By Kiana Wilburg

With great precision, Senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh closed the 2024 budget debates with bone-deep lacerations to the arguments of most of his political opponents. He laid bare almost every “hypocritical”, “vacuous”, “weak” and “recycled” position offered during the last five days.

For those opposition members such as Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, and AFC leader Kemraj Ramjattan, who called for governance to be improved for the good of the people, Minister Singh appeared almost repulsed by such requests.

Though those parliamentarians had already walked out, Dr. Singh, at least for the record’s sake, reminded that it was the very APNU+AFC regime that refused to accept the results of the 2020 General and Regional Elections. Dr. Singh also characterized their attempt to alter the results as a “disgraceful and immoral attempt to derail democracy.”

He also expressed dismay at the opposition’s recent lectures in the House on what constitutes prudent spending, noting that the APNU+AFC’s track record between 2015 to 2020 reeked of grave mismanagement and visionless spending.

The Finance Minister even used analogies from the “Student’s Companion,” a textbook familiar to primary school students, to underscore his point. He cited proverbs such as “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and “actions speak louder than words,” suggesting that the opposition’s rhetoric was at odds with their past actions.

His reference to another proverb, “talk is cheap”, was particularly pointed, as he accused the APNU+AFC of making empty promises and failing to deliver on “the good life” during their time in power.

The minister said, “…we were regaled over the past five days with a lot of cheap talk coming from the APNU/AFC, who regaled us with all sorts of grandiose ideas and plans, all sorts of intentions, all sorts of proposals. Had we not known, we might have been duped by these lavish promises.”

The Senior Finance Minister also appeared particularly disgusted with former Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, who earlier in the day, lectured him on the need for the budget to have a positive impact on the lives of all Guyanese. Drawing attention to a Kaieteur News piece from November 30, 2018, Dr. Singh highlighted a statement made by Lawrence, who openly declared, “The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I gon give wuk to is PNC and right now, I looking for a doctor who can talk Spanish or Portuguese and ah want one that is PNC.”

Dr. Singh pointed out the irony of this very individual, now in the House, advising him on the fair allocation of Guyana’s oil wealth and the importance of fiscal prudence by the government.

Addressing the criticism that the Guyana Government articulated no development plan in the 2024 budget, Dr. Singh said this once again proved that the opposition does not read and is incapable of analytical reasoning. He noted that the umbilical cord of the National Development Strategy, initiated in the 1990s, remains connected to all the budgets crafted by the PPP/C regime. He said that the very strategy, like all the other budgets passed, outlines for example, a transformative agenda for building out roads and other critical infrastructure as well as pursuing reforms in the energy sector.

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Singh contended that the opposition has clearly failed to grasp the government’s progressive and comprehensive vision for national development; a vision he argued would significantly enhance the lives of all citizens.

With the debates now concluded, the National Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday at 10 am for the consideration of the budget estimates.


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