Budget Speech Ms Shadick- 20122987 13 Apr, 2012
April 13, 2012
Ms. Shadick: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It is very late in the evening and I would like…
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, one second. I just wish to make a public announcement. The public gallery is meant for members of the public to visit but there seems to be a constant movement and flow as people come to hear a speaker or two and it is disruptive and unparliamentary. I believe that in due course the Sergeant-at-Arms, with the advice of the Clerk will be taking steps to address it. There is too much movement in the public gallery. My apologies to you, Hon. Ms. Shadick.
Ms. Shadick: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Those were thoughts exactly – there is too much movement. This 2012 Budget Debate has been a pretty quite one. You have had a pretty easy time and I think that that is because we have had so many new Members who were giving maiden speeches so the House was constrained not to make noise. I am not asking to be treated as a maiden. I am however asking for your attention as I speak. If one makes noise one would not hear what I am saying.
I know that I have 25 minutes so I do not want Mrs. Backer to disturb me. I would like to, again, congratulate the Minister of Finance and his staff and the Government of Guyana for staying on course. In 1992, when we came into office, we made certain resolutions and we had certain goals and certain visions. Every year, in every succeeding budget, we move nearer and nearer to those goals. What has also happened was where people thought they wanted to go, in 1992, having seen better, now want the vision to stretch further so we are constrained to move faster and faster.
Since this just happened, I just made a rough note of this I would just like to say something about what my friend and colleague the Hon. Catherine Hughes about Help and Shelter – that the money given to them this year is $10 million. I would like to say to this House and to Ms. Hughes that $10 million was what Help and Shelter requested of this Government for 2012. The Government honoured their full request. This honouring of the full request of Help and Shelter began while I was Minister, as I remember, when their building needed to be repaired – I will go further back just now – and their subvention was smaller as they asked for $5 million. We gave them $5 million that time. We need to also remember that Help and Shelter is a non-governmental organisation but when the Domestic Violence Act was passed by this PPP/Civic Government – a very good Act, very useful – it gave land at Mahaica to Help and Shelter and negotiated with Future Fund to build the shelter. Help and Shelter operates with the full cooperation of the Government.
I would also like to say, that Help and Shelter is not there for women only; Help and Shelter is there for victims of domestic abuse so men are also welcome. When they needed an administration building the Government gave that, which is on Homestretch Avenue near to the burned down Ministry of Labour building.
We have this partnership with a lot of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and while I am talking about that partnership I would like to mention that the Deaf Association has made representation to His Excellency, the President, requesting Government’s assistance to identify a building to have their own school and it was highlighted by the head of the association that there are more than 200 persons who are deaf. They also requested funding from Government to the tune of $2 million to assist with meeting their operational costs; Government is favourably considering all of these requests. So we do work closely with the underprivileged and the vulnerable.
While we talk about the underprivileged and the vulnerable, the women of this country do all kinds of things. I have always said that sometime women are their own worst enemy. I remember 10 years ago when I tried to get and succeeded in getting the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) to run some programmes for women in non-traditional skills for women. They were taught masonry, electrical installation, how to lay tiles, build fences, a bit of carpentry and so on. The people of Linden said that they wanted women to be able to operate some heavy duty machinery because some of the men would be drinking and not go to their jobs; the women would do a better job. In Essequibo women were thought to drive and operate tractors and repair them, drive and operate combines and effect small repairs. Those things happened and we tried… This was 10 years ago and such continue to happen. 10 years ago I tried to tell women and encourage them to get together, bid for small contracts – “A school fence has to be built. You have been given those skills.” That is why I am saying that women are their own worst enemies; some of them said “Man, mah husban’ nah gon’ wan’ meh go.” “Got to look after the children!” These are the kind of things we do.
I am asking every single Members of this House to speak to their constituents who are women; that they must stand up and be independent and use the skills that this Government is giving them the opportunity to acquire. These programmes are run all over: Board of Industrial Training, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), National Committee of Sisters’ Affairs (NACOSA) and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport gives training; we have all of these training programmes for dropouts and so on. We need to use those skills. Women are not neglected in this country; please, let us not get away with that. The issue is that we need to change some attitudes. It is our culture, sometimes this is hard to change. We have gone a long way, so we must not speak as if all women are suffering; they are not. All women are not suffering.
I have a few things that I would like to say. I want to address something that my comrade and Hon. Friend, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, said. The Hon. Mr. Nagamootoo talked about Guyana’s external debt being more than it was in 1992. Every child that is born now will grow up with a debt of “whatever”. I am a mathematics teacher, I always was, I believe in numbers. I can add and subtract but one has to read the message that the numbers carry. Numbers tell a story as well. It is not just the numbers that my friend was adding up. The matter is, and I would like to say to my friend, Guyana does not have a foreign debt problem because, even though our debt is close to US$1.2 billion, it is our ability to service that debt which matters. It is not how much debt we have.
A businessman goes to the bank and borrows money to set up his business. He borrows some more to expand his business and as long as he can service that loan without contracting his business he is successful and is capable of doing it. There is no problem.
I am a teacher and the numbers are what bothered me. When I erstwhile friend said this it bothered me. I would like to say, and I am saying this clearly, the Hon. Member Mr. Carl Greenidge is the least one who should tell us about this. Under the PNC the debt that was accrued sucked the very life out of this country. I will say here that today Guyana debt situation has never been as manageable as it is now.
Talking about servicing debt and saying that we are in debt is some “boogie man” story being used to try to fool the people. We are not here to fool the people.
I want to say very clearly that Guyana may have its problems – it does. We are not saying that we do not have problems. We are saying that there are things to happen, but this PPP/Civic Government will remain on the course that it has charted and we vow that Guyana will never ever go back to the days when people had to line up for food and petrol. One had to go to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), put this in your passport “US$40 to travel”. We are not going back there. We are not going to go back to scheduled six-hour blackouts. Now, when we get 10 minutes of blackout we are quarrelling. We forgot the days of six and twelve-hour blackouts. Guyana may have its problems but I promise you that this Government is staying resolutely on course and Guyana will never go back down there. We made a promise.
Something bothered me which my comrade and friend Mr. Moses Nagamootoo said. I deal a lot with the ordinary people and there are some women who say that if the man does not hit them a little he does not love them, so when I heard the Hon. Nagamootoo say the words that he said to his grandson, which I do not want to repeat here, whether he purported to say them with love… All of that is in the name of the men who say “Knock them down. Keep them in line and that is how you show how you love them.” I have known the Hon. Member, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, for a long time. I am sorry that he is not sitting there. I am disappointed and I am sure that he does not mean that. I think that it was an example used; I do not think that it is true. I would hope that it is not true that he said that to his grandchild.
The AFC keeps saying to bring down Value Added Tax (VAT) to 10%, take up the threshold to $60,000, take up the pensions to $10,000, double the salaries of teachers and Public Servants and the Disciplined Forces. They sound to me like a “cake shop story”, because what the Hon. Member Dr. Ramayya said “how we gon’ do dis”... He said that from the $75 billion that is in Capital Budget the Hon. Minister must take out $5 billion… [Mr. R. Persaud: That is “rum shop economics”.] Well I call it “cake shop” because I do not go into rum shops. He must take the $5 billion to do all of these things with it and use only the $70 billion, and it will not cause any trouble. I would like the Hon. Member – it might sound like a good suggestion – to identify which places he will take out these $5 billion from and what is not going to suffer. If we were going to spend $10 million on a school should we then take out $1 million and leave out the step or something like that. I would like to see some details for the $5 billion and how it is not going to affect the Capital Budget. That is something that we would like to see.
I remember when I listen to the AFC’s plans… Those were campaign promises. One does not say those things when one comes to Parliament. When I listened I remembered the man from my village. The man used to sell rice. He was not educated in reading and writing and one of his relative gave him some money/capital and he bought rice to sell – we used to call him “Fyta”. Fyta goes and sells the rice. As soon as he sells a bag he goes to buy food. He sells another bag; he goes to buy clothes and so on. By the time he had finished selling the capital that he had, according to the villagers, became “common”. He spent out that capital. That is the story that I am reminded of when I listen to what the AFC is asking us to do. These things are disappointing when one lists to them.
The Hon. Maiden Member from Region 3… I had issued an invitation many times to the other PNC/R-1G Member of Parliament who represented Region 3, the Hon. Mervyn Williams. He is no longer here, so now there is the Hon. Member Mr. John Adams. I invite you, Sir, to visit Region 3 and not just drive along from where you live to the bridge and come over here. Visit the rivers… [Mrs. Backer: He is not here.] Whether he is here or not I am speaking to him so you can give him the message. Visit, see what is happening. I wonder what the Hon. Member meant when he said that the West Demerara Secondary School is a disaster waiting to happen. Then he said “because it does flood”. I have news for the Hon. Member: If his yard floods then his house is a disaster waiting to happen. My yard floods but I do not consider that a disaster waiting to happen. Guyana is below sea level. We will have floods but the water runs off very quickly. I know that the school ground is low and we will look to see how we can put some dirt and so on to help to fill it up but one does not call that a disaster waiting to happen.
To crown it all the Hon. Member suggests that all the money that Cde. Dr. Frank Anthony, the Hon. Member and Minister, said about setting up an athletic track and football field and so on is wasted. He said that we should have used the Den Amstel Ground instead. That is not even worthy of any kind of explanation.
That just shows that the Member needs to move around a bit and not just drive from his home. By the way, I heard a strange rumour. I do not know. I asked the Hon. Member. He admitted that the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) had to investigate because some building that he was responsible for was getting electricity without paying for it. He told me that. He said he was not charged but the GPL had to investigate. [Mr. Lumumba: Did he thieve light?] I do not know; I will not say that.
The issue of old-age pension is causing so much trouble in this country. It is like a campaign theme. Do you know how many people receive old-age pension? It is forty-five thousand. Is it that somebody wants to tell me that all forty-five thousand of those people are on the poverty line and cannot live? Can somebody tell me whether every single one of those forty-five thousand people does not have children? Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? I would like to bring to the attention of this honourable House that there is an Act called the Maintenance Act, Chapter 45:03 of the Laws of Guyana. Whilst sections 2 and 3 made provisions for maintenance of children by their parents, section 4 reads:
“Everyone born in wedlock is hereby required to maintain his or her father and mother, and grandfathers and grandmothers; and everyone not born in wedlock is hereby required to maintain his or her mother, and also the man (if any) with whom his mother openly cohabited at the time of his or her birth, provided that man recognised and treated him as the man’s child during his or her infancy…”
This is the law of this country. How can we say that we cannot afford to mind our mother and father? If I have half a loaf, I have to share it with my mother, my father and my grandparents. That is the law of this country. How can we…? Do we have people as waste now? Are we throwing away human waste?
I would like to focus a bit on something that Dr. Rupert Roopnarine said about paddy and yields. The sugar industry is failing and the Government has to help. And so it says that it is bailing it out because that is a corporation, but the rice industry is based on individual farmers. What is not very visible, because it does not come as a lump sum in this budget, is what Government does for rice.
How is it that the Hon. Member thinks those yields are acquired? The farmers work hard, yes, and they always work hard. In fact, rice farmers do not work as hard now as when my parents were rice farmers, because my father had two bulls and a plough. Now there are tractors. The issue is, Sir, that in 1991, the yield per acre was an average of nineteen bags of paddy per acre. In 2011, the last crop, the yield per acre was in the vicinity of thirty-eight bags. That was the average. There were farmers in the coastal regions, of Region 3 and Cane Grove, in Region 4, who averaged over fifty bags per acre. Fifty bags of paddy is the target that we had set in our strategic plan.
Do you know how this came about? Do you know what Government did? Government set up farmers’ field schools. In 2011, there were sixty-six schools set up and one thousand four hundred farmers participated. Eight farmers had exchange visits between regions to see how others were doing and one thousand six hundred and sixty-four farmers participated in those visits. There were farmers being trained in those areas that have Water Users’ Associations. There are nine pilot study areas in Regions 3, 4 and 6 right now. They take soil samples, analyse them and recommend the types of strains that should be planted. For 2012, there is sixty-nine of those schools planned for. I am a child of a rice farmer; I am interested in rice.
In 1991, the country’s total production in rice was one hundred and fifty thousand tons. That was the time when the Rice Marketing Board was no longer there; when people could not sell; when people had to graze cows in their rice beds. In 2011, it was four hundred and two thousand tons. That is rice. That is the reality and success story of rice and it did not come because the little farmers did it themselves. It came about because Government intervened.
There are so many more things that I want to say but I know that my time is limited. I am a Region 3 representative and so I will be remiss if I do not talk about Region 3. [Mrs. Backer: Talk about Leguan.] Leguan is very well, thank you. Nobody abandoned it. You were not in the People’s National Congress (PNC) then but it had told us to move out. [Mrs. Backer: What happened to the airstrip?] It is coming along nicely.
In 2011, Region 3’s capital budget was $225 million. Of that, it spent 99.99 per cent. This year, its capital budget is $280,500,000. That budget will be used, among other things, to do these things which I am going to talk about quickly. There will be bridges being done. Bridges will be built at Doornhaag, which is in Leguan. The West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) is getting a new bridge. There will be a new bridge at Vergenoegen and one at Karia Karia. That will cost $22.5 million, this year, because it is an ongoing project. The whole project would have cost $43.5 million. For those of you who think that is a lot of money, you need to visit Karia Karia. You need to visit these places where these bridges are going to be built and see what is involved. It is not just timber and wood; it is revetments and other stuff.
For roads: Roads will be done in Marias Lodge, in the Canals Polder, Number One and Number Two, which really need work, in Stewartville, inside roads, Philadelphia, Pleasing Hope, Naamless and La Bagatelle, which is at Leguan, by the way - $55 million will be spent on roads.
Twenty-five million dollar will be spent on land development. That includes upgrading roads for the housing schemes such as Patentia, Canal Number One, De Kinderen and Hog Island. Yes, at Hog Island, roads will be developed there. Conditions will be improved at the Stanleytown library. A new fence and sanitary facilities will be put. A ramp and landing will be constructed at Santa/Aratak Mission at a cost of $6.5 million. The Region will spend $56.6 million on new Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) projects. For agriculture, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) tubes will be purchased because those are always needed when there are problems. Winches will be purchased for areas such as Stanleytown, Goed Fortuin, Versailles, all on the West Bank Demerara, and Salem, Hubu and Zeelugt, on the East Bank Essequibo. Structures such as culverts and kokers will be constructed at Coghlan Dam, Samaroo Dam, De Kinderen, Hague, Maryville, which is at Leguan, Kamuni-Potosi and Hog Island. There will be revetments done at Sisters sideline dam, Blenheim at Leguan. Canals at Kamuni-Patosi will be excavated.
The Region will spend $52.5 million in the education sector, constructing nursery schools at La Parfaite Harmonie, extensions of the Essequibo Island Secondary School, that is in Wakenaam - it has to be extended - and the Windsor Forest Primary School. I heard somebody talk about the Windsor Forest Primary School. It is going to be extended this year. [Ms. Selman: You are doing everything this year.] Philadelphia Primary School…No, these are new things; we did other things last year. Headmasters’ and teachers’ quarters at Fort Island, Aliki and Karia Karia will be rehabilitated. There will be construction of sanitary blocks at Princess Carolina, which is in the Demerara River, lower Bonasika and McGillivray Primary Schools. When I said that there are septic tanks and overhead water tanks in all of those riverain areas, my friend, Mr. Williams, last year, doubted me. I am inviting people to go and see those places and see what exists. The walkways at Bagotville Nursery and northern Hog Island Primary Schools will be rehabilitated. It will spend $10 million, again, in the education sector, to purchase furniture, beds and other equipment for kindergarten schools. Those will be kept for whichever schools will make a request.
The Region will spend $17.5 million in health. It is will purchase freezers, solar panels, fans, emergency sets, Electrocardiogram (ECG) machines, with trolleys and beds for health services, for wherever the request will come from.
When I looked at the budget here I remember that there was a picture that the Member of the Alliance For Change (AFC) put and said it was the Parika Health Centre - was a little hut, which used to be used, near by the school. There is a brand new facility at Parika. A x-ray facilities will be put in, this year, from this budgeted amount. Health posts will be constructed at Greenwich Park and Sand Hills. A furnace will be constructed at the West Demerara Regional Hospital and a laboratory at the Wakenaam Cottage Hospital. The outpatient department at the West Demerara Regional Hospital will be repaired and extended and a laboratory and a x-ray department will be constructed at the Parika Health Centre.
When things are going to be peddled, showing pictures of vines on fences and saying that is what it looks like…We need to tell the truth. The word “honourable” is put to our names – Hon. Members. We must be honourable. Let us honourably tell the truth. Let us not stand here and pontificate about helping workers, while some of us who had owned businesses declared bankruptcy so that we do not pay the people their termination benefits. Those things the Government does not believe in. It does not short-change its workers. It never does.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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