Black Immigrant Daily News
Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat
In response to claims by the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) Opposition that Budget 2023 has nothing for ordinary citizens and only seeks to benefit allies of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat pointed out that supporters of the Opposition were among the “friends” of the Government who would be benefiting from the host of programmes and measures proposed.
The Minister was at the time responding to remarks made by APNU Member of Parliament, Coretta McDonald, who, during her debate presentation, said Budget 2023 failed to address the needs of Guyanese.
“This Budget of $781.9 billion is a Budget for friends, families, and favourites. This is the fourth Budget of this installed regime and it doesn’t really do any good to the small man… The oil money will never reach the pockets of the small man… The little fecks that have been identified [in] this Budget fail to address the macro issues that are affecting the working class… I cannot support this fallen Budget which is short of satisfying the people of this country,” she posited.
But McDonald’s statements were debunked by the Natural Resources Minister, who, during his contribution to the ongoing debate, noted that Budget 2023 sought to benefit all Guyanese – even the Opposition’s own supporters.
“The PPP programmes and policies will benefit the friends, the families, the favourites, and our new friends who are your supporters who are coming over now to the PPP/Civic now… the people in Linden, like the people in Berbice, are supporting us now; they are our new friends and they will benefit from Budget 2023 like every other Guyanese,” the Minister stated.
He added that Budget 2023 contained provisions for the more than 9000 Disciplined Services members and the 5000-plus health workers who will be benefiting from salary adjustments from this month as well as the thousands of public servants who got an eight per cent retroactive salary increase last November.
These Public Sector workers – all of whom, along with thousands of Private Sector employees, will also benefit from the income tax threshold rising to $85,000.
According to the Natural Resources Minister, the suite of cost-of-living measures initiated by the administration over the past two years to not only offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the rising global prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine war would continue to benefit “friends”.
These measures include billions of dollars in cash grants to several categories of persons, as well as reducing the tax on fuel by 10 per cent, and slashing freight charges – both of which have been extended in Budget 2023.
“We took off all taxes on fuel so that the loggers can benefit, so that the miners can benefit, so that the farmers can benefit, so that the commuters can benefit and those are all our friends… 214,000 schoolchildren will benefit from an increase in the cash grant in 2023 – $40,000 [per child] including the uniform allowance. And those students and their parents are our friends,” Bharrat declared.
As part of the Government’s continued efforts, Budget 2023 has allocated another $5 billion for additional measures this year to combat the rising cost of living and supplement household income.
Turning his attention to the Government’s part-time jobs initiative, which has been heavily criticised by the Opposition, Minister Bharrat pointed out that APNU and the AFC had no similar alternative during their time in office to provide employment opportunities to Guyanese, especially females.
“What was your alternative in Government? What did you do when you were in Government? Imagine we have employed over 10,000 people who were unemployed, mostly women… What did you do for them? Nothing! But you come here and you talk about $40,000 [being too little but] $40,000 is better than nothing,” the Minister argued.
The part-time job programme was launched last year as one of the measures aimed at cushioning the rising cost of living and it allows for one person per household to work in public offices for 10 days per month to earn $40,000. With more than 11,000 beneficiaries in Regions Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and 10, a whopping $10 billion has been set aside in Budget 2023 for the continuation of the initiative, which is laying the foundation for persons to take up full-time employment.
In fact, Minister Bharrat stated that this programme was meant to be a springboard for the beneficiaries to elevate themselves in order to get better opportunities.
“It is a transition; it is a springboard; it is a stepping stone for them to at least get something now until they move on,” he stressed.
Reiterating the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the oil and gas revenues are used to benefit all Guyanese including Opposition supporters, the Minister further called out the Opposition for using the excuse that they did not have oil money during their time in office to enhance the lives of Guyanese and stimulate the country’s economy.
“After 2015, we have not seen any progress up to 2020… and the progress we have seen over the last two years, the oil money ain’t starting spending yet. It is this year’s Budget that you will see more oil money going into the Budget… today, they come here with the excuse “we didn’t have oil revenue”. But if you don’t have oil revenues, you have to incentivise the other productive sectors like we are doing now,” Bharrat contended.
According to the Natural Resources Minister, after finding almost all of the extractive industries in the red when it took office, the PPP/C has managed to increase the bauxite, diamond, forestry, aggregates, and sand sectors, among others, in just two years.