1.1 Mr Speaker, I rise to move the motion for the approval of the
Estimates of the Public Sector and the Budget for the Financial Year 2001.
In so doing, I wish to indicate that in concurrence with Article 171, paragraph
2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet has recommended that the National Assembly
proceed upon this motion.
1.2 Mr Speaker, the General and Regional Elections that were mandated
under the Herdmanston Accord are now over. The people have spoken. Through
the democratic process, they have given the PPP/Civic Government a renewed
mandate to consolidate the gains that have been made over the past eight
years; and to continue the task of nation building, in order that Guyanese
may enjoy a brighter, more prosperous future. We have to work with the
political Opposition and other groups in the society to create a lasting
environment of peace, trust and enduring stability. Without a doubt, these
are vitally important prerequisites for attracting investment that is so
necessary for the continuation of economic progress and social development
in our country.
1.3 We have taken careful note of our people’s demands, their hopes
and aspirations. Indeed, these have always accorded with our vision for
Guyana’s future - a vision which we have shared continuously over the past
years and which we elevated in our Manifesto for the recent elections.
To restate it succinctly, we envisage a country in which our abundant natural
resources are harnessed by a resilient and enterprising people to create
wealth that is then equitably distributed among the people for their benefit.
We are single-minded in our resolve to establish a society in which no
one feels excluded from the mainstream of development - a society in which
the rich diversity of our people is used to strengthen the bonds that bind
us, rather than accentuate those that divide us. We have achieved much
over the years, including improved growth rates; modernisation of the economic
infrastructure; reduction in the foreign debt that has facilitated higher
expenditure in health, education, housing and pure water, among other areas;
and a significant reduction in poverty.
1.4 Mr Speaker, considering the extent of the physical, economic
and social decay which enveloped our country not so long ago, many would
be satisfied with the progress that has been made to date. Not so the PPP/Civic
Government! We recognise that much more needs to be done. The economic
base of the country needs to be expanded. Our traditional industries have
to become more efficient and productive, while new growth areas such as
tourism, informatics and computer-related industries will need to be attracted.
We need to integrate our regions, towns, villages and communities; we have
to invest more in our education and health systems, our sea defence, drainage
and irrigation and road networks; we must devote more resources to improving
policing methods, reducing crime, defending our borders and external interests,
and protecting our national patrimony. Above all, we must encourage and
attract massive investment to create jobs. These are some of the challenging
tasks that we will confront during this third term.
1.5 Mr Speaker, mindful of the impatience of our people and acknowledging
the enormity of the tasks that lie ahead, we have developed a comprehensive
economic development strategy for implementation over the next five years.
We envisage that by 2006, we will have a very robust, diversified economy
that is both capable of withstanding adverse external shocks and competing
effectively within the new globalised environment.
1.6 Mr Speaker, this Budget draws heavily upon that strategy and,
therefore, should be seen as the first step towards the realisation of
those goals. The Budget revolves around the theme, “Moving Guyana Forward
Together.” It is an imaginative attempt to build on the foundations that
have been laid for our economic take-off; to promote the well-being of
the country; and to address many issues and concerns of the Guyanese people.
It has been prepared against the background of a very hostile external
environment. As many of you are aware, Year 2000 was a particularly difficult
one for Guyana.
1.7 At the external level, massive increases in the price of oil,
declining prices for our main exports, and new threats to the survival
of long-standing trading arrangements in crucial product markets, affected
our capacity to accelerate the pace of our development. Domestically, adverse
weather conditions affected production in the real sector, especially sugar
and rice. As if that were not bad enough, investors either delayed or postponed
investment in light of the Elections that were held in the first quarter
of 2001. These factors were responsible for the economy returning a small,
negative growth rate.
1.8 We feel confident, nevertheless, that, as in the past, our people
and our economy have the capacity and the resilience to rebound quickly
from such a temporary setback. We believe that the policy measures and
programmes that proliferate in this Budget are sufficient to evidence the
turnaround that is projected for 2001.
1.9 Mr Speaker, I firmly believe that the goodwill exists in the
society for us to move resolutely forward together. Guyana’s gains are
the people’s gains. Her losses are suffered by all of us. Let us, therefore,
eschew the desire to destroy and destabilise our country. Instead, let
us embrace the extended hands of friendship, love and cooperation, united
in purpose to build the type of Guyana of which we continue to dream. This,
Mr Speaker, is the charge of this Budget - the first of this Eighth Parliament