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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Budget Speech - Ms Jennifer Westford—2014

Hits: 3206 | Published Date: 01 Apr, 2014
| Speech delivered at: 73rd Sitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Dr. Jennifer R.A. Westford, MP

Minister of Public Service [Dr. Westford]: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Permit me to take this opportunity to congratulate the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh, and his hardworking officials for yet another well crafted budget for 2014. This Budget reflects the Government’s commitment to the most vulnerable, with particular emphasis on our children, youth, older persons and people with disabilities.
During the current financial period, we will embark on a nationwide frontline service delivery improvement initiative, focusing on the quality of the services we render, which is geared at providing a better life for all.
There are a number of elements of the developmental equation that are often very hard to quantify, yet are fundamental to achieving the outcomes we seek. The first of these is the quality of the services that Government delivers. When people experience poor service delivery, our projects fail. Then not only are citizens denied those services to which they are entitled, but in turn, their capacity to contribute further to the development process, is undermined. Unless our policies are implemented efficiently, courteously, honestly and enthusiastically, we will achieve far less than we intend and which our people surely deserve.
Our growing economy and rising standards of living have resulted in increased demands for new and better roads, more ports for mooring, increased and improved water, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure.
Over the years, this Government has invested in infrastructure that was either woefully rundown or non-existent in some cases. This 2014 Budget seeks to maintain that trend and also increase the sums allotted on much needed social infrastructure, such as I mentioned before, water electricity, schools, roads, health facilities and housing among others.
It must be noted that specific emphasis was placed on returning Georgetown to its long lost grandeur by the allocation of $500 million towards a clean-up exercise. Surprisingly, there were lots of adverse reactions emanating from some Members of this House. It is my view that the unsightly state of our beloved city must be of grave concern to all proud Guyanese, more so, to all of us in this House. I, therefore, urge my colleagues on the other side of this House to not only criticise this initiative but to also present their ideas in making this exercise a success so that together we can restore Georgetown to its long lost coveted title of the Garden city of the Caribbean.
We have heard the criticism that there is nothing for poverty alleviation in this Budget. This is ludicrous. The reality is that all of the members embodied in this 2014 Budget are geared towards alleviating and ultimately diminishing poverty in our country to negligible figures.
It is widely acknowledged by research that paid employment is the best way to lift vulnerable families out of poverty, and that is why this Government is focused on helping those vulnerable families by creating conditions for investors to open new businesses which will create much needed jobs. The Hon. Minister Irfaan Ali during his presentation yesterday explained how every new dollar invested through this Budget will translate into income for families.
Not only are we creating the enabling environment for investment, the Government through its social welfare policies is equipping vulnerable groups to become self-sufficient. We heard presentation from the Hon. Minister of Human Services on the Women of Worth and Single Parent Initiatives where persons are given the skills and financial assistance to create employment for themselves and as such assist in alleviating their state of poverty.
For the financial year of 2014, the total Budget available for the Public Service Ministry is $830 million. We have accepted that there will always be pressure on the resources availed to us to undertake the work before us. This propels us to seek greater efficiency and prudence in the use of our allotted resources. We are not deterred or overwhelmed; instead, our resolve is toughened.
The Public Service Ministry will this year call on all public servants to embrace discipline in the implementation of their various projects; to comply with all established norms, standards and statutes, and so disallow for the several complaints we get coming to this House from the Public Accounts Committee. They should also have compassion for the employees and the public we serve, and ensure there is efficiency in all our performances.
Hon. Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, a highly productive, efficient and disciplined Public Service is not a luxury nor is it a matter of intellectual and political pontificating. It is a primary ingredient towards the achieving of sustainable growth and development of our country.
What I request from the populace is simple: where the public servants do god, please affirm them. A great deal that we take for granted is done by some hardworking, dedicated people. When they fall short of their responsibility do not hesitate to complain and insist on proper treatment. Do not tolerate mediocrity, because we are not a people who celebrate mediocrity.
Mr. Speaker, may I voice my disgust at the Hon. Member Mr. Trotman’s reference to a selected few members of the Public Service when he referred to them as not being able to determine their nose hole from their posterior. I think we need to have regard and respect for our public servants. And as I said before, when they do wrong and make mistakes let us not condone them; let us say so.
The reforms we have embarked upon in the public sector will ensure that we build a public service, capable and oriented towards meeting the developmental aspiration of our people and our country. It is a constitutional imperative that we dare not fail in realising.
Mr. Speaker, Colleagues, imagine a world where every worker felt appreciated, respected and supported; where every worker is dedicated, committed and gives eight hours of every day to working productively. [Mdm. Speaker, Sir, I am accustomed at this hour the Hon. Member Mrs. Deborah Backer normally takes the chair. I am wondering if Mr. Williams will do so.] The Hon. Member Mrs. Volda Lawrence during her presentation, to the concern I would want to feel of everyone in this August House, spoke about our young children who were exposed to alcohol, drugs and prostitution in some instances. And, Sir, I wondered where were their parents. But as a Government, and I agree to some extent with Ms. Lawrence, we ought to fill that void where the parents do not live up to standard. And as such we have been in 2013, and will continue in 2014, training a cadre of psychologists who will be assigned to the Ministry of Human Service and the Ministry of Education.   [Mr. B. Williams: You said that two years ago. They are finished training yet?]    For the Hon. Member’s information it takes four years and six months to train a psychologist. I said psychologist; I did not say a technician.
Imagine a world where every child was taught in an environment that is conducive for learning, where every child feels cared for and every child will give the best of his childhood, learning in the full knowledge that his efforts are the most important investment this country’s needs; imagine a country where every parent and adult takes their responsibility for the education of their children; imagine what a foundation we would build for this country.
We have gone a long way in addressing the social needs of our people by providing decent shelter, water, electricity, healthcare facilities, schools, social security services, housing, roads and other infrastructure; the list is long. A lot still needs to be done, but with our prudent and sound economic policies we will see the job through. We could not have done these things and we could not do more if we did not have responsive, dedicated and committed public servants who are motivated, willing, and capable of carrying out our developmental mandate.
In order to improve the academic prowess of our human capital the Public Service Ministry will continue its aggressive scholarship and training policy in the fields of health, education, agriculture, water resources, engineering and information technology. More emphasis will be placed this year on the training of specialists in the medical field, in specialities such as obstetrics and gynaecology, neurology, paediatrics, oncology and pathology. Already we have five such specialists in training. Also, we will be training most needed specialists in the field of hydrometeorology, as we just heard from the Hon. Minister of Agriculture when he lamented the need for skilled staff in that area. This aggressive training and upgrading of skills will ensure that we maintain a constant availability of highly competent staff.
The Public Service Ministry and the Guyana Public Service Union have recommenced meeting this year to discuss workers issues. We are now piloting an arrangement where we will restore our negotiations formations and will soon introduce a dispensation on how we deal with salary increases. I have heard two speakers on the opposite side of this House mentioning that there is no salary increase for public servants in the Budget. This is misleading and inaccurate. If I remember well it was the very Members of the Opposition who chastised the Government for unilaterally imposing salary increases. We are therefore allowing the outcome of the collective bargaining process between the Government and the Guyana Public Service Union to determine the percentage of salary increases.
This administration shall continue to support any scheme that would improve the welfare of the entire workforce. We will continue to work with the trade unions to ensure that staff are accorded maximum available employment benefits. And I repeat, available employment benefits.
We are confident that we are on course to rebuild the trust seemingly lost between us and organised labour. A test case is in the way we manage negotiations to conclude bargaining processes. We will set deadlines together.
Hinterland development is of paramount importance to this administration, and it is for this reason that over the years tangible funds have been allocated to augment this developmental process. In this 2014 Budget the regional administration of Region 7 will receive funds to execute the following projects: funds are available for the rehabilitation of administration building at Bartica; there will be the completion of two schools, one at Itaballi and one at Kaburi; rehabilitation and extension of the primary schools at Chinoweing and Imbaimadai in the Upper Mazaruni and Karatabo; there is going to be construction of teachers quarters at Issano in the Middle Mazaruni; construction of sanitary blocks at Paruima and Itaballi primary schools; there will be construction of two health posts, one at Wineperu and Kartabo; the rehabilitation and extension of health posts at Kaburi and Batavia; installation of solar systems for health posts at Winiperu and Kartabo; also installation of solar systems at primary schools at Paruima, Quebeang, and Kanguruma; there is going to be the purchase of an x-ray processor and film hopper, haematology machines, blood storage refrigerator, diathermy pads, infant warmers, drip stands, beds, and filing cabinets to equip the region’s health facilities. There is going to be the purchase of an ambulance, an ATV, boats and outboard engines for the health sector; purchase of furniture and equipment for the schools; purchase of boats and engines for the regional education sector; there is going to be construction of the river bank revetment at Byderabo; there is construction of the bridge which is in disrepair at Phillipai; there is construction and rehabilitation of roads at Agatash and Tract X, Caribese Hill.
Much needed rehabilitation will also be done on the Bartica/Potaro road through the budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Public Works. And needed works will be done at the airstrips at Parima and Phillipai since these are in dire need of repairs.
Is expected that the aforementioned interventions will enhance the livelihood of the residents of this Region and improve their tourism attractiveness.  The Hon. Member Mr. Keith Scott said that the Hon. Member Irfaan Ali mentioned last year that he was expecting yachts to visit the Essequibo River, and was querying whether there were any such appearances. May I inform this Hon. House that in 2013 there were 50 yachts visiting the Essequibo River, and they spent an average of 21 days. In 2014 plans have already been made for the visits of 75 such yachts of which Bartica and its environs will be the receipts of much needed resources.
When this 2014 Budget is objectively perused its holistic approach to poverty alleviation is blatant. We have heard this Budget being described by a Member of this House as a "repair and maintenance" Budget, but it must be understood that in order not to disrupt the infrastructural developmental progress that has occurred under this PPP/C administration over the past 20 years, repair and maintenance of structures is vital. It must be noted that simultaneous to the maintenance and repair of existing structures, new installations such as schools, health facilities, roads, bridges, airports, and hydro project dams will be constructed.
Budget 2014 must not and cannot be viewed in isolation. It must be viewed as a link in the Guyana social and economic developmental chain. There is no denying that through the PPP/C Government’s prudent macroeconomic policies, Guyana has experienced seven years of uninterrupted growth and is poised to continue that trend.
Over the next 12 days everyone in this House will expound on their interpretation of this Budget but it must not be lost on any of us that we are seen as leaders by our respective constituents. Once again for emphasis let me say that we are regarded as leaders in this House. So let us conduct ourselves and our business as such. Let us make constructive criticisms where it is warranted and, simultaneously, let us make objective recommendations for improvements. Let us leave a legacy of meaningful engagement for our future leaders, our young people, to follow.
There is a popular song that was sung by, if not all of us, most of us while we were at school. Were I to be speaking at a different forum I would have requested all present in this House to joint in singing this song. But seeing that I have the floor at the moment I want to seek the indulgence of yourself and my colleagues, not to sing the song since I am not artistically endowed, but to repeat the words of the song. The name of the song is “Let us Co-operate.” [Noisy Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, okay. It appears you got your song, but you may still proceed with the words.
Dr. Westford: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. I will still read the words. I will read the first verse only. It says:
Let us cooperate for Guyana;
Let us cooperate for our land;
Let us resolve to fight together;
See we do it right together;
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
Each man must do his best for his comrades;
Each man must do his best for his land;
Each must resolve to help another;
Learn to call his neighbour brother;
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
Each group must do its best for the region;
Each group must do its best for the land.
Each group must sacrifice a little;
Learn to do without a little;
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
The regions must unite for the country;
The regions must unite for the land;
Each region has its chosen mission;
But they all have one ambition;
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
Let us cooperate for Guyana;
Let us cooperate for our land;
Let us resolve to fight together;
See we do it right together;
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
We have lots of challenges to overcome but we can only surmount them if we do it together. What we need is more productive collaboration to the benefit of all our people, should we fail history will judge us harshly. So let us move this country forward together. Once again I am asking as one people, one nation, aspiring one destiny.
I thank you. [Applause]

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