Budget Speech Mr Lumumba - 20122994 12 Apr, 2012
April 12, 2012
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, I want to use this opportunity to congratulate you on being Speaker of the House, I had not a chance to do it formally. I would also like to use this opportunity to congratulate Mr. David Granger, the Opposition Leader, also Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, a friend of mine, who have seen eye to eye with me politically for a number of years.
I would like to start my presentation by appealing to the leadership of APNU and the leadership of AFC on a particular issue. I think it is a sad day when I sit in this Parliament and hear a Member of Parliament say, “My people”. I thought “My people” are Guyanese. [Mrs. Backer: What does the APNU have to do with that?] Let me finish, because one person who talked about my people, was a Member of Parliament from APNU and one was from AFC. I am just saying, I am not being critical, I am just saying we have to be careful that we do not move this country down to balkanisation, we have to be careful. I do not want to hear that we found oil in Berbice and the East Indians in Berbice have to say my oil. We have to be concerned that about 60% of the miners and small claim holders, in certain areas of Guyana, are Afro-Guyanese and we have to careful when and how we talk because there can be misinterpretations. All I am saying is that all of us must be more sensitive. We understand that there might be some problems, there might be some perceptions, but we have to work towards it as Guyanese and not based on ethnicity.
I hope my presentation today will help to provide clarity for the other side of the House and also help to facilitate the support for this budget, as presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, who has once again presented the way forward for our nation which came from a dreadful and terrible past.
This budget and the budget of the last ten years must be seen as the continuation of a policy that is geared towards development. We must not see a budget as something to do on a particular year; it must be a continuous process towards development, for example, this budget deals with the continued process of expanding the economy, putting in place infrastructure that would have facilitated such development, improve the critical social elements of society, such as, education, by building and repairing schools with great emphasis in rural and Amerindian communities.
Health – which emphasis on health centres, modernisation and improvements of hospitals and expanding services to rural and Amerindian communities and preparing for a modern international hospital that can accommodate local citizens that require specialist treatment, in particular, those overseas based Guyanese who plan to return to their native land. We are emphasising acceleration of medical care by facilitating the training of over 600 doctors.
Security – emphasis on a better trained police force, modernisation of the related facilities, maintenance and repair of existing facilities, construction of small, but effective community based police stations to target problems in small and isolated communities. The introduction of special cameras in areas plagued by criminals.
Controlling inflation – expansion of the agriculture food chain, that salary increases can remain an effective tool in a fight against poverty. Salary increase only makes sense if the prices of goods and services remain constant and affordable.
Creating opportunities – each adult citizen can have his or her own home in conjunction with the continuation of our networking with financial institutions, so that the majority of our people can have affordable loans in a quest to become homeowners. Housing in particular is a story to be told.
We have also created an atmosphere that is investment friendly so that foreign investors can feel free to bring billions of dollars to our shores with the understanding and belief that their investments will be guaranteed and protected and that the infrastructure put in place by the Government will be the nexus between their profitability and our national development.
Our achievements are rare and must be compared and judged by the path that was placed before the Government when the PPP/C came into power. Development is not instant coffee, it has to grow. We came into power when no investor or developer other than Jim Jones saw Guyana as a place of hope and prosperity. [Mrs. Backer: What about GT&T and Omai?] I forgot that, I am human, I cannot remember everything. I accept that amendment, not for the budget though.
We came into power when the overwhelming majority of Guyanese abandoned the Burham’s controlled State. We came into power when illiteracy was rampant, when salaries were slave like and teachers had to seek greener pastures abroad. We came into power when hospitals lacked medicines and doctors and when nurses migrated by hundreds. We came into power when electricity for households was graced by the act of God. We came into power when there was no potable water, when school children and the elderly had to drag drums of water for miles. We came into power when the interest rate was 36%, thanks to the ex-Minister Carl Greenidge... [Interruption]. Mr. Speaker, can you please protect me I am fragile in this building?
Mr. Speaker: Allow the Member to speak. Mr. Lumumba is one who does not heckle; rarely do you hear his voice. If there is a clarification to the facts, a Member has a right to rise, but allow him to give his opinion.
Mr. Lumumba: Thank you for your protection. Mr. Speaker, this is of particular interest to you, we came into power when my good friend and neighbour, MP Deborah Backer, had to consider the “blacka” as the only source of water for a decent bath... [Interruption]
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, I know he is not serious, but the fact is that the Hon. Member joined the PNC before I was a Member and then he grass hopped over to the GGG and then he hopped further...
Mr. Lumumba: She is out of order Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Alright thank you.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, we came into power when 94% of revenue earned by Government went to cover international debt. We came into power when Guyana was a desert.
The Hon. Minister, Ashni Singh, has a serious flaw in his presentation, he did not spend enough time to emphasise the road we came from and you must amend your presentation to emphasise the road we came from. He did not deal with the “why”. A budget reflects the historical development of a country. Our budget is a reflection of the struggle from the dark days to the bright days. Once the Opposition accepts the truth and we accept that is how we started, we can then jointly understand the genesis of this budget and now we can together agree on this budget.
You cannot find the nation that has moved forward towards development, in particular, in the area of tourism that lacked a modern airport; you cannot name one. You cannot name a modern society, a developing society with major plans that depends on one or two major hotels. Several members of the Private Sector and tourism stalwarts, such as, Captain Gouveia and Mr. Stephenson have called for more hotels, including the Marriot. The AFC has decided that Guyana must stay backwards for narrow political reasons.
Should APNU or the PNC and those of us who understand economic development believe that the late Forbes Burnham was crazy when he aggressively pursued hydro dam at Mazaruni...
Mrs. Backer: Do not say that. How are you going to say that?
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, obviously she does not understand English.
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, how could you call a former Head of State, who cannot defend himself, crazy.
Mr. Lumumba: I did not call him crazy, I was just... [Interruption]
Mrs. Backer: You just said that.
Mr. Speaker: Let me clarify. What the Hon. Member said, is that would we have called the President crazy for the hydro-power. So he is in order. Proceed Mr. Lumumba. I think we are a bit tired.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, even the late Forbes Burnham, with his political backwardness, understood the need for hydro-power and cheap energy. We cannot name a modern society that moved forward and became economically sound that depended on generators to power a nation.
Let me briefly point out some of the advantages of hydro-power because this is a big discussion in Guyana today; big opposition for APNU; big opposition from AFC. [Ms. Ally: APNU.] APNU or PNC, it is the same thing, why are we getting confused.
Advances of hydro-power – once a dam is constructed electricity can be produced at a constant rate. Dams are designed to last many decades and so can contribute to the generation of electricity for many years, even decades. The lakes that form behind the dams can use be used for water sports and pleasure activities. Other dams become tourist attraction. The lake’s water can be used for irrigation purposes and I can go on and on.
A visit to the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada would show the economics for many communities which were driven by hydro-power. Hydro-power –relatively cheap power and what impact they had on small communities. Any sound economist, any serious politician would know that hydro-power can become the key element of small industries. Hydro-power has always served as a catalyst to development and will save our nation millions of US dollars, which can be then used to increase the old age pension and salaries. In essence we can only increase salaries and pension from savings or new sources of revenue.
It is the Government’s intention to remove all aspects of Guyana from a backward era. Why would my colleagues on the Opposition be against this? Is it because they do not care about the poor who cannot pay for specialist medical attention? The objective here is to improve the quality of life for our people, by providing facilities that can remedy heart and kidney diseases. Should we not put in place a modern medical support mechanism? Let the Opposition vote against health improvement, we are proposing a modern facility because it is a step in the right direction. I am talking about the modern hospital that we have planned.
What kind of person would be critical of a four lane highway on the East Coast and the East Bank of Demerara? Is the Opposition saying that we must not plan for the future and should Guyanese who have automobiles parked and walk long distances and fetch their children on their backs? We recognise the difficulties with the implementation of some of these projects. You name a country that is implementing major and complex projects without difficulties. The PNC, APNU and AFC can gloat because they had nothing in thirty years. You cannot make mistakes if you have a history of nothing; doing nothing. How can you make a mistake if you never did anything?
The PPP/C Government did not come to power with a waiting list of contractors or engineers or a list of experience project coordinators. Where were they? They were in St. Lucia, Canada, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados, but not in Guyana. We had to start from zero. Certainly MP, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine knows this, he has pronounced on this on several occasions in the past. How many of my friends and colleagues, including his colleagues, were run out of Guyana. “Ow” after you attack the PNC of helping oppress them, they all ran out of this country.
When we came into power, we had three major contractors, namely, Brian Tiwari, Courtney Benn and Lloyd Rose. Where is the beef, where were the contractors, where were the technical people? If we had imported dozens of contractors, this Opposition would call us anti-national. In every situation, medical, water, education, security, banking, we had to build capacity, we had to start over again. The process of building capacity must allow for error, it must allow for some degree of waste. We are still an underdeveloped country; we are still scrambling for skills and experienced personnel. Come on APNU and AFC give us a break. Are you attacking us for trying?
Do you understand the amount of disasters that can be pointed to towards developing countries, including the United States from a bridge collapsing in Nebraska, failure of the soil protection in Louisiana or do you want to go to France or Brazil where dams and airports collapse or should we go back to the United States and look at the space craft that exploded and led to the death of astronauts? You can only avoid mishaps if you stand still and Guyana will not stand still under the PPP. Guyana stood still under the PNC. China had several transit mishaps, but China is still going forward. The Opposition wants us to stay backwards and we will reject that.
We are attempting to modernise a society that was laid waste by an ancient emperor name Burnham; that was laid waste by the PNC. But are they going to continue to oppose us for trying? The proof is in the pudding; the proof is in the things you have done for society.
Let us stop for a moment and look at water, the commodity that was scarce under the PNC. This is an example of our performance of as a Government. Water, water everywhere. Comrade Backer no longer has to bathe in the “blacka”. Jump up again. [Mrs. Backer: You are so absurd.] You are still my friend and I still love you.
The Opposition must behave in a responsible manner. The Opposition cannot grandstand and play pity politics. The Opposition must participate in a process that is development oriented or they will be left on the side lines of development. History records them as Doctor. No; like my friend James Bond.
The Opposition is not the police; the Opposition should not behave like the watchman. If someone thieves, lock them up. They must behave like the understand economics and development, they cannot take an immature racist position. Linden cannot have a different electricity bill from the rest of Guyana. Are they different from the people in Georgetown? Are the people in Linden different from the people in Enmore? Are the people in Linden different from the people in Bartica and Blairmonth? This debate must be based on class it cannot be based on ethnicity. Dr. Roopnarine you were a man of the people, you must know that the debate has to be based on class. As an old Marxist you should know better.
Mr. Speaker: Alright keep your calm, take it easy.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, if Linden can get lower electricity rates, so must the farmers at Buxton and the sugar workers of Blairmonth. One race, one people and one destiny, shades of Burnham... I will teach you a couple of things tonight. The history of the PPP budget has shown that it is not discrimination oriented. We have divided the pie; the pie is not very large. You can go to all the regions; we have met social service obligations in the areas of water, housing, education and roads. List the villages and all you will see is positive changes; all you can see is development. We are all humans.
His Excellency, President Ramotar and the Hon. Minister Singh, they are all humans and they believe in dialogue. Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, all these great men participated in dialogue.
The Opposition must make their case. Our President is active in the budget...
Mr. Speaker, the debate must not be vicious. It must not be war mongering, it must not be theatre as presented by MP Moses Nagamootoo; it must be real. The Opposition must analyse our policy and if they are sound or unsound, the Government should be put to the task for discussions. We do not have a problem with discussions; we do not have a problem with talking; we do not have a problem with dialogue. If there are flaws, you point it out; we do not think there are any, but if you think there are point them out to us through dialogue.
This discourse must be scientific and intellectual. It must not be based on Bourda Market oriented brawls. We were elected to serve and manage this nation. The PPP/C was elected to serve and manage this nation and that we will do; that we must do. The Opposition must allow us to. I am not suggesting that the Opposition must blindly follow us, but they must be logical and sound in order for us to move towards a united Parliament. The election is over; people want roads, highways, more and better water systems. People want improved educational systems. People want a better health centre, more jobs. The Guyanese people are tired of empty rhetoric from the Opposition.
We have located the catalyst of job creation, in particular, in the areas of mining, petroleum, telecommunications and business services. We believe, like President Obama, that major infrastructural projects will drive the economy and create jobs.
We are on a correct economic political path. The debate must focus on solid economic policy. Mr. Greenidge, the architect of economic demise of Guyana from the PNC must prove to this nation that he has been rehabilitated and he can only show that he has been rehabilitated by joining with the PPP/C so that we could work together and continue with economic growth and culture migration of Guyanese. [Applause]
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