2017 Budget elicits mixed reviews
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–sets social media abuzz with commentary

By Vanessa Braithwaite

FINANCE Minister Winston Jordan’s presentation of the 2017 Budget has come in for both applause and criticism from persons of all walks of life.
Such is the stimulus it has engendered that social media is still abuzz as bloggers express their views as to its portent, while every office, bus stop, watering hole and chill spot has become a veritable facility for animated debate, where the talking point is inevitably the future of the economy.

While many were forced to rely on the media to keep them abreast of what was happening in the National Assembly as the budget was being read, those in close proximity to the Public Buildings where the drama unfolded were also privy to the three-hour-long budget speech as it was being broadcast live.

As such, they were able to make their opinions known on-the-spot, as some persons were paying keen attention to what the minister was saying so they could learn how they will benefit personally from the announcements.
And right there, in the midst of it all, was the Guyana Chronicle, camera and recorder at the ready, to take advantage of the situation.

That’s how we met GAIDRIE DARAMLALL, whio is a pensioner and lives with one of her grandchildren. She said she was very disappointed with the $800 that has been added to her $18, 200 Old Age Pension, as she’d expected nothing less than $20, 000 as was promised earlier in the year.

‘RIDICULOUS!’
“I really thought we were getting $20, 000; I would have been satisfied with that,” she said. “But now they give the $19, 000, yuh have to stretch it to pay more on water and light. It ridiculous!”
SHARON LOWE, a young professional, was more optimistic, as she had nothing but praise for the government for raising the income tax threshhold and lowering the PAYE to 28%.
“Right now,” she said, “my salary is $70, 000 and I am happy I will be paying less tax; at least that is how I will benefit.
“Yes, I understand people talking about the VAT o
n water and light, but all they have to do is conserve, and they won’t have to pay. We as Guyanese, we don’t know to conserve; is waste, waste, waste. And now we want to create a big deal…
“I am just happy that I will be taking home a little more when the month come.”
We also caught up with the wife of a GuySuCo employee who was running some errands in the city, and took some time to listen to the presentation.
As was only to be expected, all she was interested in was what plans the government had for her husband’s place of employ, and by extension the sugar industry.

DASHED HOPES
And after hearing Minister Jordan announce that some $9B will be given to GuySuCo, she allowed herself a glimmer of hope; but that hope was soon dashed when the minister announced soon after that the status quo of the sugar industry can neither be sustained nor maintained.
“This is an untenable position,” the minister said, adding that it would seriously jeopardise the fiscal stance of the government, and compromise the allocation of resources to other critical and important areas. The woman revealed that her husband is the bread winner of her family, and such news is more than devastating.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Region 6 (East Berbice-Corentyne) Member of Parliament, ADRIAN ANAMAYAH, who described the presentation as the worst he’s ever heard.
“This is one of the worst budgets you had in the history of our country,” Anamayah said, adding:
“The Minister of Finance is now vying for the dubious honour of being the worst minister in the history of our country.”
Calling the budget “a taxation budget”, Anamayah said there is nothing in it for his constituency, and no clear answer as to what will happen to those GuySuCo workers who are eagerly awaiting a solution to their dilemma.

“There is nothing for Berbice; we need answers as to what is going to happen to GuySuCo; that is our main concern,” Anamayah said.
“In my constituency where I come from, people want to know about the future of the Skeldon Estate. And we heard nothing; just a promise,” he ranted.

DELIVERING ON PROMISES
APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Annette Ferguson, on the other hand, described Minister Jordan’s budget as a good one, saying she is proud that some of the promises made during the 2015 election campaign are finally coming to pass.
She also praised the finance minister for reducing the VAT and increasing the income tax threshold. “You would have recognised there is a reduction in VAT, and we also have an increase in old-age pension. And I am also happy that at my end, that is Public Infrastructure, we have more monies allocated to us, whereby we will be seeing a lot of massive infrastructural projects coming on stream,” Minister Ferguson posited, alluding to the pedestrian boardwalks, the vehicular over-passes and the construction and renovation of several bridges and roadways.

The government has allocated some $37.2B towards shoring up the country’s infrastructure spending.
Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueria also spoke positively of the 2017 Budget, even as he came to grips with reality that one cannot please everyone.
“I believe it provides a menu of benefits for the Guyanese populace to aid towards the developmental task of the government to bring a good life to all Guyanese,” Figueira said, adding:

“All Budgets cannot satisfy every individual citizen, but, collectively, it is a good Budget.”
He said, too, that he is extremely pleased that tax exemptions were granted for mining equipment, which will redound to the benefit of scores of miners in Region 10.
Another Lindener, Joy James, though happy about the benefits that will be derived by the miners, is also concerned about the heavy taxes and the effects this will have on low-income earners.
“I don’t think Lindeners will be affected much from the VAT on water and light, but what I was expecting is a Christmas bonus like the last time; that is what everyone was listening out for,” she said.

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