– says Finance Minister
FINANCE Minister Dr Ashni Singh had cause to chastise, again, Alliance For Change (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan for “practicing politics of deception and character assassination”.
Dr Singh, in a statement issued to the media last night, recalled that, on Tuesday April 2, 2013, during the 41st sitting of the 10th Parliament of Guyana, the budget estimates for the Ministry of Finance came up for consideration. As is customary, the estimates were scrutinised in detail by the Assembly, with several questions being asked by the Opposition and answers provided by the Government.
Among the questions asked and answers provided was the following self-explanatory exchange between Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge and Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh:
Mr. Greenidge: Thank you Mr. Chair. I appreciate the explanation and I think it certainly has helped. May I move to item termed Revision of Wages and Salaries. This is one that is of special
importance to us in this House as the Minister knows. The movement last year in item 6141 – Revision of Wages and Salaries: is a reflection, presumably, of the 5% across the board paid to most of the Public Service. There projected a movement this year, 2013, which seems to reflect a larger increase than last year. First of all is that correct? Second, could the Minister please give us an indication of who was paid across the board increases other than the 5% that was announced? Some agencies got different amounts, but across the Public Service as a whole, I believe, it was 5%. Could you give me an idea of what that was?
Dr. Singh: Mr. Chairman, through you, first of all permit me to explain, and the Hon. Member may be aware of this, that as a matter of policy we do not in any of the budget agencies budget for unfilled positions. In each of the budget agencies we would have considered thus far, the amounts made available for employment costs would be those amounts required to meet the personal emoluments of those persons currently in employment. What that means is that any new recruitment has to be funded from the revision of wages and salaries allocation, and it should be reasonably obvious why we do that. This has been a practice enshrined in Central Government for a number of years. The reason why we do this, of course, is that it is difficult to predict which agencies will be recruiting, in what numbers and when, what levels and so on. The general
practice has been to reside in the Ministry of Finance an allocation that will meet the cost of what is described in the service as new recruits. This “Revision of Wages and Salaries” allocation is an allocation which funds the across-the-board salary increase given to employees of budget agencies, that is to say public servants, teachers and members of the disciplined services, the cost of any new recruitment into any Central Government budget agency, and the cost of any other employment cost shortfalls. Employment cost shortfalls can arise not only as a result of new recruitment but, for example, of reclassification if there are promotions in a particular agency which would impose a greater call on the employment cost allocation of that agency than would have been anticipated at the time of the budget. So this “Revision of Wages and Salaries” allocation meets all of those employment cost shortfalls in budget agencies, new recruitment, and the across-the-board salary increase announced at the end of the year. The Hon. Member also asked about the across the board salary increase that was paid in 2012. In response, I would say that teachers received a 5% across the board salary increases in accordance with the multi-year agreement that was concluded with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU). Members of the disciplined services received a 5% across the board increase at the end of the year, and so did the public servants. Those were the salary increases paid in 2012.
Dr Singh noted that any examination of the Parliamentary record or video footage of that sitting would confirm the validity of this record.
Mr. Greenidge, a former Finance Minister himself, presumably satisfied with the answer provided by Minister Singh did not question the line item concerned any further, and the House, controlled by the Opposition one-seat majority, subsequently approved of the allocation requested when the vote was put, presumably having been satisfied by the answers provided to the questions asked.
“Indeed, this same explanation has been provided almost every year for several years now, and the practice governing the revision of wages and salaries allocation has been in place since time immemorial,” Dr Singh stated.
Furthermore, the employment cost line items in the budgets of the individual budget agencies are amongst the most closely scrutinised in the entire national budget. Typical questions include the number of persons employed and the designations and salaries earned. From the answers provided, it would be clear that the employment cost allocations in the individual budget agency budgets are just to meet actual filled positions at the time, and that the revision of wages and salaries allocation meets the cost of any shortfall.
The Finance Minister said that for any member of the National Assembly to pretend now not to be familiar with the use of the revision of wages and salaries allocation, as Mr. Ramjattan now appears to want to do, is therefore an act of gross deception, and one that can have but one aim, and that is to impugn the integrity of the professionalism of the Ministry of Finance and to cast shadows where they don’t exist.