Georgetown, Guyana – (December 8, 2016) President David Granger, today, called the 2017 $250B National Budget ‘sound’ and ‘courageous’ and one, which is focused not only on economic growth but also on development of the country’s physical infrastructure, provision of better social services, health care, education and ensuring the overall safety and security of all Guyanese. The President said that the Budget, which was designed after five months consultations with members of his Cabinet and key stakeholders, must not be seen as only as a financial plan for 2017, but as part of the five-year developmental programme in its entirety.

Speaking during this week’s recording of the Public Interest, the Head of State said that the National Budget makes the best possible use of limited resources and aims to place the country of a ‘green’ economic growth trajectory.

“I think it is a rounded budget. It caters for economic development, it caters for social protection, and it caters for greater security in terms of the ability of citizens to live in greater peace and safety from criminal attacks. So taken as a whole, I think that the Budget provides for all of the needs of citizens during the financial year 2017. That is my overview. Everything has been covered. There are 15 Ministries and any citizen reading the budget could see for himself or herself what is going to happen in Education, what’s going to happen in Public Security, what’s going to happen in Public Health, what’s going to happen with Public Telecommunications, and every citizen can follow where we are and where we are going to go,” he said.

The President said that while the 2017 Budget aims to ensure better services for all citizens, it will also strengthen the regulatory framework for greater compliance in the business sector. Additionally, the President emphasised that he believes the Budget makes the best use of the country’s limited resources.

“I wish I could build a bridge across the Demerara River by December next year. I wish I could build a highway. I wish I could give UG $10B but it so happens I have to give GUYSUCO that money. That is why we need to have taxation, to have legislation, a plan for implementation, which is going to make best use of our limited resources. There is never enough. We have a very important social programme and we need to improve education, we need to improve physical infrastructure, we need to ensure that security is improved. We had a terrible riot in March and we don’t want a reoccurrence of that situation so we have to put a lot of money into security and where will the money come from? Taxation!” he said.

The Head of State said that those measures are what will ensure that Government has the required funds to ensure that Guyanese are provided with the highest quality health, education, security and social services. In addition, he pointed out that the Budget is what is required right now to move Guyana forward.

“We have to have a forward looking Budget and I think that this is a courageous budget, which is going to move the country forward. For that reason, I think Guyana has to be prepared for change and this is a Budget that is going to bring about change. I think the population should look critically at the whole Budget not just bits and pieces. Look at the whole Budget. Is this a vehicle that can move the country forward to that good life, that better life that we promised and I think that it is. It is not standing still. It is taking some bold initiatives and those initiatives will pay dividends,” President Granger told journalists on the programme.

With regard to taxation on the consumption of electricity of more than $10,000 and water more than $1500, the President said that it is not a punitive measure, but rather one, which is aimed at ensuring that citizens exercise a conscience of conservation in their daily activities even as Guyana moves in the direction of becoming a ‘green’ state.

“It is not just to earn revenue but it is intended to guide people’s choices in the case of water and electricity. It is not punitive. It is curative, in the sense that persons, who waste water, would now be more careful in the use of water. So it is not a tax on water, it is a tax on excessive use of water. So we have to interpret the measures in terms of the policies, which the Government intends to achieve or implement. So it is not taxes for the sake of taxes; it is taxes to modify public behaviour. I think the majority of persons who are poor and are low income [earners] do not use that amount of water. Persons who use excessive amount of water will pay the full tax but then again the VAT has been reduced from 16 to 14 percent,” he said.

Even as the Budget is being debated in the National Assembly, President Granger said that his Government is not impervious to criticisms but so far there has been no evidence so far, which demonstrates that any of the measures in the 2017 Budget would not accomplish their expected outcomes for the overall development of the country.

“We would bear in mind the comments and criticisms, which have been made. We don’t want to do anything that is harmful or hurtful to the general public. But so far we have not seen any evidence that the measures that have been recommended are unlikely to do anything but help the country to move forward to becoming a ‘green’ state… I would say that it is a sound budget and the Government has not been persuaded that any of the measures are unlikely to achieve the objectives, which we have set ourselves,” President Granger said.

Meanwhile, Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, following a press briefing at Parliament Buildings, earlier today, said that the Budget is one, which is heavily focused on restructuring the base of the country to make it ready for the developments. With regard to Public Infrastructure, Minister Harmon said that the Government is investing large sums of money into this sector to link the coastland to the hinterland and in so doing, will create easy accessibility for business and investment, tourism, and overall development of the county.

“I look forward to the day when I can jump in my car in Georgetown and drive to Lethem or drive to Kaikan or drive to Kamarang. Those are the days! This is what Guyana is beckoning. This is what is on the horizon and I feel compelled to say that the Opposition should understand that and share in this vision of prosperity. And I believe that once we can do that we will have a better debate in the National Assembly because we’ll be debating on issues and ideas and not just about the trivia that sometimes that takes place, that passes for debate,” he said.

Infrastructural development is necessary too he said, to facilitate investments not only by local companies but regional and international organisations. Already, Minister Harmon said, investors have been flocking to the country’s shores to explore what opportunities are available.

“Every day, in fact on the day when the Minister of Finance [made] his Budget presentation, on that day we had 227 businessmen from Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname here in Guyana to look at business opportunities here. Two hundred and twenty-seven! We had people from Barbados, Jamaica, all over the Region. They are coming here. They are seeing something. They are seeing that this, here, this is future of the Region. And here in Guyana, we have to understand our position and let us work with the Government to make sure that we can deliver [so] that when those people come they see investment opportunities, they take advantage of it so that the lives of our Guyanese brothers and sisters can be improved and this, as I said, is for all of Guyana,” he said.

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