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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Economy in the hands of drug traffickers, launderers -Corbin tells Parliament

Leader of the Opposition Robert Corbin has charged that the Government has practically abandoned the economy and placed it in the hands of the narco-traffickers, money-launderers and smugglers of commodities including guns.

He told Friday's session of the budget debate that the money-laundering activities of the drug lords are used as Government's examples of development of the economy and that the result of this would be heightened criminal activity.

"The money laundering business activities of the drug lords are used as their examples of development of our economy. They are facilitating the activities of these people because they are probably convinced that those activities are propping up the economy. They obviously believe that if the drug lords and their nefarious activities are obliterated then our struggling and fragile economy will fall apart… But what is the true result of all of this? - heightened criminal activity all around us, unfair competition for legitimate businesses, breakdown in the rule of law, and moral decay in the society".

Corbin said the provisions of the 2006 budget cannot be realised without two pillars: adherence to the rule of law and transparency and accountability, adding that during the past week, Members of Parliament on both sides of the House have engaged in frivolities that would do nothing to address the country's serious challenges.

"This budget presentation is therefore just a farce: a week of lengthy debate; attacks and counter-attacks, great promises, lofty plans and then sadly, no accountability," he said, speaking at the wrapping up of the budget debate on Friday.

He said that the mantra of the budget as aiming to transform Guyana through modernisation and partnership is nothing but a pipe dream unless the Government is prepared to listen and take account of the people.

Corbin said that he would be the first to commend the Government if the projections in the budget could be realised. "Indeed I would be happy if we could agree on a programme that would genuinely guarantee the development of Guyana. Make no mistake about it: the PNCR is first and foremost concerned with the improvement of the quality of life for all the people of Guyana. In this direction we support any programme including (a) PPP programme if we are convinced that it is feasible," he said.

He said that when one examines the pronouncements and projections of the budget is could be said to be commendable, but short on policy and programme direction to achieve the desired goals. Corbin said too that the budget has failed to take into account the many studies and reports written in the past about the essentials for genuine economic and social progress in Guyana.

"Consequently, it lacks the social underpinnings that are prerequisites for the modernisation of Guyana. Some of the studies include the National Development Strategy Policy Paper, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and its many progress reports and comments by those who have been intimately involved in Guyana's affairs, including President Jimmy Carter. I would therefore suggest to the members of this Government, that if indeed they are interested in the future of Guyana, they ought to put aside this budget which is in any event in breach of the Law, and first address the serious issue of good governance without which no genuine development will ever take place," Corbin said.

Corbin said that it is a mistake for parliamentarians to believe that their high sounding speeches will resolve the complex issues that the country faces at this time.

"Have we stopped to think what our employers, the people of Guyana, must be thinking as they watch our theatrics on television?" he asked. He said that people are not amused and that many of them are angry and disappointed and have lost hope in the established political process.

Further, Corbin said that when citizens of a country feel that the only way for their problems to be heard is by protest action then Guyana is descending into a state of anarchy. "Why did the people of Tain and Black Bush Polder have to protest before any attention was paid to their flood woes?" he asked.

He said that when bad and visionless management is added to corruption, "then we do have disaster on our hands."

He said that a budget is presented every year and after the debates, a plethora of financial papers of expenditures incurred without reference to, or scrutiny of the Parliamentary committees, is brought to the National Assembly. "Where is the report on the flood expenditure of 2005 that we were promised since mid 2005," he asked.

Turning to the lack of adherence to the Rule of Law, Corbin lashed out at the Government for the continued use of Lotto Funds to fund projects, instead of turning over that money to the Consolidated Fund, as directed by the Auditor General. "We have seen the blatant disregard by President [Bharrat] Jagdeo for the instruction given by the Auditor General that the Lotto Funds are to be paid into the Consolidated Fund. We have seen an Integrity Commission appointed without due regard to the constitutional requirement of consultation," he said.

Further, Corbin said that the Chancellor to the Judiciary remains [not appointed] notwithstanding the requirement of the constitution and the President of Guyana "thinking that he could avoid the Constitution by opening a new debate on whether a Chancellor is necessary."

Corbin said that the illegality associated with the 2006 National Budget is evident from a cursory examination of the Fiscal Manage-ment and Accountability Act of 2003. He said that Section 15 thereof stipulates that the budget shall include estimates of all statutory expenditure for the next ensuing fiscal year and for next following three fiscal years; the estimates of investment by each budget agency for the next three fiscal years; and the details of the fiscal relationship between the Government and the regions, including proposed general and special purpose transfers to the regions during the next ensuing fiscal year and the following three years.

He said that nowhere in the estimates is this information included and that clearly this is a failure to comply with the law and therefore illegal.

Corbin said that Section 15 of the FMAA requires a Programme Performance Statement from each budget agency and Section 72 (3) requires an endorsement signed by the concerned Minister. Corbin said that this requirement is largely complied with but in case of the Office of the President and the Public Service Ministry, Dr Roger Luncheon signs the endorsement. "This is another illegality since for all the power and authority Luncheon may exercise he is not the concerned minister for those agencies," Corbin said. Winston Murray of the PNCR had raised this issue during his budget debate speech last week Monday.

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