Since assuming office in 2015, the coalition government has budgeted and expended more than a trillion dollars. Unfortunately, a large portion of the government’s expenditure has been channeled into areas that have not improved the well-being of the citizenry or stimulate economic growth. All they have done is “give the citizens crumbs.”
Making this point yesterday was Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Irfaan Ali. He was the first speaker to open the budget 2019 debates.
To bolster the credibility of his argument, Ali sought to provide some “harsh realities” about the government’s spending.
According to the estimates, the Opposition Member said that the government spent $3.5 billion on national and other events between 2015 when it assumed office, and the end of 2018. In 2019, it is proposing to expend an additional $1.2 billion on national and other events.
Ali said that the estimates also show that the accumulated spending on dietary items between 2015 and 2018 is expected to reach $12.5 billion with another $5.9billion added in 2019. Meanwhile, the politician pointed out that the accumulated expenditure on refreshment and meals, local travel and subsistence and security are projected to reach $1.1 billion, $7.8 billion and 15.4 billion respectively by 2018 and increased further by $279 million, $2.4 billion and $4.97 billion respectively in 2019.
He said when combined, the actual amount spent on these “frivolous activities” will amount to $15.4 billion by the end of 2018. Ali said that this is 2.6 times more than the total amount allocated to maintain roads, bridges, drainage and irrigation works, sea and river defences and other infrastructure. He also said that it is 47 times more than the increases given to the elderly in the form of Old Age Pension and Public Assistance.
To highlight the absurdity of it all, Ali moved to point out the amount proposed for these activities in 2019 which total $5.7 billion. He said that 2.7 times greater than the amount budgeted in 2019 for maintaining roads, bridges, drainage and irrigation works, sea and river defences and other infrastructure that would benefit all Guyanese rather than the select few at the top of the food chain and 22.9 time greater than the $800 million that pensioners are expected to benefit from in the form of increases in Old Age Pension and Public Assistance during 2019.
The Opposition Member said, “Visibly absent from the 2019 budget, like the other budgets presented by the Honourable Minister, is budgetary allocations for the youths who voted in large number for this government and at-risk groups such as single parent mothers…”
Based on the past spending behavior of the government and the allocations for 2019, Ali said it is clear that the government is not necessarily interested in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, youths, single parent mothers or Guyanese generally.