Budget Speech - Mr Neendkumar—20143332 03 Apr, 2014
Mr. Neendkumar: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. Hon. Ministers, fellow Hon. Members of this honourable House, as I rise to offer my unflinching support to Budget 2014 allow me to congratulate our Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh, and his reliable and competent staff for the timely preparation and sound presentation of this year budget consistent as the constitutional provisions as set out in the laws of Guyana.
I have listened attentively, and very carefully, to the contributions of all those who made their contributions so far. I felt very bad sometimes when I heard some of the derogatory statements which were made, but I feel very proud to be on this side of the House which has men and women of integrity, men and women of substance, men and women who have led this country from the twentieth century to the twentieth-first century and these men and women, I am quite certain, will continue to lead this county for a very long time.
All Guyanese must be very thankful to the PPP/C administration for the presentation of this $220 billion budget. Further, we must be a happy nation to know that for the eighth consecutive year our country has realised real growth, hence, the theme of the budget is indeed appropriate A Better Guyana for All Guyanese.
This Budget 2014, which is $200 billion, is indeed a budget with an abundance of opportunities and certainly offers improvement in all facets of lives of every single Guyanese throughout this vast and diverse country of ours, eighth consecutive years of economic growth, with real GDP, expanding by 5.2% in 2013 which represents the largest period of uninterrupted real economic growth in independent Guyana. This is an ample testimony of quality leadership of the PPP/C Government-led administration which no one on the other side could match.
I am a son of a rice farmer. I grow up in the days when we were ploughing the rice fields with oxen. Today, I am proud to know that while in 1992 Guyana produced a mere 105 000 tons of rice it produced a record of 535 000 tons of rice in 2013.
Before 1992 the gold and diamond revenue was not accounted for, it was not put into the Consolidated Funds. In 2013 the gold industry achieved 9.7% growth to reach 481,087 ounces, the highest record in the history of the gold industry, including the period during Omai operations.
Expert earnings amounted to US$1.4 billion while foreign direct investments accounted for US$214 million. Guyanese are proud to know that this PPP/C administration has a gross international reserve of $776.9 million. We must also commend the private sector as it expanded by 14.5% during 2013. [Mr. Greenidge: Whose reserve?] His reserve was zero [Mr. Nandlall: Minus zero.] Yes, minus zero. It cannot be denied that this PPP/C Government has transformed the economy and our people are enjoying a better life – sugar and rice must be supported.
As for bauxite - I want to answer Dr. Rupert Roopnarine - everyone who worked in the bauxite industry knows that the industry became unprofitable since 1982 and it deteriorated under the last People’s National Congress (PNC) administration. The poor condition of both plant and mining equipment, resulted in heavy loss of market during the 80s and 90s despite an abundance of assistance, because of poor management and weak governance by the PNC, bauxite production from Linden Mining Enterprise (LINMINE) fell by more than 45% from 1991 to 1992 and continued to drop thereafter, despite Mining and Processing Engineers (MINPROC) which was brought in under the PNC administration to manage this industry in an attempt to make it survive.
It is the PPP/C Government that took a bold decision in June 2003 to have LINMINE operations managed by Cambior Inc., a Canadian company which owned Omai Gold Mine Inc. Omai Bauxite Mining Inc. (OBMI) had an interim measure until the PPP/C was able to better organised the financing for the full joint venture through privatisation. In December 2004, the Linden bauxite was privatised by joint shares with Cambior Inc., having 70% shares and Government 30 % shares.
The Cambior Inc. shares were sold to Bosai Minerals Group Co. Ltd. in 2007. Today, the PPP/C and the workers at Linden can boast that Bosai Minerals Group Co. Ltd. is running Bosai operations at a profit over the last four years. The company employs 640 persons directly while more than 1,000 persons are employed on contract or otherwise. [Mr. Greenidge: How many of them are Chinese?] It only has 18 foreigners. Only 18 are working for your information. After all of the years of the of the bauxite industry today, we must recognise the fact that there is a dust collector at kiln number 14 and systems are in place to provide more dust collectors to ensure a healthiest and safe environment in Linden. The Hon. Minister is telling me that kiln number 18 is also installed, presently.
I wish to remind this House that the PPP, Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s led Government, 50 years ago, was removed from Government in 1964 with two minority parties and the PNC closed the Aluminum Plant that Dr. Jagan’s Government built in Linden. [Mr. Nandlall: Who closed it?] The PNC closed it; the PNC destroyed the Surapana farm; the PNC destroyed the citrus and agricultural farm in Kwakwani; above all the PNC ruined the Kwakwani, Ituni and Linden communities. The vibrant goat farm on the Kwakwani/Linden trail was also destroyed under your watch. [Dr. Singh: Who was the Minister of Finance?] A man named Carl Greenidge - short man.
With respect to the Berbice operations, Dr. Roopnarine, Berbice Mining Enterprise (BERMINE) died under the PNC administration. However, Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI)/ Russian Aluminium Company (RUSAL) is presently developing that operation. In 2013 the Berbice operations produced 1,563,000 tons of bauxite while in 2014 the target is set at 1,624,000 tons. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we are on our last presentations and I think we should give the speaker our attention. Please let us settle down. I know that we are anxious to leave but let us settle down.
Mr. Neendkumar: The main activities in 2013 for BCGI were:
• Improving the quality of bauxite.
• Decreasing the volume of transshipment from 2 million tons to 1.5 million tons.
• Reducing the quality of rental equipment.
• The adoption of a satellite communication channel; and
• Increasing the availability of efficient mining equipment.
RUSAL considers the development to be one of the main aspects of the company. The development - Mr. Greenidge could not call this word - of Kurubuka deposits was that there was 33 million tons of bauxite reserves. The operational life of Kurubuka deposit is 15 years while there will be stable jobs for more than 1, 000 full-time workers, subcontracts and otherwise will attract more than 2,000 workers.
A tour to the new development at the mining area in the Berbice River is indeed a revelation. I would like to take Members of the opposite side on a tour. There is a new well constructed wharf [Ms. Ally: Who wrote the speech?] Jaipaul. I wanted to bring a pair of boxing gloves for you this morning when you all were quarrelling in the office. We can now see a new oil generator set, there is also a new conveyor system and a new spanking dryer, and there is a new warehouse for dried bauxite. The community now enjoys a better road to commute on. The future of the bauxite operation in Region 10 looks exciting and encouraging.
I now turn my attention to development works at the regional level. In the education sector in excess of $40 million was spent on the enhancement of physical infrastructure benefiting the children of Ituni, Aroaima and Mackenzie, just to name a few. In the other areas another $130 million was spent on roads, agricultural development, improvement in transportation, enhancement of power supply for betterment for all of the people of Linden.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I just heard the Hon. Whip on the other side heckle from the floor “and how much money is going in your pocket?”
Mr. Speaker: You said so Ms. Ally, and to whom?
Ms. Teixeira: Somehow you do not hear what we hear, Sir, sometime.
Mr. Speaker: Ms. Ally, you said so, and to whom? Were you speaking… [Interruption] Hon. Members, one second… [Interruption] Hon. Members, I did hear something but the point is: Was it addressed to any person?
Ms. Teixeira: He was the one on the floor. It was a question asked to him – “and how much money going into your pocket?” [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, let us settle down please. Continue Mr. Neendkumar.
Mr. Neendkumar: Mr. Speaker, I can ask in the same vein… The One Mile Primary School burnt down and some people went and collected moneys in New York, fundraising, and I want to know where the money is that was collected. Anyway I am not going there as yet.
The year 2014, Government will be, in keeping with that budget theme, better the total sum to the tune of close to $200 million that will be spent in Region 10.
Development under this Government never, and will never, in any form and fashion stop. Let us together examine what we did for the people in Region 4, right here where we all live. In the RDC Region 4, this people-oriented Government invested in excess of $135 million in the following areas – agricultural development, roads improvement, enhancement in the supply of power, further enhancement in the education and health sector. In this year the Government is committed in approving expenditure to the tune, in excess, of $190 million. This is development in progress for all of the people in the region.
The building and construction of several diverse sports facilities around the country over the last few years is indeed motivational and is a manifestation of promises kept by the PPP/C. The PPP/C Government spent approximately $3 billion in the construction and maintenance of state- of-the-art facilities to promote and enhance various sports disciplines in Guyana.
On Tuesday we heard the Hon. Member, Mr. Trevor Williams – I told him I was going to answer him – questioning the leadership and vision of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. [Ms. Wade: What is wrong with that?] What is wrong with that? I told both Mr. Jones and Mr. Williams that anything they want they can come and I will discuss it with them. His main laments were that the Ministry is visionless, yet he has failed miserably to offer any alternative vision in his presentation. It is simple; he probably has none.
In the last eight years alone, we can see substantial investment and transformation of the sports sector. We have seen the development of the Guyana National Stadium, the National Aquatic Centre, public squash courts, and national synthetic athletic track – and it was completed today. It is not “soon” any longer; it is complete. Lights at the Albion Cricket Ground will be a reality shortly.
Following the logic of my Hon. Friend Williams, these historic firsts in Guyana is visionless. In an article written by the Hon. Member on 1st December, 2013 in the Alliance For Change (AFC) Column, he offered his grand vision for sports development in Guyana, which is to rename the Guyana National Stadium the Clive Lloyd National Stadium. While I have no problem recognising Mr. Clive Lloyd, who is an advisor to the Government on sport, the point is: naming the facility will not cause sports to develop in Guyana. You have to do much more than that. You have to invest in people, programmes and facilities.
Mr. T. Williams: I commend the Hon. Member for quoting my article but he did not say state the title of the article and what it was meant to say and that is not fair.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Williams, you had a chance to present your vision and you cannot tell the other speaker what in your article he should refer to. It is a debate. It is for him to pick what he feels he wants to pick from the article.
Mr. T. Williams: He is misinforming the House. That is not fair.
Mr. Speaker: We ask for references so that there is no doubt as to source, but when a Member is quoting that another Member has written an article...there is no denial that the article was written by Mr. Trevor Williams. We insist on references because we want to know that our sources are correct. If you are denying that you actually wrote an article, then we can demand and insist that the source be given. If you do not have the reference of the article tonight, you can provide it tomorrow, Sir.
Mr. Neendkumar: Mr. Speaker, I never come here unprepared. I have the article in my hand.
Mr. Speaker: What is the name of the article?
Mr. Neendkumar: The name of the article is, “A tenure characterised by inaction – Part 1”. It is in the 1st December, 2013 edition of the Kaieteur News.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Williams, does that satisfy you?
Mr. T. Williams: The Hon. Member is claiming that my alternative for sports development is naming the Stadium after Mr. Clive Lloyd.
Mr. Neendkumar: That is what you said.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Williams, was that one of your recommendations? Yes or no.
Mr. T. Williams: Not in that light, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Did you, at any time, recommend that the Stadium be renamed the Clive Lloyd Stadium? Yes or no.
Mr. T. Williams: Yes, I did.
Mr. Speaker: Well, then the Member is in order.
Mr. Neendkumar: I am quoting.
“With justification, there are many who consider it a travesty that the Guyana National Stadium has not been properly and appropriately named the Clive Lloyd National Stadium.”
Do you know what is interesting? This article was written in December last year. In the article, he stated that in part two he would examine Dr. Anthony’s failure in the areas of music and the performing arts. I am still waiting for that article. You have to do much more than that. You have to invest in people, programmes and facilities. That is what we are doing. So, I guess we know who is visionless.
If you go to the AFC’s Action Plan, in a half-page captioned “Sports policy”, you will see that many of the things listed there have already been implemented by this Government. I just want to highlight two areas.
In sports education, the AFC would like to see courses in sports medicine, sports nutrition, physiotherapy and sports administration. The Government has established a multipurpose facility – the National Sports Resource Centre – that would evolve into a national sports institute where the courses mentioned and many others would be taught. It was a good idea, though, Mr. Trevor Williams.
This is not just about electioneering by making empty promises that you cannot fulfil. This is about proper planning and delivering on those plans. The National Sports Resource Centre is not a dream. It is a reality. I will say some more about it later.
Mr. Greenidge: Could the Hon. Member please indicate when this institution was established and why he is using terminology...?
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, we are not considering the Estimates and so no question may be put to a Member and no Member is obliged to answer. This is a debate. If I say it is my party’s vision to establish an institute...
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, would you be so kind as to listen to me?
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge, with the greatest of respect, it is a debate. You cannot...
Mr. Greenidge: I am not questioning the vision.
Mr. Speaker: You cannot question a Member to give a time. That is his right. Mr. Greenidge, it is a debate.
Mr. Greenidge: I am asking as a matter of fact.
Mr. Speaker: You cannot ask a question in a debate.
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, am I allowed to ask a question of fact?
Mr. Speaker: No, Mr. Greenidge. You cannot ask a Member, in a debate, a question.
Mr. Greenidge: It is about a fact. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will bear that in mind when I am speaking as well.
Mr. Neendkumar: Hon. Speaker, I promise you that I will answer him. Mr. Speaker, we must match rhetoric with action. I know that the AFC Manifesto stated that you worked to establish a national league in basketball. I know the general secretary of the AFC, who is my good friend, is the President of the Guyana Amateur Basketball Association (GABA). I wonder why no league was established under his tenure. Under the new President, Mr. Nigel Hinds, the national basketball club championship is currently being played. Was this vision or visionless leadership by the AFC? It is easy to criticise but when they had the opportunity to get things done, they have failed miserably.
Mr. Speaker: You have four minutes to wrap up.
Mr. Neendkumar: In their plan, they talked about the development of community grounds. Just last year, we spent $300 million on community grounds. Let me assure you that a list can be provided to you.
Hon. Mr. Williams said that the Ministry is visionless. I would advise the Member to check the AFC’s one-page on cultural policy in its Action Plan. I will say that most of what is listed there, this Government has already achieved. I will go further to say that we have surpassed what is stated there. The visionless Ministry did this: the National Music School was established; the National Theatre and Drama School was established; the Caribbean Press for publishing young writes such as the Hon. James Anthony Bond, whose poetry is in one of the books, was established.
Mr. Speaker, I feel very proud because LFS Burnham was a son of this soil. When I look at a book that was printed by this same Press... Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate you on this wonderful preface you wrote; it is good language and it is good for children. Congratulations, Mr. Speaker. This is Mr. Forbes Burnham.
I am pleased that last year the Ministry completed the 1823 Monument. My friend and schoolmate, Mr. Trevor Thom, designed this statue. He has done an excellent job. I am proud of him and so too are thousands of Guyanese who have seen the monument.
Mr. Speaker: Two minutes more, Mr. Neendkumar.
Mr. Neendkumar: You will have to give me a little more time. As Guyanese, we are all proud of the Guyana National Stadium at Providence. It has become a landmark and houses visitors from around the world. The spanking new Olympic-sized swimming pool is today a reality and very soon the national aquatic centre will be an international facility with the completion of the warm-up and warm-down pools.
The National Racquet Centre at Woolford Avenue is a reality. Today, we can talk about the glamorous squash courts which are both of international standard and the first public courts in the Caribbean.
Recently – that is one month ago – the National Sports Resource Centre was commissioned by the Hon. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony. This $55 million project adds to the ambience of the National Racquet Centre which also accommodates the tennis and squash courts. The commissioning of this important and necessary facility marks the beginning of a new era in sports for Guyana.
The National Sports Resource Centre will create the opportunity for athletes to be exposed to information via print and electronic media which will take them at the various sports fraternities to the highest level. Athletes, coaches, students and the general public will be exposed to public lectures we intend to organise. We recognise the fact that access to information is extremely important and intend to ensure development in this essential area. Hence, the National Sports Resource Centre is the forerunner for a future national sports institute, Mr. Greenidge, which is essential for Guyana to continue the positive development in the world of sports. This aesthetic and educational facility is expected to provide guidance, training and certification to the stakeholders in sports. Athletes, coaches, umpires, referees, scorers, journalists, managers, chaperones, technical persons, along with the general public will benefit. It is also envisaged that through various initiatives, the National Sports Commission (NSC) will organise several training programmes. With the Resource Centre, we will be able to train and ultimately give certificates and diplomas to our sports officials.
The year 2013 was highly successful for some of our sports personalities. Shivnarine Chanderpaul continued to break records while our squash queen Nicolette Fernandes and other squash players continued to keep the Golden Arrowhead flying high.
In conclusion, I was extremely impressed with the crowd that attended the Babu John rally on the first Sunday in March. I was extremely impressed with the massive crowd at State House and I was extremely impressed with the turnout of the PPP/C supporters in Linden when we opened the office. This means that the PPP/C is ready for local and general elections.
Allow me to once more congratulate the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh, and his staff. To all Members of this House, let us work together for a better Guyana. [Applause]
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