Vikash Ramkissoon, PS to the Ministry of Agriculture, slammed the opposition APNU (PNC) on its history of poor governance since capturing power in December 1964.
In his opening remarks, Vikash praised the Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and and his dedicated staff for preparing the budget, titled, SR2021, with a theme, “A path to Recovery, Economic Dynamism and Resilience” and for continuing to make all of us as Guyanese proud.
Vikas noted that it is a budget aimed at “restoring law and Order, economic stability, achieve sustained growth, and return our dear Land of Guyana to her position of pride, respect and admiration by her citizens locally and in the diaspora, as well as her friends and allies all over the world”.
In a reference to the poor governance of the PNC, Vikash reminded the public about the warning of historian Professor George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He interpreted nicely for Guyana: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Lessons from the past provide valuable insights for the present and understandings for the future. It is important to look back to look ahead.”
Here is the speech of the PS of the Ministry of Agriculture delivered to the Assembly on February 22:
It is undeniable, historical fact that the PNC (now referred as APNU+AFC) rigged the elections of 1968,1973,1980 and 1985 as well as the referendum in 1978. In 1992, 1997, 2001 when they lost the elections, protests organized by the Peoples, National Congress turned violent. Citizens were beaten, robbed and harassed in the streets of the nation’s capital. Mr. Speaker the then opposition leader Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte coined the “Low fire Mo Fire slogan.”
This legacy and machiavellian value system within that political Organization does not permit it to operate within democratic norms. This resulted in the shenanigans we saw in our election last year. This political party is only about Party Paramountcy, totalitarian government, and lack of adherence to democratic norms.
The honorable members on the opposite side of this house ought to be reminded that the People’s National Congress government was responsible for banning basic food items in this country. And so criminalizing the possession of a basic necessity of our people such as flour. A government which decides the choice of what people eat would definitely deny the citizens of their democratic right to elect a government of their choice.
The Government under PNC Nationalized or confiscated private property resulting in the PNC (APNU) control over the economy since there was hardly any distinction between PNC and the State. Guyana and Guyanese should never forget that the PNC flag was flown over the Courts of Appeal.
Members of that Political grouping has no moral authority to speak about Democracy. Twenty-eight (28) years of the PNC dictatorship and rigged elections destroyed Guyana and reduced it to an officially described “highly indebted poor country”. Just above Haiti on the developmental index.
When the People’s Progressive party Civic assumed office in 1992 Guyana had a total public Debt of US$ 2.1 Billion. 96 cents of every dollar earned was used to service debt payments. As at 2012 public Debts was US$ 1.7 billion. A reduction of 22%. Guyana was then using 10 cents of every dollar earned to service Debt.
Our Gross Domestic Product, Mr. Speaker was US$ 371 million in 1992 and Per Capita income was a mere US$ 250. When the Peoples’ Progressive Civic demitted office in 2015 our Per Capita income was US $ 5,580 and Gross Domestic Product was US $4.28 billion. By 2015 Guyana was a middle-income country.
Mr. Speaker the APNU+AFC failed to fulfill every manifesto promise they made to the Guyanese people during their 2015-2020 term. Their much touted 100 days’ plan was yet to commence, when we hit with one scandal after the other. They have enough material to rival Shonda Rimes’ TV series Scandal. There was
● The Durban park scandal,
● The drug bond scandal,
● the gold bracelet scandal,
● Demerara Harbor bridge feasibility scandal,
● the Larry London birth certificate scandal,
And if that was not enough, we had the firing of 7000 sugar workers and closure of four (4) sugar estates, illegally appointing a GECOM chairman in breach of our Constitution, the lost no confidence vote and, the refusal to call elections. and illegally occupying government for almost 12 months. Then there was the Slogan of honesty and Decency in the campaign.
Then there were the blatant attempts to rig the elections, intimidating and harassing international accredited elections observers.
When the PNC demitted office, Bank of Guyana report showed $ 83.2 billion dollars in overdraft, and treasury bills was another $ 77 billion. Squander mania. Those atrocities, Mr. Speaker, are just grains of sand on the beach.
The PPP government has taken a proactive approach in managing the affairs of Guyana. We have taken very prudent economic measures to avert a financial crisis August last year. Under the Irfan Ali’s Administration, in a mere six months, we have
1. Reversed VAT on electricity and water
2. Mortgage interest relief. Interest incurred on housing loan up to 30 million to be deductible from income tax
3. Provision of $ 25,000 COVID 19 relief per household
4. Allowed importation of half cut vehicles over 8 years old & used tires
5. Removal of VAT on building and construction materials
6. Removal of VAT on cellular phones
7. Removal of 25 percent corporate tax on education
8. Removal of 25% corporate tax on health and VAT on medical supplies
9. Old age pension increased to $ 25,000 effective 01/01/20121
10. Pensioners will benefit from free water services.
11. $ 150 million to support COVID 19 frontline workers
12. $ 15,000 cash grant for school children effective from 01/01/2021.
13. Uniform voucher allowance doubled to $ 4000
14. Removal of VAT on hinterland travel
15. Removal of Vat VAT on agricultural equipment
16. Reduction in D& I charges
17. Began the process of reopening the closed sugar estate. Some $ 7 billion dollars already placed towards this.
18. Distributed almost 3500 house lots within this 6 month
We have taken government to the people, Mr. Speaker. Every sector is on growth path and of success.
Mr. Speaker permit me to turn our attention to the Agriculture sector. Agriculture is the backbone of our national economy. Successive Peoples Progressive Party led Governments have long recognized this and have been placing tremendous emphasis on this sector.
The previous Minister of Agriculture Mr. Noel Holder once said, ‘Government has no responsibility to the Farmers.” Rice is a private business. This was not just a Freudian slip, Mr. Speaker. This represents the ideology of the people’s National Congress (PNC).
An Ideology Mr. Speaker; that does not view the agriculture sector as the backbone of the economy and one which provides the basic sustenance for citizens and now raw material for industrialization.
Charles Jordan Said: “What people do not understand, they do not value, what they do not value, they will not protect, and what they do not protect, they will lose.”
Obviously, the honorable members of the opposition by virtue of their actions and utterances refused to acknowledge and value agriculture. In so doing, they not only lost the opportunity to take natural resources and turn them into wealth, but also lost the right govern in the process.
Dr. Jagan during the 1957 – 1964 period while in Government transformed the agricultural sector through sound agricultural practices, programs and policies. It was during this period Guyana became the ‘breadbasket’ of the Caribbean. The Black Bush Polder Agricultural Scheme was one of the largest if not the largest in the Caribbean.
Sadly, after the Peoples National Congress was placed into office post December 1964 elections this gain was drastically reversed. Political Pressures on food Producers led to systematic destruction of Guyana’s Food potential as a result of the anti-Agricultural policies.
The First anti agricultural policy was directed towards the Rice Industry. The Government undemocratically imposed Rice Marketing Board (RMB). Mr. Speaker the People’s National Congress Government mandated all paddy be sold to the government at a low price. It then resold the milled Rice at the world market at a higher price, but refused to pass down some of these profits directly to the farmers or invest in the sector. The Rice Industry was used as a cash cow to enrich its supporters.
The Government removed subsidies, on agricultural inputs and agricultural equipment and machinery. The FCH program of the People’s National Congress was a monumental failure because of its own spiteful programs.
Before 2015 Elections the APNU + AFC promised $ 9000 per bag of paddy and to transformed agriculture with incentives and subsidies. These promises were never realized, instead steps were actively taken to punish farmers. Closing sugar estates, putting on the breadline 7000 sugar workers.
Sugar workers had to resort to the courts against the Granger led Government for Payment of their legal severance. The closure affected thousands of rural small businesses and vendors were destroyed and communities were devastated. Thousands of rice, cash crop and livestock farmers, who depended on Sugar for drainage, irrigation and maintenance of dams were adversely affected.
Mr. Speaker the Peoples’ Progressive Party promised the sugar workers in 2020 elections to reopen the closed sugar Estates in our Manifesto. We are aggressively working towards that goal. 7 billion has been allocated in the emergency budget last year and an additional 2 billion for critical capital investment.
The APNU+ AFC government increased land lease, rental charges, Drainage and Irrigation charges, introduced VAT on agricultural inputs, removed subsidies on agricultural machinery, fuel.
These draconian agricultural policies and measures imposed by the APNU+AFC government Mr. Speaker were reversed by Our government upon assuming office in October, 2020.
Mr. Speaker when this 12th Parliament brought Bills to this honorable house to reverse all the increased fees and taxes imposed on the people by APNU+ AFC, the honorable members on the opposite side of this house did not attend the session to defend those measures. I know and everyone knows there is no defense.
This reversal will result in almost 1.3 billion dollars annually back in the hands of farmers under the Mahaica/ Mahaicony/ Abary Agricultural Development Authority as pointed out by our Honorable minister of Finance in his budget.
Mr. Speaker the APNU+AFC Commission of Enquiry into Sugar, recommended not to close any estates. The Granger administration went against the very recommendations because it did not suit their agenda. Result? $ 70 Million tax payers’ monies went to waste.
Mr. Speaker 30 Billion dollars in a syndicated bond was acquired by the APNU+ AFC to reorganize Guyana Sugar Corporation. $ 17 billion was spent and cannot be accounted for by the previous administration. Let us not forget the US18 million Signing bonus.
Region # 3 The region I live all my life, in this country saw drastic transformation in the Housing sector under successive Peoples Progressive Party Civic Governments. We developed The Tuschen New Housing Scheme, (Phase 1 and 2 ), Zeelugt Phase 1, 2 & 3, Zeeburg, De Willem , Uitvlugt New Housing Scheme, Leonora, Cornelia Ida, Parfaith Harmony. We are now developing Stewartville, Anna Catherina, Meten Meer Zorg. Which New Housing Scheme was developed by APNU + AFC?
Our Government is on the verge to build the new Demerara Harbour Bridge, a state of the Art Four Lane Highway from Parika to Schoonard. These Development Mr. Speaker is vetted to decrease travel times between Regions #3 and # 4, and ultimately increase infrastructural development and productivity. This mandate is only given priority by the Peoples’ Progressive Party.
Budget 2021 caters $ 832 million in agricultural infrastructure. These Mr. Speaker include Agro Processing and packaging facilities in different parts of the country.
This will increase income and employment because of the strong backward linkage to primary agriculture. Added to this, a huge source of export market will be generated and more foreign exchange. This is a step in the correct direction to expand and create new stable intermediate markets for raw agricultural and will definitely provide large scale employment and reduce any waste to farmers produce.