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OPPOSITION SUBMITS MOTION ON PROPOSALS TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY, AND REDUCE POVERTY AND HARDSHIPS IN THE 2018 BUDGET

The Parliamentary Opposition on Monday, October 9, 2017, submitted through the Clerk of the National Assembly, a ”Motion on Proposals to Stimulate the Economy,and Reduce Poverty and Hardships in the 2018 Budget”.

See below:

PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS

 

MOTION ON PROPOSALS TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY, AND REDUCE POVERTY AND HARDSHIPS IN THE 2018 BUDGET

 

AND WHEREAS thousands of workers have lost, and, thousands more are targeted to lose their jobs before year end, and hundreds have lost, and, others are losing their livelihood as a result of government policies and its irresponsible inaction to stimulate the economy that is under pressure and fast declining;

 

AND WHEREAS all indicators are pointing to an economy that is deteriorating and requires urgent “counter cyclical policies”;

 

AND WHEREAS the government’s tax-oriented approach to growth and policies  are responsible for the deteriorating economy with the introduction of more taxes for every category of taxes on income, property, production and consumption, international trade, including environmental taxes, and introduced VAT on previously VAT free items as well as increased fees on a broad range of licenses;

 

AND WHEREAS this imposition of almost 200 new tax measures increased government revenues by approximately G$11.2 Billion to G$97.1 Billion by mid-2017, of this total, tax represents G$85.8 Billion, G$10.7 Billion more when compared to 2016, thus costing the people of this country an additional G$10.7 Billion in disposable income which in turn has contributed to non-performing loans and reduced demand on goods and services and an increase in poverty;

 

AND WHEREAS the revenues from the new Value-Added Tax (VAT) measures generated from the sale of domestic goods and services a significant increase in revenue, while excise tax on motor vehicles declined by G$1.5 Billion to G$2.9 Billion, confirming the notion that consumers are importing less vehicles due to increased hardships;

 

AND WHEREAS there is a marked reduction in the overall demand for goods and services attributed to reduced disposable income, dwindling sugar and forestry sectors that employ in excess of 40,000 persons directly, the downsizing of many businesses and reduction in investment in the agriculture, mining & quarrying and manufacturing sectors by G$3.8 Billion when compared to mid-2016;

 

AND WHEREAS traditional industries, such as sugar, livestock and forestry continue to decline at 12.4%, 10.9% and 18.2% respectively, when compared to 2016 with dire consequences for the thousands of people employed in these sectors and their families and a consequential heavy impact on foreign revenue earning, growing by a paltry 0.14% to US$685.1 Million;

AND WHEREAS the sugar industry, one of the largest employers in the country, has been plagued by a “government-orchestrated” tail-spin with its incoherent policies, resulting in a recorded deficit of G$6.3 Billion in mid-2017, which cost the nation in excess of US$11.5 M;

 

AND WHEREAS the rice industry –in spite of no government assistance, an  increase in land tax in some areas, increased drainage and irrigation fees and the introduction of VAT on machinery and other inputs– increased its production levels by 31.6%;  the industry, however, experienced a decline in foreign exchange earnings by more than 12.5% or US$11 Million during the reporting period; the loss of foreign revenue stood at US$48 Million as a result of these counterproductive measures implemented in the rice industry;

 

AND WHEREAS the mining and quarrying sector contracted by 4% during the first half of 2017; its underperformance was attributed mainly to the contraction of the bauxite industry by 11.5%; foreign revenues generated by the industry fell by US$3.3 Million and US$17 Million when compared to mid-2015 and 2014, respectively;

 

AND WHEREAS the financial and insurance services have contracted primarily due to the increase in non-performing loans from 11.9% in June 2016 to 13.1% in June 2017, of which 61% of this figure is concentrated among business enterprises, the other 39% includes low income families and farmers who are losing their properties because they can no longer afford to pay for their loans;

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AND WHEREAS the overall balance of payment recorded a deficit of US$46 Million during the first half of 2017 with key traditional products such as sugar, timber, rice and even gold, all recording a decline in export earnings from US$519.2 Million in mid-2016 to US$503.5 Million in mid-2017;

 

AND WHEREAS the government expended US $18.3 Million from the Bank of Guyana’s net foreign assets, thereby reducing the net foreign reserves from US$633 Million in June 2016 to US$574 Million in mid-2017, the lowest ever recorded in over 7 years; the decline in foreign exchange revenues will pose significant threats to the stability of our banking system, exchange rates and imports if not addressed;

 

AND WHEREAS external debt increased by US$53 Million to US$1,200 Million and net foreign revenue to external debt ratio has increased from 172% in mid-2016 to 207% in mid-2017;

 

AND WHEREAS the government continues to “crowd-out”, outstrip and deprive the private sector of much needed credit for investment, with domestic credit to central government increasing by 10.2% or G$6.2 Billion while credit to private sector grew by a mere 1.4%. Similarly, when compared to 2015, the first year in office, the government share of domestic credit grew by 70.7% or G$27 Billion while the private sector amassed a miniscule 5% or G$11Billion;

 

AND WHEREAS there is no shadow of doubt that the economy is in a dire state; indicators are showing strong signs of distress and imminent economic failure with a severe shortage of foreign exchange, the decline of key foreign revenue streams such as sugar, bauxite, forestry and even rice to an extent, while concurrently the Bank of Guyana foreign reserve continues to be depleted and servicing our external debt will become more burdensome;

 

AND WHEREAS the Minister of Finance needs to admit that his framework of fiscal policies and tax-oriented solutions have contributed to this state of affairs and has successfully dis-incentivized the economy, and, therefore urgent and immediate measures need to be taken to reverse this economic decline;

 

AND WHEREAS if the government is serious about national development and the “good life” for all Guyanese it needs to urgently changes these policies;

 

BE IT RESOLVED that this National Assembly supports the following measures being urgently introduced to stimulate the economy, reduce poverty and hardships presently being experienced, especially by the poor and working people of this country;

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Minister of Finance take account of and implement these proposals in his 2018 Annual Budget:-

 

STIMULATE THE ECONOMY AND GENERATE JOB CREATION – DEMANDS BY SECTOR

 

Fiscal and Taxation Policies:

  • Restore the purchasing power of the people by removing the imposition of VAT on zero rated items, new fees and licenses imposed in the 2016 and 2017 Budgets;
  • Revoke Order No. 18 of 2016 imposing VAT and reinstate and bring back into force the Schedules I and II existing prior to Order No. 18 of 2016, Value Added Tax (Amendment of Schedules) Order 2016; this will include:
  • Reverse VAT on essential food items;
  • Reverse Vat on electricity and water;
  • Restore zero-rated VAT for imports of household solar plants;
  • Remove VAT on all education goods and services;
  • Remove VAT on all pharmaceuticals and medical supplies;
  • Reverse taxes and fees on importation of inputs (raw materials) for local manufacturers;
  • Remove VAT on construction material locally produced;
  • Remove VAT on heavy duty machinery, etc;
  • Remove VAT on local products in the forestry sector such as logs, shingles, piles, poles, plywood, rough and dressed wood, veneers, charcoal etc.;
  • Remove VAT on materials and supplies used in the fisheries sector;
  • Reverse VAT and Other Taxes on small businesses earning less than $400,000 monthly revenue;
  • Reduce VAT to 12% as proposed by the APNU+AFC Coalition electoral promises;
  • Remove VAT on purchases by government agencies, RDCs and Local Authorities;
  • Reverse increased fees on land and drainage and irrigation fees in Administrative Region No. 5 and other applicable areas;
  • Remove burdensome taxes on mining sector- reduce tributors’ tax from 20% to original 10%, remove the 2% final tax;
  • Immediately remove all forms of taxes and duties on fuel for the agriculture industry;
  • Remove all taxes and duties on inputs for the agriculture industry including machinery, equipment and spares;
  • Repeal increased fees for motor vehicles licenses;
  • Increase the income tax threshold;
  • Remove GRA’s burdensome administrative measures.

 

Finance Sector:

  • Reverse the Bank of Guyana Cabinet-directed decision to licensed currency dealers, commercial banks and cambios, to limit the spread between the buying and selling rate of the US dollar to no more than $3 GY;
  • Reverse the Bank of Guyana directive to banks to restrict credit card purchases in foreign currency to non-currency purchases;
  • Immediately intervene and work with the commercial banks to delay/stop foreclosures and execution sales in the housing, agriculture and retail sectors and work out “soft payments”.
  • Increase Wages and salaries in the public service;
  • Restore the annual one month tax free salary bonus for all members of the Disciplined Services, and
  • Negotiate actively with the unions for increases of salaries and benefits for public servants and teachers;
  • Cap Ministers’ benefits and allowances in keeping with the caps imposed on Former Presidents Benefits (Amendment) Act 2015;
  • Allow public servants, particularly medical professionals, to choose whether to be on the pensionable fixed establishment or on contract.

 

Transparency and Accountability- Enhancing The Business Environment And Sending The “Right Signals”:

  • Adhere to the Procurement and financial rules in order to have a fair and level playing field in government procurement of goods and services;
  • Hire an international firm to trace assets held overseas by former and present Government officials;
  • Hire an international firm to do a fact-based assessment of the acquisition of state assets from 1970 to the present;
  • Stop executive interference in the budgetary requests of, and, provisions to the constitutional bodies as provided for in the Constitution and the Financial Management and Accountability ( Amendment ) Act 2015;
  • Stop Executive interference in the constitutional service and rights commissions;
  • Publish all pre-feasibility and feasibility studies on all major infrastructural projects;
  • Release to the public the GOG/Exxon agreement;
  • Appoint the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission immediately;
  • Publish the PPC investigation into the pharmaceutical and medical supplies and take disciplinary action;
  • Publish all COI reports and lay in National Assembly;
  • Urgently appoint the Integrity Commission in keeping with the Integrity Act;
  • Appoint the Local Government Commission without delay and no later than the end of October 2017.

 

Infrastructural Development:

  • Urgently commence implementation of major capital projects to stimulate spending in accordance with the Procurement Act and regulations;
  • Re-commence the Amaila Hydro Falls project as recommended by the independent Norwegian consultancy firm;
  • Improve the implementation of capital projects, particularly Government loan projects;
  • Hold an open and fair procurement process for the pre-feasibility/feasibility studies and implementation of the Corentyne-Suriname Bridge, Linden-Lethem Road and the new Demerara Harbour Bridge and all major roads projects;
  • Stop the National and Procurement and Tender Administration (NPTA) from frequent retendering of projects and the sloth with regards to evaluation and award of tenders;
  • Restore the NPTA website and publish all NPTA minutes of the opening of the bids, award of Tenders and contracts in keeping with the Procurement Act and Regulations;
  • Stop the direct awarding of contracts by Cabinet in violation of the Procurement Act.

 

 

 

Energy Sector:

  • Take urgent steps to immediately remedy the constant and frequent black outs affecting all citizens;
  • Close down the state owned Power Producers Development Incorporated (PPDI)company, cancel the GPL/PPDI agreement and re-install the Wartsila Management arrangement;
  • Restore the electricity subsidy for elderly household owners;
  • Release the Norwegian fact-based assessment on the Amaila Falls Hydro Project and immediately commence implementation;
  • Stop the privatization of the Skeldon Energy Inc;
  • Reverse increased collection fees for Lethem Power, Mabaruma Power, etc.
  • Publish the status of negotiations with the Brazil with regards to a new hydro power project.

 

Education:

  • Restore the “cash care” programme for each child registered from nursery through to secondary students and increase to $ 20,000 per child;
  • Restore and increase the school uniform vouchers to $4000 per child across the country;
  • Restore the Hinterland School Feeding programme with the backward integration with village economies as originally designed;
  • Reverse present policy and establish more lenient terms of repayment for students at the University of Guyana;
  • Provide special transportation for disabled children to attend schools;
  • Reverse tuition fee increases for UG students to the 2015 rate;
  • Remove VAT on education goods and services.

 

Social Services:

  • Re-instate the Single Parent Assistance Programme with vouchers to assist with day care costs;
  • Restore Public Assistance on a permanent basis for care givers of disabled dependents and HIV/Aids patients;
  • Increase the rate of Old Age Pension to $25,000 per month from the current $19,000 per month in keeping with the APNUAFC Coalition Manifesto;
  • Examine the introduction of evening and night child care centres for women who work during the night shifts;
  • Increase public assistance from $7.300 to $12,000 per month and publish statistics on the number of recipients by region every 6 months;
  • Increase the subvention to trade unions that have audited accounts to help with workers’ retraining.

Health:

  • Take immediate corrective action to ensure that all health facilities country wide have adequate supplies of required drugs and medical supplies, including restoration of transparent bidding procedures;
  • Restore the subsidy given to dialysis patients;
  • Reverse the decision to make Amerindian Villages pay to bring out sick and emergency cases and restore the earlier practice to provide fuel and or costs in such cases.

 

Agriculture Sector:

  • Reverse VAT on agricultural inputs;
  • Suspend increased fees for land and drainage and irrigation;
  • Stop the repossession of privately owned lands;
  • Stop the revocation of leased land in use and abide by, and, bring into effect the rulings of the court.

 

Amerindian-majority Regions:

  • Focus on improving transportation and communication between the coast and interior with improved infrastructural works on airstrips, road links, river transport, etc
  • Compensate residents of Region 8 who lost their homes in the flash floods;
  • Accelerate spending of the GRIF-Amerindian land Titling, community projects, presidential grants;
  • Rehire the 1,972 Amerindian Community Service Officers.

 

Sugar Industry:

  • Take immediate measures to save the sugar industry;
  • Reverse immediately the decision to close down three sugar estates- Uitvulgt, Enmore and Rosehall estates- by December 2017;
  • Reverse decision to close Wales estate;
  • Stop the privatization of the Skeldon Estate and Skeldon Energy Inc.;
  • Suspend the Special Purpose Unit/Company;
  • Pursue a diversification study;
  • Pursue a comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment on the sugar industry;
  • As a matter of urgency enter into full and “good faith” negotiations with GAWU and NAACIE to find a just solution which will maintain the sugar estates and ensure employment.

 

Rice Sector:

  • Resume negotiations with the Government of Venezuela with the intention of selling rice and paddy to that country;
  • Negotiate with neighbouring Brazil for increased quotas for the export of rice under the Partial Scope Agreement;
  • Explore opportunities for new markets in Colombia and other countries where Guyana has signed Partial Scope Agreements;
  • Commence discussions with all the commercial banks’ lending to the industry to review terms and conditions of loans taking into account the prices farmers are getting in order to ‘soften’ repayment conditions;
  • Bring supplementary provisions to the National Assembly to provide financial support to farmers in order to aid in the purchase of seed paddy and fertilizers;
  • Implement an aggressive marketing strategy in order to enhance current prices and secure new lucrative markets.

 

Business Sector:

  • Remove the new 23 fees and penalties

 

Construction and Engineering Sector:

  • Restore the national housing programme by opening up new and available lands in all regions for individual household owners;
  • Expedite applicants who have paid for their land prior to 2015 May;
  • Stop threats to private housing developers and work with genuine developers to expedite the permits, licenses and works required;
  • Stop penalties of $150,000 imposed by the Georgetown City Council on persons doing repairs (internal and or external) to their homes.

 

Mining Sector:

  • Reverse fiscal and administrative impositions on the mining sector (VAT on equipment, tributors’ tax and 2% final tax);
  • Auction the unallocated oil blocks;
  • Expedite the maintenance of interior roads and bridges- allocate a percentage of the royalties and land rentals gleaned from the miners for infrastructural development including maintaining key and critical links;
  • Keep promises made to the National Mining Syndicates for land and distribute according to the size of the syndicate and stop delays in releasing the lands already paid for.

 

Transportation and Communication Sectors:

  • Maintain key road networks for the forestry, agriculture and mining sectors;
  • Implement multiple works projects with focus on roads- East Coast Demerara, ECD- EBD by-pass road, West Coast Demerara, and El Condor Road;
  • Start studies on upgrading the Canals No. 1 and No.2 Roads, East Bank Berbice Road and Diamond to CJIA Road;
  • Repeal the new Broadcasting Act 2017;
  • Remove the tolls imposed by the Linden Town Council on vehicles transiting to, and, through the township to the interior and coast;
  • Remove ban on used tyres;
  • Remove ban on importation of vehicles older than 8 years to return to importation of vehicles under 12 years;
  • Expedite negotiations with Brazil for the Linden- Lethem Road;
  • Abandon the parking meters proposal and contract for city of Georgetown.

 

Security Sector:

  • Stop the Interference in the Police Service Commission and comply with the constitutional provisions guarding the service commissions;
  • Implement the PPP/C Citizen Security Plan;
  • Report on all aspects of the deplorable tragedy at the City Jail on July 9th 2017, and to declare what actions are being taken to reduce the opportunities for such situations re-occurring;
  • Report on all aspects of the loss of 17 lives and destruction of property that occurred in the March 2016 Camp St Prison disturbances and what measures have been taken to implement the recommendations of the 2016 Commission of Inquiry;
  • Convert Camp Street Prison into a remand detention centre;
  • Provide adequate funds over the next 2 years to make Mazaruni Prison a maximum security prison with facilities for capital prisoners and staff;
  • Implement the recommendation of the UN Working Group of Peoples of African descent with regards to Lusignan Prison;
  • Provide adequate funds for increase in salaries, benefits and allowances for prison officers;
  • Stop the political management of SOCU, and, revert to its original mandate under the AMLCFT Act and under the direct control of the Guyana Police Force;
  • Repeal the State Assets Recovery Act or minimally remove the sections which are unconstitutional with reference to the powers of the Director as well as sections that target the private sector and individuals in violation of the constitution;
  • Exempt farmers from paying gun license fees;
  • Return shot guns voluntarily submitted by Amerindian during the 2015 Gun Amnesty period and grant their licenses as promised.

 

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

These proposals are not exhaustive but their implementation is critical to the creation of an environment more conducive to the growth and expansion of the economy, the creation of jobs, sending the right signals to the private sector, and, improving the welfare of its people.

 

 

 

……………………………………………

Mohamed Irfaan Ali, M.P.,

 

 

………………………………………….

Gail Teixeira, M.P.,

 

October 5, 2017

 

Author: Joe Public
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