Thank you Mr. Speaker!
Mr Speaker, I proudly rise to tender my contribution and support to budget 2016, under the theme:“STIMULATING GROWTH, RESTORING CONFIDENCE, THE GOOD LIFE BECKONS”, which has been prepared by the Hon. Member, Finance Minister, Mr. Winston Decasto Jordan. Mr Speaker, it will be remised of me for not acknowledging and applauding the Hon. Member and his team of competent staff for brining to this nation, a budget just under six (6) months from the last one. Hon. Member, I say well done!
Budget 2016 is anchored on five pillars: National Unity, National Infrastructure, National Institutions, National Security and Public Services. If one is to examine and analyse what is contained in this budget, one will conclude that it is a People’s budget. This has also been confirmed by many who were once critical of government’s budget and they have applauded this APNU/AFC government.
Mr Speaker, our government has set itself achievable goals which will engender hope and confidence in the Guyanese populace. We have embarked on a campaign to rid the spirit of disunity, for no longer will we allow for division and divisiveness to reign, but through initiatives adumbrated in this year’s budget, will relentlessly pursue and develop a healthy nation and its environment which will be free from disagreement or dissent.
Mr. Speaker, on May 11, 2015, the Guyanese people expressed their lack of confidence in the PPP administration and voted them out of power. Guyanese were fed-up with the high level of rampant corruption which had a destabilizing impact on the country’s natural and human resources. In this context, Mr. Speaker, in spite of the many challenges, our government has embarked on a policy of rebuilding by creating conditions and atmosphere for the nation to be revitalised to attain the concept of oneness again in its true sense.
This can be viewed by way of the multiple transformations that would have taken place within the eight (8) months of the APNU/AFC government; which included, but are not limited to, paved streets and roads in communities that were neglected under the previous administration. Thus, as a result, our government has chosen the Theme: “Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence: The Good Life Beckons”. To contextualise, the theme seeks to address to all Guyanese that their government recognises the need for healing and process has commenced, where all Guyana have been animated to be progressive and productive to transform this land from a state of decay and ruin and with firm conviction, instil in all, a new zeal to intensify growth and development. With this new vision and great dynamism, the nation of Guyana will be propelled into a new era where the sky is the limit.
Mr Speaker, my presentation will posit arguments on what were achieved in the latter quarter of 2015 and what are the projects for 2016 for the agencies under my stewardship.
Mr Speaker, briefly examining the performance of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Inc., for the year 2015. The bridge continues to be a vital link for commuters between East Bank Demerara and West Bank Demerara.
The agency continued to ensure that maintenance works are conducted on the more than three decades old bridge, so as to ensure that services are not disrupted. The sum of ninety million dollars ($90M) was approved as subvention in the fiscal year 2015. The sum was primarily used to assist in the procuring of wire ropes, rehabilitation of cluster piles and fabrication of connecting posts, through the awarding of contracts via competitive bidding. Mr Speaker, in the interest of time, a number of maintenance works were conducted at other areas by the DHB Inc. since the up surged in crime, the DHB Inc. has collaborated with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Guyana Police Force, where CCTV cameras have been placed at strategic locations on the Eastern and Western sides of the bridge and Central Georgetown to aid in rapid response both in criminal activities and traffic violations.
Projections for 2016, the sum of one hundred and fifty million dollars, ($150M) will be spent. Mr Speaker, this will aid in supporting DHB Inc., in purchasing of materials to ensure that continuance maintenance are executed. Mr. Speaker, the budgetary allocation for 2016 is more than 2015 because we do not want a reoccurrence of what happened in 2012 when the bridge collapsed. Further it is logical reasoning, that with an old bridge and greater usage because of the housing developments in Regions 3 and 4, the probability of downtime may be higher.
Notwithstanding our provisions Mr. Speaker, Government cannot continue to expend millions on maintaining a bridge that has expired its lifetime and therefore, the construction of a new bridge is eminent. In December 2015 expressions of interest were received from 23 companies for the undertaking of a Feasibility Study and Design of a New Bridge across the Demerara River.
The PPP administration wasted the tax payers’ money by investing in what can only be called ‘dead projects’ which could only have benefited a lucky few, a good example is the Marriot Hotel – a loss making venture. If that same money was invested in the Bridge Project; Mr. Speaker, Guyanese today would have been enjoying use of a bridge – a much needed facility that will serve the mass of Guyanese users.
Our Government will undertake projects that will benefit the people of Guyana and not just a select few as practised by the former PPP administration, therefore construction of a new Bridge will be accomplished under the APNU-AFC government!
Mr Speaker, I now turn my attention to the Transport and Harbours Department, one of Guyana’s oldest river transport agencies, which is celebrating eighty-five years of service to the nation, under the theme, “Transport for a sustainable Future: Restructure, Reinvigorated, Repositioned” and continues to offer schedule services to the people who depends highly on river transport. Despite, it’s old and rapidly aging fleet of vessels, the ferry services remains and will continue to ensure a vital link in the transport network, primarily in the riverine areas of Guyana at a reasonable cost to commuters.
Mr Speaker, in 2015 there was significant increase in passengers, cargo and vehicles as compared to 2014.
Mr Speaker, in 2015 the Transport and Harbours Department received a total capital allotment of six hundred and two million and five hundred thousand dollars ($602.5M), which catered for docking of four (4) vessels, acquisition of spares and rehabilitation of stellings commenced in 2015 and works are continuing.
Focused was given in other areas for maintenance and corrective works, both on vessels and stellings.
Mr Speaker, in the 2016 budget, nine hundred and four million and one hundred and fifty-five thousand ($904.155M) have been provided for rehabilitative works to be done on the M.V. Kanawan and M.V. Sabanto; this allocation also includes a provision for works on the goods wharf and the completion of works already being done on the Parika and Leguan facilities, and for Phases one and two of the Bartica Stelling.
Mr Speaker, not only is our government interested in repairing stellings and conducting maintenance works on vessels. This government is also committed in ensuring that our people who give of their years of service are made to work in a friendly environment. During the past years, staff were forced to work in conditions that are not in keeping with Labour guidelines which was heavily overlooked or neglected under the former PPP/C administration. Hence, budget 2016 gives provision for a total of fifty million dollars ($50M) to construct a spanking new building which will bring great relief to workers.
Mr. Speaker, emphasis will be placed on the monitoring of the fuel consumption within the department. Mr. Speaker, to avoid excess spending in this area, effective 3rd February, 2016, a Cap System for fuel usage was initiated and this will initiative Mr. Speaker will result in an estimated saving of approximately one hundred million ($100M) Guyana dollars per annum.
Mr Speaker, our government is keen in ensuring that unnerved areas are given attention, which they will be able to benefit from solar panel energy, extension of electricity in regions 3, 4, 5 & 6 and improved generator sets for Port Kaituma, Mahdia and Matthews Ridge. The sum of one hundred and ten million, nine hundred and ninety dollars ($110,990M) has been allocated in this years’ budget.
Mr. Speaker, APNU-AFC Government in its Manifesto, promised to “upgrade hinterland airstrips and key secondary roads – to mining areas, forestry sites, indigenous villages and other communities outside of our main settlement areas, as part of a coordinated and phased programme of upgrading the air transport network to provide a level of ‘feeder services’ linking airstrips, mining areas, settlement communities and social services – particularly health services.”
Mr. Speaker, our Government intends to deliver on our promise as we understand that hinterland airstrips is a key infrastructure in facilitating connectivity by air between coastland and hinterland.
As inherited from the PPP administration, our Government is dissatisfied with the state of hinterland airstrips. Within the last decade, there have been two deaths of passengers walking into aircraft propellers and numerous occasions of animals walking and grazing on aerodromes. There is weak and non-existent security, non-existent navigational aids, no air traffic centres and poor infrastructure and inadequate maintenance. As we understand it, these challenges are symptomatic of inadequate funding, absence of an aerodromes development policy, severe staffing constraints within the Hinterland Aerodromes Unit that provide administrative and operational oversight for government aerodromes.
Mr. Speaker in 2016 Budget, two hundred and forty-one million, five hundred and eighty-six thousand ($241.586M) were allocated to complete and rehabilitate airstrips within Guyana.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, a study has been initiated for thedevelopment of a comprehensive aerodromes policy and strategic plan that addresses the deficiencies and problems affecting all aerodromes.
Mr. Speaker, when our government took office, the regulatory arm of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority was grossly understaffed and this is reflected in the poor state of affairs of the regulatory agency when I assumed responsibility for the GCAA. Mr. Speaker, our government, in its usual proactive response, adopted a posture that we cannot continue with business as usual and therefore since assuming office, our work mandate has been two-fold: 1) fixing the broken and 2) advancing the economy forward for a better life for all. It seems that most our time in government so far has been fixing broken things!
Mr. Speaker, when I assumed responsibility for the GCAA, Guyana, which follows the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) South America office, we suffered the indignity of having the lowest level of effective implementation of the standards and recommended practices established to ensure the safe and orderly development of Civil Aviation in the South American Region. A Paltry 44 percent Mr. Speaker, 44 percent! The regional average stands above 70 percent Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to indicate to this entire House, that Guyana will NOT be blacklisted under this Government. As Minister, I intend to fix the problems that I inherited from the previous administration and to bring Guyana’s compliance rating to at least 60% in a short time.
Mr. Speaker, the aviation sector is too critical of a sector to be neglected as it was under the previous administration. The previous administration owes this nation an explanation for the state of affairs of this key agency and many others.
Mr. Speaker, this House will be shocked to know that critical regulatory departments within the GCAA were staffed with only one technical officer. Further Mr. Speaker, when I assumed office, the GCAA resembles Hollywood with many staff acting for over seven years and some were mistreated by being placed on incorrect salary scales.
Mr. Speaker, work has already commenced on improving the GCAA’s oversight capability. Additional staff were employed in the Aviation Security Unit, the Air Transport Management Department and recruitment is presently on going to enhance the Aviation Safety Department. In addition, staff who held acting portfolios for several years were appointed and also in consultation with the Guyana Public Service Union, staff who were on the wrong salary scales were placed on their corrected salary scales.
Mr. Speaker, I intend on getting the nation’s business done properly, in November 2015, I attended the International Civil Aviation Organization World Aviation Forum where a draft Project Document to aid Guyana’s Institutional Strengthening of the Civil Aviation Safety Oversight System was discussed with donor and lending agencies for consideration. Evolving from these discussions the International Civil Aviation Organisation has committed $80,000 CAD for the Strengthening of the Civil Aviation Safety Oversight System in Guyana.
Mr. Speaker, the Personnel Testing and Licensing System of the GCAA which is done manually and has numerous rooms for malpractice is now being computerised and this Mr. Speaker will facilitate institutional strengthening to improve Guyana’s Compliance level. This will bring Guyana on par with developed countries.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to inform that on November 12, 2015 the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) commenced in the Upper Airspace. This being a milestone in Air Traffic Management (ATM) operations in Guyana. In the coming years, ADS-B will be commissioned in the Middle and Lower Airspace.
Mr. Speaker, our Government understand the importance of civil aviation and we have demonstrated this in Budget 2016 with the allocation of four hundred and thirty million ($430M) for the continuation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Project and institutional strengthening of the GCAA.
Mr. Speaker, in 2016, the following projects will be completed:
Mr. Speaker, Budget 2016 was a well put together Budget that addresses the priority issues for our Government for a better Guyana.
The issue of used tires seems to have taken a considerable section in oppositions’ presentations. Apart from the fact that they’ve all zoomed in on the minor consideration in the budget and made a major issue and also spoke out of context on the issue. I am appalled that no one zoomed in on the intent of the banning of used tires as a measure in support of our programme of ‘greening’ the economy and protecting the environment.
I must say that the leader of the opposition Dr. Bharat Jadgeo was touted as ‘Champion of the Earth’ and a spokesman for Climate Change, yet when our Government proposed an initiative to stop making Guyana the ‘garbage bin’ of the world, members of the opposition are resisting prudent policy.
No one took the time to study the cost-benefit analysis of such a move, nor did anyone acknowledge the fact that such an initiative will give Guyana a positive rating in its climate change efforts in truly ‘greening the economy’ rather the PPP is stuck in the old mode of ‘photocopying textbooks’.
In concluding Mr. Speaker, I appeal to my colleagues in this house, more so, the opposition members to give full support to budget 2016, under the theme:“Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence; the Good Life Beckons”.
Nelson Mandela once said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Members of the opposition may say it is impossible and say cannot happen but they will see the transformation when it is done.
Mr. Speaker, there are many Guyanese who are confronted with the ‘wow effect’ when they see the transformation in Georgetown. Budget 2016 has all the right elements for a transformed Guyana and for the creation of the ‘wow effect’ to be magnified on a national scale. Mr. Speaker, we have transformed Georgetown and we will do it across all Guyana.
Mr. Speaker, permit me to paraphrase his Excellency, the President of the cooperative Republic of Guyana when he addressed the National Assembly on Thursday 14th January, 2016 under the heading, “Independence and Resilience our people’s path to economic progress”. This is what he said, “We the Guyanese people, this year, celebrate the Independence we gained fifty years ago on the 26th May, 1966. We were inspired then by our national motto – ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’. We were encouraged now by our efforts to make that motto a reality. We renew our pledge to make our cherished homeland a place of unity, security and prosperity. Budget 2016 for Guyana!
Therefore, as we celebrate fifty years of jubilee, allow me to share this scripture taken from the Holy Bible, Romans 14:19, which states, “let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification”.
MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS US ALL.
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Ministry of Public Infrastructure