GUYANA: Politics and Economy: ‘Guyana on path of resource curse’ — Khemraj Ramjattan- AFC

…  Ramjattan says Budget 2022 destroying non-oil sectors

… Warns against creeping return of corruption

Khemraj Ramjattan

By Gary Eleazar – Kaieteur News – February 2, 2022

Budget 2022 is reflective of a country that is already heading down the path of the resource curse or the Dutch Disease, as is evidenced by the figures presented, confirming a heavy reliance on oil funds while at the same time the non-oil economy shrinks.
This was the conclusion of Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, yesterday, as he made his contribution to the Budget Debates.

Ramjattan – a veteran parliamentarian—in a more toned down presentation, sought to caution against the destruction of Guyana’s non-oil economy since the hydrocarbons being discovered are a finite resource that would be exhausted in a matter of decades.       .

Accusing the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration of wanting to ‘run roughshod’ over the opposition, Ramjattan spoke to the importance of working together, especially in light of the country’s new economic status. According to him, the figures as presented by Dr. Ashni Singh, on January 26, last, reflect just how oil will become dominant, to the marginalisation and minimalisation of the non-oil sectors.

Same Players
Calling his observations, “striking, as it is dangerous,” the AFC leader was adamant, oil is exhaustible and in a few decades time will come to an end and, “…we have to always fall back on non-oil sector.” To this end, he used his presentation to caution against the Dutch Disease, telling the House to learn from the happenings in neighbouring Venezuela. Lamenting the return of what he termed the same players in what is now a “Jagdeoite party” as against a ‘Jaganite party,’ Ramjattan pointed to the issue of corruption.

“What we have here as a budget has a lot of flaws.” This, he said is understandable because of same players being involved, resulting in the same policies and “having corruption” such as opaque cash transfers. “There isn’t any transformation.,” He maintained and reminded that failure to work together in future “is a recipe for riot” that can leave the country in a ruinous state, as has happened in countries such as Libya and Yemen.

The AFC Leader was adamant, “we are sprinting into a calamity if we don’t halt it; mash brakes.” Lamenting the PPP/C’s administration’s lack of planning, Ramjattan drew reference to the last year’s spending, in which government would have returned to the National Assembly with Four Financial Papers for additional withdrawals from the Contingencies Fund, which he called bad planning. This, he said, is even more worrisome in this year’s Budget since, even with projected oil revenues and in excess of US$600M in the Bank, there is no mention of a plan for a livable minimum wage.

Minimum Wage
Ramjattan presented to the Assembly, a ‘Basket of Goods’ for a home, using conservative figures and arriving at $110,000 monthly per household. As such, he called on government to increase the minimum wage to at least $100,000. “Why not with all that money, there was at least some plan; there is need for planning,” according to Ramjattan.

With regard plans, Ramjattan posited that Budget 2022 illustrates a clear deficiency in this area and, in the context of Climate Change and its impacts said, “…we have to stop all this kind of juvenile infrastructural work as against resilient works.” With this in mind, Ramjattan opined that the administration should have called in international experts to help plan, in order to avoid instances such as the 2005 and 2021 floods. He posited however, the PPP/C administration was not interested in this route, since it was only interested in enriching a clique of friends and family. Referencing the removal of tax previously paid by contractors, the AFC leader was adamant, “that is a kick back.”

Best of Times/Worst of Times
He reminded that the construction sector was found to be wanting when it came to accountability and said this was the reason why the coalition administration had brought in Godfrey Statia, to head up the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Revenue, under that category, Ramjattan said, began mounting. Lamenting the dropped tax on SUVs and 4X4 vehicles, Ramjattan reminded that a country is generally run on taxes as a revenue stream and as such there cannot be under taxation, stressing “you can’t under-tax people like these contractors.”

He posited that such a route, “will have tremendous inequality; and that is what will come back to haunt us.” Referencing one of the more famous opening lines for a book authored by Charles Dickens—it was the best of times, it was the worst of times—Ramjattan brought home the quote with a modification for Guyana, saying it is the best of economic times and the worst of ecological times.

With this in mind, he lambasted the fact there is no clear provision as to what the administration’s plan is, in relation to Climate Change and its impacts, especially given Guyana’s peculiarities such as the fact that much of the country’s coast is some six feet below sea level. “We must ensure that we save our children,” Ramjattan concluded as he lamented what he called deficiencies in Budget 2022 for Climate Change in Guyana.

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Comments

  • Emily  On 02/06/2022 at 11:57 am

    Me and my friends have noticed that in the past few years, Guyanese are begging more and more for money via Facebook and WhatsApp. What gives?

    • Dennis Albert  On 02/06/2022 at 5:13 pm

      They likely voted for Jagdeo and Ali, and they can’t afford the basics with the rising cost of living.
      Don’t send if you don’t have the means. The PPP is good at begging for handouts anyways.

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