Govt inherited depressing financial landscape

first_imgPresident’s address to ParliamentDespite being in office for almost a year and a half, presenting two national budgets and another due for December 2016, President David Granger on Thursday used an address to the National Assembly to complain about the state of the country’s economy back in May 2015 when his A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition took office, describing it as a depressing financial landscape.Addressing the National Assembly in the absence of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic which boycotted the President’s address to the 65-member legislature, Granger said the economic legacy that his Government inherited was characterised by a lack of strategic planning and whimsical decision-making.“Your Government entered a depressing financial landscape in May 2015… Economic mismanagement was accompanied by huge debts for unpaid international obligations and court judgements,” Granger said, adding that the absence of a policy to provide employment opportunities for youth and to reduce extreme poverty and the failure to energise the manufacturing sector helped to weaken the economy.GuySuCoThe Guyanese Head of State singled out the financial troubles faced by the cash-strapped Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), which he said owed $89 billion in debts, forcing the Government to divert money from economic and social programmes to rescue the ailing Corporation with an immediate injection of $12 billion and an additional $11 billion in 2016, making it a $23 billion bailout in 18 months.“These transfers exclude the servicing of GuySuCo’s debts in respect of the Skeldon Estate Modernisation Project – a monstrous and monumental US$200 million mistake and, probably Guyana’s single most costly industrial catastrophe of all time,” he stated.RiceHe said that rice farmers “were not spared the previous Administration’s reckless mismanagement.”“The PetroCaribe Fund – used to meet payments to farmers for rice and paddy shipped to Venezuela – contained less than US$1 million in May 2015. Your Government was forced to make available nearly $4 billion immediately so that poor paddy farmers could be paid,” the President claimed.JudgementsHe also spoke of a number of liabilities which he said his Administration inherited including a $7 billion in favour of NH Elias for the East Bank Demerara Road, the $1.3 billion in favour of Rudisa Beverages, judgement in favour of Trinidad Cement Limited, settlement for $1.4 billion with B K Tiwari on Haags Bosch Project and several other judgements that will cost the State over $1 billion.“Your Government, also, was obliged to provide another $5.4 billion bailout the National Insurance Scheme as a consequence of the previous Administration’s irresponsible CLICO investment,” he stated.Granger however noted that despite these challenges, his Government managed to give public servants pay increases, raise the income tax threshold from $600,000 to $660,000, increase the minimum wage from $39,520 in May 2015, to $55,000 in January 2016 while Old Age Pension and public assistance were also increased.“These benefits, taken together, augmented workers disposable income significantly,” he stated.The President also spoke of his Government’s intentions to improve the quality of life for Guyanese, including greater access to public service, declaring that citizens should not have to leave their respective regions to access public service.According to the Head of State, his Government’s overarching objective is to ensure a ‘good life’ for all of citizens and has chosen a ‘green’ pathway to achieve a higher quality of life. He went on to outline his ‘green agenda” which encompasses a comprehensive, multisectorial development programme.Public securityThe President also outlined his Government’s plans for the security sector which includes the establishment of several anti-crime agencies to uproot the causes of crime and its links with transnational crime.“We established a National Security Committee.  We are in the process of establishing a new National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) to address the mother of all crimes – the trafficking in narcotics. We will establish a new National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) to ensure better surveillance of our borders and coasts,” Granger stated.He added that a decision was also taken to re-engage the United Kingdom with a view to restoring the aborted Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP).“The Plan will commence soon with the arrival of experts from the United Kingdom to advise us on crafting a national security response to domestic and transnational crime – including narcotics-trafficking and gun-running,” the President explained.He said too that increased aerial surveillance over the maritime zone over the past year led to a reduction in the incidence of piracy as he pledged to expand the Guyana Police Force’s Marine wing.Among the other areas the President examined are his Government’s legislative agenda, public trust and its aim to fulfil its campaign promise of a good life.“We aim at the development of a cohesive society in which confrontation is replaced by cooperation. The removal of inequalities based on geography and ethnicity will lay the foundation for a better ‘quality of life’ for everyone.  We will work to reduce prejudice and violence. We will fashion a multicultural society characterised by tolerance and mutual respect,” President Granger declared.last_img