– Opposition has no progressive alternatives – says Hamilton
By Tamica Garnett
MINISTER of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, has noted that even though the opposition A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has heavily criticised Budget 2021, they have not provided any alternatives or progressive plans of their own to substitute existing programmes.
The Government Parliamentarian and APNU+AFC MP, Amanza Walton-Desir opened the floor for the budget debate in the National Assembly on Monday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
The first speaker for the government side, Hamilton described the budget as a “profound” plan that will bring “progress and development”, while charging that the opposition has no alternatives to offer.
“I predicted that there will be nothing to match anything that will be said over here,” Hamilton asserted.
He further added that: “When you condemn any programme we have in this budget, you have no substitute for any project or programme. Nothing that is uplifting, nothing that speaks to the economic viability and development of the lives of the Guyanese people. Nothing that they can put on the table in the next five years.”
Hamilton contended that should the opposition have to present a budget, it would be one that would be “pure oil and gas in nature.”
Rebutting Walton-Desir’s call for more regional development, Hamilton dared the opposition to “put your stewardship on the line”, and show that they have plans that could supersede anything presented in the 2021 budget.
“The member before me said there is no transformational programme in the budget. The APNU+AFC has two regions that they control, and they will not come here and speak to development plans for those regions. [Desir] failed to put before this National Assembly and the people of Region 10 a programme, plan or anything that is different to what was presented in our budget.
“The representative of Region Four will have nothing to say about agriculture development, education development coming out of the region they control,” Hamilton contended.
The Labour Minister accused the opposition of being slothful on several infrastructural projects which the government is now implementing, such as the Demerara Harbour Bridge, and new roads. He also took jabs at the previous government’s handling of the US$18 million signing bonus with ExxonMobil in 2016.
Meanwhile, the first speaker of the debate, Walton-Desir, set the tone for the opposition’s debate and said that the government’s $383.1 billion budget was an “empty” one, notwithstanding it being the largest budget that the country has seen to date.
“Size does matter, but it is not the size of the budget, it is the economics of the budget. It means nothing without context,” Walton-Desir asserted.
Walton-Desir also accused the government of saddling future generations with debt by borrowing to finance the budget.
“By the end of 2021, if everything goes right with this budget, we would have racked up new debt of about US $1 billion. If I divide that by 750,000, then you understand the burden that that each citizen, every man, woman and child will be saddled with,” Walton-Desir charged.
She called for more relief measures to be catered for small to medium sized businesses, notwithstanding the $250 million dollars that has been set aside in the budget for the Small Business Development Fund.