, the budget is not a statement to be taken in isolation. It is part of a design to bring greater happiness and comfort to the greatest number of our citizens. The emphasis and objective are, and must always be, the happiness of our people.
Prior to this budget we embarked on a series of consultations with several stakeholders in society to solicit their views on issues regarded as important in their lives and what they needed, what their concerns were and how they felt that these issues should be address. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all these patriotic citizens who took the time to participate in these consultations which aids my presentation here today. What is of great concern is the fact that many of those persons and groups claim that they have also spoken to Members of the Government and expressed the same issues to them. As such, I am disappointed for I know that these issues were not addressed in the 2012 Budget document.
I recall that during the debate on the 2011 Budget, I spoke about some critical problems affecting the people of my constituency, in general and I would like to list a few. I spoke about:
Lack of proper care and facilities
A regular supply of drinking water in certain areas
Lack of electricity
High prices for food items
Failure to deal in a sensible manner with agriculture
Poor drainage and flooding
Lack of roads to farmlands
These were some of the matters which required urgent attention but the Government ignored the needs of the people of my constituency.
Budget 2012 is before us under the theme “Remaining on Course, United in Purpose and Prosperity for All”. It is my sincere hope that on this occasion promises will be fulfilled enabling Guyanese to breathe a sigh of relief. In Section 14, page 20, the Minister made mention of Government’s support in improved drainage and irrigation and expansion of capital infrastructure causing the industry to deliver another record performance in 2011. He went on to say that the total acreage under cultivation per crop is now at its highest ever. Nobody will dispute this but what I want to say is that much more could have been boasted about if this Government had lent a listening ear. We need, as Members of this National Assembly, to listen to the people; listen to the farmers, listen to the things that are affecting them. Give them the opportunity to make the recommendations, Hon. Minister, as to how their concerns can be addressed.
Let me give you an example: During the rainy season I visited some areas and one of these is Stratcampbell, Mahaicony. The farmers there took me to an area called the Basket Canal. This canal carries a one-door sluice instead of a four-door sluice. As a result of this inadequate drainage system, the farmers’ losses were heavy. These same farmers led a delegation to the Ministry of Agriculture under the watch of Hon. Mr. Robert Persaud and a set of promises were made to them. To date, as I speak, the situation remains the same; nothing has been done. The point that I am making is, the Government could have been boasting about higher yield if they had only taken heed about what is going on in my constituency.
Attention must be paid, Hon. Minister, to the Abary River. This river must be desilted regularly. During the rainy season some farmers in my constituency received assistance from MMA-ADA (Mahaica-Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority). They risked their lives doing manual cleaning of canals, pumping water to save their crops, while others watched their millions perish; especially those south of the main canal. The entire region was affected by the flood. Cattle farmers, rice farmers, poultry farmers, cash crop farmers, along with other residents all suffered.
The question is: Why is the Government bent on releasing the water from the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) via the Maduni sluice without putting proper systems in place for farmers in Region 5? This has been happening since 2005 and it continues to happen.
Agriculture is our business and we are looking forward to achieving an appropriate level of food security through a sustainable approach in addressing the obstacles faced by farmers and stakeholders. One cannot say to farmers “grow more food” and at harvest time there is nothing to reap. No relieve from the Government can compensate farmers for the millions that they have lost. The Hon. Minister visited the area; he knows.
Rice farmers understand what is happening in the industry but they are also aware that the measures being implemented are of little consolation. After they have heeded Government’s call to produce and increase productivity they invested in machinery and on equipment and they became very vulnerable in terms of receiving an adequate return on their investment and that is worrying.
This Government must tell farmers why an Agricultural Development Bank is not provided even though several requests were made by small farmers. These farmers are challenged by timely and affordable land preparation services.
The Government needs to tell the farmers why the Government cannot reduce the cost of agriculture inputs such as, chemicals, fertilisers, bags and fuel. At this rate, how can one work for prosperity for all.
The farmers are saying that there must be a comprehensive drainage plan to address flooding.
HOUSING AND WATER
Let me turn to some critical issues in my Region. The Region 5 Administration has been repairing the houses every year, wasting taxpayers’ money. This is also because they fail to have the houses occupied although there are officers in need of accommodation. On the other hand, the police houses at Fort Wellington and Blairmont, houses in the MMA-ADA compound, are all in a deplorable state and no effort is being made to renovate them.
In No. 22 Belair there is a squatting area and residents have been clamoring for years to get the area regularized in order to receive electricity and pure water supply but to no avail, but yet squatters at Blairmont and Bath Settlement who started squatting long after these people at No. 22 Belair are enjoying electricity and pure water supply; taking into consideration page 45 of the budget, $1.8 billion that was spent in the water sector – Facilitating and Construction, Upgrading, Distribution and Transmission.
I am speaking about the poor and less fortunate who cannot afford to pay for the connection. Will they still continue to beg for the basic source of life? For years now Itica and Berma have serious problems with the quality of water they receive. These residents have to purchase water for drinking and cooking purposes. These residents are drawing their own conclusions.
There is always the problem of unreliable electricity in my constituency. Power outages affect the flow of water for long periods. It is time that generators are placed at these pumping stations to bring relief to residents; especially the ones who cannot afford to buy tanks to store water.
YOUTH SPORT AND CULTURE
They are only turning their attention to youth, sports and culture. The interest of our young people should be the priority of any Government. The budget declares that all things are beautiful; billions are being spent and yet problems still remain.
Guyana needs a competitive business environment to create jobs for young people – jobs for the jobless. Government needs to establish a pathway to create healthy lifestyles for our promising youths. All youth organisations need to benefit from an improved youth, sports and culture system. Youths need a platform for drama in my Region because they have talents – music, arts and the care for those with special needs. Upgrading and developing all sports facilities throughout my Region. I do hope that the $160 million that has been allocated for upgrading of sport grounds, countrywide, mentioned on page 49 in the Budget, Region 5 will benefit from this.
The President visited Region 5 and promised the residents of No. 8, No. 9, Third Street, Western Half Itica, Calcuta Cross Street – these are all cross streets. I am speaking about 2006, this is 2012. The Hon. Prime Minister and Dr. Anthony are aware of these promises. I would like to know how these families would benefit from the One Laptop per Family. Is this a way of saying to them that they are not qualified? This is disappointing. In this day and age, this information technology age, some citizens are still using lamps in my constituency; they cannot enjoy the benefit of a simple television. The youths are asking questions and I hope that this time around something will be done, Hon. Prime Minister, so that these people could at least enjoy electricity which is important.
The $6 billion transferred to Guyana Power and Light by the Government: I want to know if this will assist the cross streets. These residents have to pay $238,000 per person – poor people – to access one lantern pole in order to give them light in the cross street. I do hope that this amount will assist them. The Government needs to show some concern and bring some relief to these poor families.
The street light continuation is very important, Hon. Member, Mr. Benn. With all of the ills that are facing our society in the Region… [Mr. Benn: I will light you up this year.] Thank you. Urgent attention need to be given to these areas: Burma, Perth, Chester to Washington, Profit to Recess – I am speaking about the main roads.
SEA AND RIVER DEFENSE
Region 5 needs a proper seawall structure. The residents of Profit, No. 37, Kingelly, Brahan, Ross and Yoville are very fearful as the sea continues to create breaches. There is need for urgent corrective measures. It is unsafe and frightening. I want to invite the Hon. Minister to visit my Region and see the situation as it is. Some of the very officers who report to him are not accurate in their reporting. I want to advise the Hon. Member to speak to Mr. Winston Whyte, who lives in No. 37 Village, and he will tell you what you need to know, Hon. Member.
It is also important to lend a listening ear. In 2012 the sum of $2.9 billion is budgeted for the continued protection of our sea and river defense; stated on page 35. I hope that the critical emergency works that will be done in Region 5 will be done by experts this time and not local laymen.
The disposal of solid waste in a safe and efficient manner is supposed to be everybody’s business by ensuring that the health and wellbeing of our nation is preserved. It should be noted that all environmental issues should be given equal treatment and emphasis must be placed in the Regions to bring an end to the kind of indiscriminate dumping of garbage, especially in the business communities – Rosignol and Bush Lot.
Region 5 is of the view that it should be consulted before works are carried out in its communities. While the Government boasts about accomplishment of roads and bridges, I want to highlight the poor quality of work being done for large sums of money. In some areas the quality of work is highly questionable. The Government needs to stop the discrimination. It is causing serious problems in my constituency. If chipseal and bitumen are being used in Novar the same must be used in Calcutta and Catherine; let us have a levelled playing field. We need proper roads and streets. I hope that these damns in No. 28, Litchfield, Catherine, Lovely Lass, Golden Grove, Bush Lot, Belladrum, even the MMA compound… The street next to the Coco Cabana… Hon. Minister Jennifer Westford could bear me out because when they did campaigning during that time they received some Belladrum treatment; that is the BT (Belladrum Treatment).
The emphasis and objective must be the happiness of our people, especially when the Government says “prosperity for all”. That being so, the question is: Who determines what will make our people happy? Mr. Speaker, I spoke about this in this Hon. House before. I referred to the public assistance recipients and the attitude of some board members, Hon. Minister responsible, and the male officer in the Region. It is appalling to witness what the single women and persons living with HIV/AIDS are going through, what they have to endure when they approach the entity for assistance, hence the reluctance of most of them to seek the needed help.
The Minister responsible needs to address these social issues:
In Guyana today there are women who are going through life forlorn. We need to face reality. These officers need to visit these poverty stricken communities before jumping to conclusions. In this day and age in my constituency there are families living in mud houses; there are families living with thatched roves. It really hurts when the poor and the needy in society are not receiving the needed assistance. I think that the time has come that this must be stopped.
Judging from the last review I am sure that we will have no ends of school dropouts because of economic reasons. Workers can no longer survive on the meagre wages due to high cost of living and poverty is on the increase in my constituency. There are parents who cannot afford to send their children to school; the Hon. Member Mrs. Volda Lawrence visited, she can tell you. Some of them say that their children go to school only two days per week because of meals, books, bridge crossing and bus fares. Care is given not spoken, Mr. Speaker.
The distribution of pension books leaves much to be desired, especially in the application process. The length of time it takes to process is too long – no proper record system. Very often persons have to reapply…
The unavailability of cash at the post office every month needs urgent attention. Every month poor people, feeble people, suffer; coming and going only to hear “come back this week”, “come back next week” to receive the little pittance afforded to them.
The workload is heavy on the probation and social service officers in the Region because of the increase of child abuse, domestic violence, suicide attempts and rape. I say that the officer is doing a great job but there is need for more staff.
In the health sector in my region there is a simple problem. There is dire need for a generator with a throw-over switch. When there is a power outage a staff member is called from his home to turn on a generator and very often the hospital is left in darkness until he arrives. This is not good enough. There is also a shortage of nursing staff – attention needs to be given in this area. There is a hostel in the hospital compound and it is being used as a diabetic foot clinic and our nurses have nowhere to stay. Hon. Minister, please take note.
In conclusion, I stand here as guardian of my people’s rights in the constituency of Region 5. It is said that those who do not learn from their mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. Whatever we say on the opposition side is always irrelevant on the Government side no matter how ones recommendations are important. We argued in vein over the 9th Parliament. I think that this time around someone needs to listen to someone.
We were on the election campaign 5 months ago. The Government’s side visited communities and received some village treatment simply because the people’s business was forgotten – they did not deliver. Mr. Speaker, the purpose of a budget is to improve the quality of life for all, not a few. The treasure is not ones personal bank account for which they do not have to account to the people of Guyana. Guyanese have a right to know how their money is spent and also have a right to have an input in how it is spent. It is time to be honest with the nation.
The Minister pointed out in his presentation that this budget is the biggest ever, meaning everything is bright and beautiful. I am saying that, on this side of the House, the APNU, our priority is the wellbeing of all the people of Guyana. We say “a good life for all”. We are committed to ensure that all Guyanese are treated with respect. Before this Hon. House are the issues of my Region which need urgent answers. I call on the government to create a levelled playing field and a pleasant atmosphere where all are treated equally regardless of their political persuasion.
It is my hope that at the end of this debate the Government will remember the budget theme “Remaining on Course, United in Purpose, Prosperity for all”. I say that the people of Region 5 await their prosperity. You have listened to their problems and their cries. We will hold you to the task by reminding you of the words taken from Proverbs, Chapter 3, Verses 27 and 28, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour “come back later, I will give you tomorrow” when you have it with you today” – the words of the Lord. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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