FINANCE Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, yesterday in the National Assembly tabled a Statement of Excess on the current and capital estimates in a $4.6B Financial Paper, the first such document for 2014.
The paper is a first in a series of papers expected to be brought before the House in a move to restore critically important funds cut from the $220B Budget for 2014.
Included in the $4.6B Paper is the full return of $6.1B to the Office of the President. The allocation, for current expenditures, included monies for the Government Information Agency (GINA) and the National Communications Network (NCN). Also, the sum of $450M has been returned to the President’s office for capital expenditures under the Administrative Services category.
A portion of the capital expenditures under the Ministry of Finance’s policy and administration has also been returned, and includes $424M for the Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) programmes; $225M for the University of Guyana’s student loan funds; and $67M for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The Amerindian Development Fund’s $303M allocation has been returned to the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, as has the $359.8M for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA)’s expansion project.
The Minister’s move was premised on his reliance on the constitutional grounds and rulings of the Court to initiate, as of today, an exercise to restore funds from the 2014 National Budget that were voted down by the combined Opposition in the National Assembly.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Dr. Roger Luncheon, on Wednesday told the media that the restoration exercise will be a recurrent one that will take until the end of the year.
Noting that every act of restoration by the minister carries with it a constitutional obligation for its timely presentation to Parliament, Dr Luncheon said that the minister is not constrained to a single act in his restoration functions, abilities, powers and authorities.
Said he: “The reference to constitutional and the court rulings should not be a novelty. The Constitution specifically addresses expenditure and shortages; inadequacy for agencies in discharging their work programme in any fiscal year. And the Constitution does offer remedies that we have collectively termed restoration.
“But of course, it carries with it the specifics of the constitutional remedies; and that is to say that restoration indeed refers to a range of constitutional remedies to provide for expenditure that has not been appropriated in any fiscal year.
“It is clear that the Constitutional Court has ruled on this subject; and it is equally clear that the Constitutional Court rulings have been used by this Administration, by the Finance Minister, to undo the unconstitutional acts that have been perpetrated by the Opposition.”
Under the allocation for the Office of the President, the cuts include: $245M for the Presidential Guard services; $95M for the provision of developmental and humanitarian aid, among other initiatives; $10M for the Office of the First Lady; $73.5M for the Guyana Energy Agency; $119M for the Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest); $122M for the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST); $17M for the Integrity Commission; and $28.5M for the Office of the Commissioner of Information.
The other cuts include: $18.5B for the LCDS initiatives; $450M for loans for University of Guyana students; $725M for the poverty alleviation programme; $7M for the different rights commissions; $795M for the Basic Needs Trust Fund; and $4M for support to non-governmental organisations and the private sector.
The following programmes were also decimated: The Specialty Hospital, $910M; upgrading of regional and district hospitals, including Port Kaituma, Kwakwani, Linden, Bartica, Eye Surgery Operating Room at Linden etc, $360M; ambulances, ATVs and boats, $42M; surgical equipment and instruments, $32M; the Amerindian Development Fund, $1.1B; other Amerindian programmes, such as ATVs, tractors etc., $40M; the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) modernisation project, $6.6B; Civil Aviation, $50M; and hinterland airstrips, $185M.
In total, a whopping $37.4B was cut from this year’s Budget, making it the third consecutive year of cuts under President Donald Ramotar’s administration, the largest reduction in the estimates since the commencement of the 10th Parliament.
The tabled Financial Paper is expected to be considered at the next sitting of the National Assembly.
(By Vanessa Narine