Budget Speech Ms Rodrigues-Birkett 20143002 07 Apr, 2014
Minister of Foreign Affairs [Mrs. Rodrigues-Birkett]: Mr. Speaker, Hon. Members, since this is the first time I am speaking in this National Assembly since her passing, allow me to extend my deepest condolence to the family, friends and party of the late Deborah Jan Osman-Backer. As the shadow MP responsible for foreign affairs, up to the time of her resignation and indeed as an MP in general, I certainly miss her. She probably would have been speaking today before me or some time after me and we enjoyed a cordial relationship. May her soul rest in peace.
Mr. Speaker, allow me, at the outset, to congratulate the Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh and his staff at the Ministry of Finance who did not fail to provide us once again with a budget that is inclusive as it is forward looking for considering the vulnerable as it did the major pillars of development – education, health, infrastructure and agriculture. We, on this side of the House, are understandably proud of this Budget as it continues on the path the PPP/Civic has set.
I have listened to the critiques of the Budget provided by various Members of the Opposition and, yes, a few were constructive while others were not and lacked context. Indeed, in the latter category, one Member, Hon. Keith Scott, quoted from a 2012 World Bank Report and he said that Guyana is the third poorest country in Latin America and the poorest in South America. In that same Report, if he went down a little bit, he would have seen:
“Guyana weathered the effects of the recent global financial crisis very well compared to other Caribbean countries or the rest of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
While most economies in the Region contracted during the crisis years (2008-2009), the Guyanese economy recorded an average of 4 percent.”
I do not want to look back. It is not a very nice sight and that chapter, I would say, is closed and we are writing a new chapter, a better chapter, for this country but I would just give one example because there was a period in our history when Caribbean countries moved forward as Guyana moved in the opposite direction - backward. When we look at the period, for example, the tenure 1981 to 1990, Guyana had seven of 10 years of negative growth, as low as -11.4%. During that same time, Antigua and Barbuda had positive growth for nine of those ten years as high as 9.8%. What the Hon. Member, Mr. Scott, I think, should be doing is congratulating the PPP/Civic for reversing this downhill journey on which this dear land was taken and congratulating us because of the 21 years we have managed this country, 18 of them were recorded as having positive growth.
Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh is very envied in the Caribbean for presiding over the longest period of uninterrupted growth. The record would show how many Ministers of Finance have been changed during that time.
As I said last year, Guyana does not exist in a vacuum and, consequently, we are affected by international realities. The Hon. Minister of Finance spoke modestly about some of these and Hon. Minister Irfaan Ali also outlined some of these, but I want to add to this a bit because, as I said, we must look at our domestic situation as well as we must look at how we fared in comparison with the Latina American and the Caribbean region as well. What are some of the statistics that are publicly available? According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Guyana was poised – this was just before the year ended – to lead CARICOM with a growth rate 5.2% and in terms of the wider Latin American Region, it was only behind Paraguay, Panama and Peru. Guyana was forth in the entire Latin American and the Caribbean regions. Regardless of which angle you look at these figures, our country has done well. Even if some would want to argue, because there is an argument that growth does not necessarily mean that there is equity and there is a reduction of poverty, we have lots of evidence to show and the first one I would like to point to is what Mr. Ramsammy said.
Last year, the Hon. Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, travelled to Rome to uplift the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) award for achieving Millennium development Goal (MDG) 1 two years in advance. We also received an award for halving the proportion of hungry people and meeting the more stringent World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the absolute number of malnourished people. This is what the United Nations (UN) had to say about Guyana:
“Guyana’s outstanding achievement in meeting these targets has been, in no small measure, due to its commitment to investment in the agriculture sector as well as to regional security.”
The FAO representative with Guyana said:
“FAO is pleased to have partnered with the Government in its efforts and will continue to work closely with them, and other development partners, to eradicate hunger and promote food and nutrition security, not only in the country but also the wider Caribbean.”
This is not what the PPP/Civic has said. This is what the FAO of the UN has said. Mind you, they did not say that this was because of drug dealing.
If we have any doubts that we have progressed, just look around us. Look at the many homes that are being built, creating that sense of independence and achievement for our people. Look at the private sector and its contributions. People would not invest if they do not feel confident.
In 2004, our local airlines had a fleet of about 27 aircrafts and they had 658 flights per month. Today, the statistics are, as of March, a fleet of 45 aircrafts with 1,494 flights per month. This is out of the Ogle Airport. I do not believe that all of these people in the airline industry are involved in drugs either.
Let us look at the places today with cellular phone coverage, from Imbaimadai to Aishalton to Moruca to Lethem to Port Kaituma. These are all positive developments for our country. We have continuously increased wages and salaries and pensions. We have provided increases in public assistance and provided our children with school uniforms. In some places, we provided school feeding programmes. Guyana is no basket case. The great majority of our people are hard working people.
There will be, in any country, a minority of citizens who would live on the other side of the law, but I think that we have a responsibility in this House to be responsible for what we say and I was disturbed when the Hon. Member, Mr. Winston Felix... I made sure that I went back to the record to see if what I heard him say was what I heard him say and this is what he said: “Mr. Speaker, every item leaving Guyana, every conceivable item exported from Guyana is tainted with cocaine.” It was this same Hon. Member who complained some time ago that our Guyanese people receive treatment that is less than good in some Caribbean territories. These kinds of statements would not help the law abiding exports of this country. It is like outing fire with gasoline and we have to avoid these kinds of statements because these debates are running live. Whatever we say here will go out into the international community, whether we want it or not, so we have to be careful. Yes, we have our problems; we have many problems but I believe that in this House, among the 65 Members of this House, we have a duty to not engage in negative branding of our entire nation.
I have listened to many submissions and I have listened keenly to my colleagues, especially from the interior regions outlining the needs. Of course, we have a lot to do in all communities in Guyana but we must be aware that development demands more development and sometimes faster development. For example, in some villages – I would give the village where I was born, like Moruca – people, I think, are moving to another level of personal development. And many villages are like this. In my childhood, we had one tractor and half of another vehicle. We had the San Jose Bridge, which was a footpath, a wooden bridge. It was not a vehicular bridge and we had one bicycle. That is why I do not even know to ride a bicycle because we had none in the village. People want better these days and in that village now, I am advised that we have over 100 private vehicles. The people, of course, would demand more roads. They would demand better roads. They would demand a San Jose Bridge that vehicles can traverse on both sides of the river and this is why... [Ms. Ally: [Inaudible] about the bridge.] I agree; we have to complete this bridge. We have to do it very well and we will do that. The PPP/Civic will do that.
It is, with many places, as I said with Georgetown, a challenge to keep up with building roads as fast as people are brining vehicles, but that is development. The question is: how do we create a conducive environment to expand our economy, to meet the ever growing needs of our population since, as I said, development is a dynamic process and the population today demands more and faster development? This is why this Budget addresses the short-term, medium-term and long-term needs of our country.
How do we, as I said, expand our economy? There is US$4 million for the Hospitality Institute, for example. It is something that I think is very important because we all know - and I think the Hon. Member, Mrs. Katherine Hughes, spoke passionately about tourism – that tourism is one of the sectors that benefit many other sectors.
The Amaila Falls Hydropower Plant: let me say, Mr. Speaker, that there is no way, at this point in time, that we would be able to compete with our immediate neighbours, continental and some of our island neighbours because if one looks around us, and I have said this before, Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname all have hydropower and oil. We look at Trinidad; it has oil. Guyana sits in between and does not have any of these. Part of it is because we have not put aside some of our political differences and work to ensure that we build this hydropower plant so that we would have cheap and reliable energy so that we can expand our manufacturing sector.
This is very important: the Linden/Lethem road that Mr. Allicock spoke about, and he made a suggestion that we should use the yearly allocations and pave parts of the road. Mr. Allicock, I would like to inform you that that would take approximately 300 years because to pave one kilometre of road costs approximately, I have been advised, US$3 million and this is why we have included money in this Budget to do some upgrading on the road while, at the same time, we are working with the Brazilian Government to do a design study.
Who could quarrel with the expansion of the Airport? If we are talking tourism and if we are talking about better transport, we have to look at that.
Much has been said about the Marriott Hotel but I am going to tell you this, Mr. Speaker: as Foreign Minister of this country, we had to refuse hosting several meetings because we did not meet the standard required in terms of numbers of rooms in some cases, and this is true. So we have a lot of our local hotels that are doing very well but we have to up the numbers. We have to have facilities that can cater for quite a lot of people and this is why... [Mr. B. Williams: Princess Hotel does not [inaudible]] Yes, I can tell you that one Head of State, who was visiting Guyana, the advanced party ruled out... [Mr. B. Williams: Pegasus?] Yes, they ruled it out.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, just be careful. Sorry Minister, but these are established entities. I would not want a list of who was ruled out and who could not stay where. I do not think that it would help their businesses at all. Go ahead please, Minister.
Mrs. Rodrigues-Birkett: I am informing this National Assembly that we have to ensure that we move forward in terms of our facilities. I am saying that our people are doing very well, but we have to move to another level in our country.
I want to talk a little bit also about the pension and the increase and the operative word, of course, is ‘increase’ in the pension. Every year, we work to increase the pension of our elderly and this, I think, we must commit to do, not only in this Budget but in future budgets. We must not look at this measure in isolation from other measures and we must look at this old age pension in comparison with Latin America and the Caribbean as well. The comparisons must not only be done where we lag behind. It must be done where we lead as well. What are the statistics publicly available? Firstly, four out of five older people in the world have no access to pension – period. Secondly, in countries such as Barbados, Mexico and Panama, the old age pension is not given to persons who receive pension, let us say, from a contributory scheme. It is not given to them. In the other countries of the region, countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil, all apply a means test and, of course, some of these countries, one can argue, are better off than Guyana from a financial standpoint.
I do not know how many people are aware of this but Guyana is one out of only three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that apply a universal pension - to everyone. The other two countries are Bolivia and Suriname. Suriname started some time ago. Of course, we know that Guyana did so in 1993 and Bolivia in 2000. Suriname pays approximately US$150, Bolivia about US$35 and Guyana’s would be about US$64 or so. As we criticise and we speak about need for more increases and so on, we must be aware that we have set a standard that others are being called to follow. In fact, there is an Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Report calling on others in the Region in order to reduce inequity to follow what Guyana has done. In all of this that has happened, I think that our country has done well. We are paying the second highest. It is a universal pension so regardless of what our elderly own, regardless of whether they are having pensions from other places, regardless of what their assets are, we provide that pension to them.
As I turn to our neighbourly relations, our relations with Brazil, of course, every year, we work to strengthen that relationship and the major focus of our work right now is the Joint Commission on Infrastructure projects looking at the three areas of the Linden/Lethem Road, possible hydropower development in the Middle and Upper Mazaruni and port development in Georgetown. I will continue to update this National Assembly.
Let me say that the Hon. Member, Dr. Roopnarine, asked that the Assembly be updated on a regular basis. The Prime Minister, the Hon. Member, invited all of the political parties in Parliament to a briefing session which was held at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) as we did with the private sector, the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and several others. I was very concerned that except for your good self and the Hon. Member, Mrs. Katherine Hughes, no other Member of Parliament... Of course, Members of the PPP/Civic attended, but no other Member of Parliament from the Opposition attended. A representative of APNU was there but not a Member of Parliament. Let me say this: this is too important to quarrel about. We are ready, the Prime Minister and his team, to conduct another session with Members if they so wish because this is very important for Guyana’s development.
We travelled to the Upper Mazaruni and we met with the communities there and the communities were very concerned that their villages would be flooded. Obviously, there were some rumours in the villages that we would be flooding the entire Upper Mazaruni, but we assured them. I want to reiterate this again – I know the Hon. Member, Ms. Dawn Hastings, was at one of those briefing sessions in Jawalla – that we are not going to support and project that would flood the entire Upper Mazaruni. The technology of the 1970s has been improved significantly and the area that would have been required for the reservoir back then has been reduced by about more than 90% and there is a good chance that we would not even need to have a reservoir based on the designs, but we are waiting on the pre-feasibility study to be competed and we would have more information. We would be updating this House and the communities.
In terms of the relationship with Suriname, we, again, continue to work diligently with that country. Our two countries are contiguous. We are members of CARICOM. We are associate members of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR). We are members of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). So it goes without saying that we should try to forge our energies and work together. It is in that context that we view, not only our diplomatic, political and trade links with the rest of South America but also the infrastructure initiatives that are being pursued and key among those is the Corentyne Bridge. I think one Member spoke about not releasing any funds aimed at that if we are not open with information and I just want to inform this honourable House that the plan on the table right now is for the Corentyne River Bridge to be funded by the Government of Suriname with resources from at third party, possibly China which is very interested. What Guyana has to do is the approach to the bridge and other facilities on our side.
The Border Commission has met last year on three occasions. Those meetings are proceeding very well. At the appropriate time, we would be happy, in a different setting, to speak more about that but let me just say that Guyana remains respectful and fully supportive of the agreements that were arrived at between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands between 1929 and 1939 and we believe that those agreements were made in good faith. Of course, we know, because of the World War, they were not signed. The work of the Commission will continue this year. I have noted, with some disappointment, certain statements purportedly emanating from some Members in this House and I want to say that it is statements like these made in the past that are thrown in our faces from time to time by the other side, so I think that we all in this National Assembly know what the unresolved issues are, but we are very sure about one thing. We are very sure about the shape and size of Guyana and, at all times, we must defend that.
In terms of Venezuela, the House was updated on that very unfortunate incident where a ship was intercepted in our waters. We had agreed to meet. Unfortunately, events in that country conspired for us not meeting. Recently, just a few weeks ago, I met with the Foreign Minister and he has assured me that they are working towards a date within the next two months or so, but we, on the Guyana side, are prepared for this first meeting which would be between our technical teams and we will continue as we do with all of our immediate neighbours. We will continue to analyse the overall situation of our relationship as we go along.
We continue to supply rice to Venezuela as we continue to purchase oil under the PetroCaribe Agreement and I have heard calls about looking at other markets and I think no country wants to be in a situation where one only has one or a huge market. It could be not in the best interest. But Venezuela has remained a very good trade partner and we want to preserve that relationship even as we look to other countries to sell our rice and, indeed, to purchase fuel because our needs are expanding in terms of the fuel we need. With the development in Guyana, we need more oil, and, even as we explore for oil, we have to look at other partners for us to purchase oil from as well.
As I turn my attention to the region in terms of CARICOM, let me say that we remain committed to the integration movement. Guyana presently chairs the Inter-Governmental Task Force on Contingent Rights. Our Ambassador, Mrs. Elizabeth Harper, who is in the House, chairs that committee. Mr. Speaker, this is very important for CARICOM but even as I am saying this, I am aware of what is in the newspapers today and what was in the past few days, concerning one of our citizens who died in Trinidad and Tobago because he did not receive emergency care that he should have received. Let me say this: there is no question about emergency care as far as CARICOM countries are concerned. They are supposed to do it.
In Guyana, I do not even believe any healthcare worker ask anyone what their nationality is before administering healthcare. So we must applaud ourselves for that.
I have spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs within the last hour and he has promised he would provide me with a report, but he has not said to me that what was in the newspapers is not accurate. So, it is a fact, that the gentleman did not receive the care he should have received. But, there is another article in today’s Stabroek News headlined “T&T Faud: Health card to clamp down on non-nationals.” The last paragraph of that article is very worrying if it is true. This is what it says the Minister of Health, Dr. Khan said, and I quote:
“Maybe we should set up a policy that before you come into the country let us see your medical insurance. Medical insurance is not expensive.”
That is very, very worrying. It is even more worrying coming from the country with the most resources, which benefits more from the CSME, than any other country in CARICOM. So we will formally request this be clarified. Because this has serious implications not only for Guyanese citizens, but for others and for the single market and economy as well.
Mr. Speaker, this year we will be chairing the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, in May Guyana will take over the Chairmanship of that Council. I want to say that one of the things we will certainly be discussing again, is how do we maximise the fourteen voices of CARICOM. We have seen when we work together that we can achieve certain things. You would have read, Mr. Speaker, Hon. Members, that the United Kingdom has altered its policy on the advance passenger duty which was charged on every ticket for persons coming to the region, and which was very discriminatory to the Caribbean. In other words, one can go to Hawaii, which is much further, and pay less tax than if coming to the Caribbean.
Because of our constant lobbying as a region we have seen that policy has now been amended. Too many times when we go it alone we see that the region loses. Of course, there are going to be times when we would have to go our separate ways, as has been seen in recent times. But, more and more we are coming together to see how we can benefit as a region. One measure that we would like to consider is sharing diplomatic missions. It is not something new, but was on the table for a long time. If countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile have come together to do this – countries with much more resources than us – then we as small countries have to look at this very seriously.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member your time has expired and you will require an extension.
Mr. Hinds: Mr. Speaker, I propose that the Hon. Minister be given fifteen minutes to continue her presentation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Mrs. Rodrigues-Birkett: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would just like to say those are some of the issues we would focus on. But in terms of UNASUR, we are also working on something that is called South American Citizenship. It is, maybe, akin to free movement where one can move freely in South America. Already we have agreement with some countries, but this is being worked on as something for the entire South America. I think, this will certainly aid in bringing our countries closer together. In the Defence Council we will be establishing UNASUR - a South American Defence School. And, again, Guyana would stand to benefit in this area.
I would like to say too as we look down South and work more with our South American neighbours, and Latin America in general, it is now an imperative for us to learn to speak Spanish. We must be bilingual; we do not have a choice. I know we do Spanish in some of our schools, but we have to do this more aggressively now at all levels. Perhaps, we can even arrange a session for Members of Parliament because right now we are cooperating with Columbia.
We have already completed some training programmes and are doing additional training programmes which should be starting in a few weeks. We now have Copa Airlines flying to Guyana. If they are going to hire flight attendants - and we hope they will - we will have to ensure they are bilingual. So our customs, immigration, and all these officers I think would have to be involved. We are working on this. But, at the same time, we have had approaches from countries in South America wanting to send their nationals to learn English. This is an excellent opportunity for business because they want to pay for this. So I think we need to look at this very seriously.
I just want to say in terms of trade, that last year, 2013, we doubled our exports to CARICOM. I think this is very significant – from $10.3 billion to $22.3 billion. It is more than double mostly in rice, sugar, molasses, sea-foods, lumber and, of course, rum. This year we will be focusing on our WTO review. Every six years we have to do a review. We would be focusing on that. We will also be looking at the five year agreement of the IIPA (International Intellectual Property Alliance) and would be updating the House on that as well.
Mr. Speaker, I want to speak briefly about the Diaspora. As you know, I had indicated last year we were working on a survey. That survey is now completed. We have now moved to another stage with the international organisation for migration, where we are working on a comprehensive Diaspora Policy Strategy as part of our foreign policy objective. We will, at the appropriate time, of course, be having a Diaspora Conference. And in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we are creating a one-stop-shop to deal with all Diaspora matters.
I would also like to say in terms of the Foreign Service Institute - I know the Hon. Leader of the Opposition is very interested in the institute and how we can improve the Foreign Service Institute – that it continues to provide a very valuable service to our young diplomats. But, of course, we want to ensure that not only our young diplomats, but others as well benefit – members of our armed forces and other academics. We have done quite a lot but we have more to do. This year, we will be focusing on ensuring that a curriculum is completed in that respect.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot end without speaking to some of the issues that were raised by some of the Hon. Members. As you know, I also have parliamentary responsibility as MP for Region 9. I want to speak to some of the issues raised by Hon. Member Mr. Allicock. Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, the Hon. Member, dealt with the issue of the chemicals being used on the Santa Fe Farm. But I want to say that we are engaged right now as a country in trying to attract investors to our country. Countries are paying millions to advertise on CNN, BBC as to why one should go there – Peru, Ecuador and Indonesia.
We do not have those resources to pay on those kinds of international networks, but we can send out positive messages from here. One of the things that worried a lot of people who are interested in this issue of, quote, unquote, what some consider smearing one of the Caribbean’s major businessmen, Sir Kippen Simpson, as far as it relates to Santa Fe. So I think we have to be careful how we make statements. We have to be careful what we are trying to find out. This is probably the premier Caribbean investment in Guyana. I wanted to mention that.
I also want to say to the Hon. Member, Mr. Allicock, that I happened to be Minister of Amerindian Affairs before I became Foreign Affairs Minister. On the issue of the school that was built at Sand Creek, there was a decision by everyone - I was there with the Former President - that the school will be built at Sand Creek. Why it was not at Shulinab is because Shulinab is the closest village to Lethem – Paikaranal is the smallest village. Sand Creek is the centre of south central and it has the facilities we can use to make our children happy. It was not anything about a promise to build at Shulinab and then we went to Sand Creek. No, it was not that. But let me also say, that the Hon. Member, Mr. Allicock, mentioned that children from Region 8 are attending school in Region 9. Well, we have children from Regions 1 to 10 attending schools in Georgetown.
One of the good things about this PPP/Civic administration, is that with the work we have done in education, which the Hon. Member, Minister Manickchand outlined, we have increased numbers at our schools. So the school at Paramakatoi has reached its maximum and that is why we are building a school at Kato. But, in the meantime, we wanted to make the children that pass their exams are in a school and that is why they have been placed at Sand Creek. If at any point in time there is a problem with a child not getting to go home at Christmas, I do not think we should wait for the budget debate. I think that should be dealt with on a one-to-one basis.
Also Mr. Allicock spoke about the Santa Rosa land boundary. I am from Santa Rosa, so you would imagine, I have an interest. Let me say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Hon. Member that the issue is this: When Santa Rosa was given a land grant first in 1976 it was in the Act and then in 1991 it was through a land grant, but the land grant excluded the first and second depth. It was not the PPP/Civic that did that. The community has been advised to apply for that land but I do not know if they have done so as yet. But I am sure that once that is done, the Hon. Member, Minister Sukhai, would be able to look at this. Let me also say, it was mentioned that we go around demarcating Amerindian lands without consultation. This Government has not demarcated one single Amerindian village without consultation. We have not extended, not granted any title without agreement. I just wanted to mention that.
Finally, in terms of what Mr. Allicock mentioned about having access to loans from the Banks, this is something that is a kind of Catch-22. When we did the consultation for the Amerindian Act, the Amerindian people said to us, listen, we want communal title; we do not want several titles, we want one title, because in that way the land cannot be sold. So the PPP/Civic said, fine, no problem. In fact communal or collective ownership is what Amerindian communities are built on.
But because we know communities like Surama and Santa Aratak are involved in tourism and agriculture there is a part in that Act that gives the community and the village council, the authority to lease lands up to not more than 10% of the territory for up to 50 years. If that can work for the Banks - I am told it has worked in some cases - then that is something the community might want to consider. But let me say this was not something that we, the Government of Guyana put in place. It is something that you might want to look at. In terms of the collective ownership that is what the community asked for.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say in terms of Region 9, and what has been mentioned by Mr. Allicock, there is some merit in some of what he said. But I think it is important that we recognise too what has been done and what will be done. The Budget of 2014, for example, provides for the upgrading of the Lethem abattoir. We know this is something that was asked for a long time and is very, very important.
There will be furniture for the staff quarters; bridges at Paipang, Bashaidran and Awaruwaunau. We are also looking at internal roads from Lethem to Potarinau, to Katunarib and Sawariwau, Aishalton to Awaruwaunau; solar systems for some of the schools - we have done some but we are doing more. The teachers’ quarters at Sand Creek and the extension of the Saint Ignatius and Yukupari Primary Schools will be done. Importantly, we are looking at a Maternity Waiting Home at Lethem because some of the mothers would come out there from time to time.
On the issue of referrals to Brazil, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say through you, to the Hon. Allicock, in some cases because of the time to Medevac someone from Lethem to Georgetown, it is shorter to take them to Boa Vista. What we are trying to do is make the system much easier and we are working with the Brazilian Government on this. And, yes, I agree we should have less referrals, but there are some cases we have to send to Brazil or bring to Georgetown.
Mr. Speaker, I want to end this afternoon and to say to this Hon. House that I believe this is a good Budget. However one looks at it this is a very comprehensive Budget which I think caters for all of the major things we should be looking at. It caters for some of the small things we should be looking at.
On the $10,000 that was criticised, let me say when we, the PPP/Civic, started the school uniform programme it was started for some schools in the hinterland. The next year we moved to all schools in the hinterland. Then the next year we moved to all schools in Guyana. My dear sister from Moruca, the Hon. Rennita Williams, spoke about the high cost of transportation, for example, in Moruca. We had a lot of proposals on the table, one was put school busses there and another was put some boats here. That would take time to analyse. Some places there are no busses. So the fastest and easiest thing to do, to ensure that every child benefits, was to say $10,000 across the board. It boggles the mind why anyone would have a problem with that. I heard the Hon. Member, Amna Ally said she hopes it continues. Let me tell you, based on our tract record Hon. Amna Ally, we always continue good things.
I think you Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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