EVEN as the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was notably absent from yet another sitting of the National Assembly since it began on June 10, Finance Minister Winston Jordan announced yesterday that August 10 will be the day for the presentation of the National Budget. This Budget is the inaugural budget of the David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition Government, which copped 33 out of 65 seats in the
National Assembly after defeating the incumbent People’s Progressive Party/Civic at the May 11 polls.
PPP executive member and former Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon said at the Party’s press conference yesterday at its Robb Street headquarters, Freedom House that the party could head to the National Assembly in time for the presentation of the National Budget.
Luncheon did not specify the date the Party would be heading to Parliament. His statements to the press corps would have come hours before the announcement by the Finance Minister in the National Assembly.
Customarily, Budget presentations are made in April of the fiscal year, but due to the November suspension of the National Assembly by former President, Mr. Donald Ramotar, his later decision in February to dissolve the Parliament, and the intense May 11 elections campaign which saw an end to the 23-year-rule of the PPP/C, they are a bit late this year.
In the National Assembly yesterday, Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, in the absence of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, moved a Motion to suspend Standing Order 9. The Prime Minister was yesterday sworn in as acting President after the first session of the National Assembly, as President David Granger departed the country for Trinidad and Tobago.
Standing Orders are rules of procedure which govern Guyana’s National Assembly. Standing Order 9 states, “Unless there are special reasons for so doing, no sitting of the National Assembly shall be held between the 10th August and the 10th October in any year.”
The decision of the 33 APNU+AFC Parliamentarians to suspend the Standing Order 9 was supported by Standing Order 112, which provides, “Any one or more of the Standing Orders may be suspended, after notice, or with the leave of the Speaker, on a Motion by a member at any sitting.”
The Standing Order, which was suspended in the National Assembly by the majority, customarily allowed for the National Assembly to go into recess. However, because of the circumstances surrounding the Parliament from late-2014 into mid-2015, the suspension of the Standing Order was crucial. The Standing Order was suspended to accommodate the Budget on or before the first day in September.
Another Motion moved in the National Assembly yesterday relates to the representation of Government and Opposition in Parliamentary Sectoral Committees. These Committees are oversight bodies which scrutinise the operations of Government Ministries and some sectors.
Social Cohesion Minister, Amna Ally moved the Motion to amend Standing Order 86 (2), which will now read, “Each Committee shall consist of seven (7) Members, four (4) representing the Government and three (3) representing the Opposition, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. The Government and Opposition shall be entitled to elect one alternate Member for each Sectoral Committee.”
This Standing Order would have first been amended following the 2011 General Election, where the APNU and AFC Opposition parties secured 33 seats in the National Assembly in the 10th Parliament, with the governing PPP/C holding 32 seats. The APNU and AFC had not yet formed the coalition that now forms the Government.
The amendment will see the reconfiguration of the formula for representation in the sectoral committees where the Government, by holding a majority
in the National Assembly, will have majority representation in the Sectoral Committees.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland was been advised by Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs that the recommendation to amend the Standing Order regarding the Sectoral Committees will be moved to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration at that level, but after some challenge by Governance Minister Raphael Trotman, who served as House Speaker in the 10th Parliament, the amendment was approved.
By Derwayne Wills