Below is a statement issued by Mr Carvil Duncan, AA President of FITUG and General Secretary of the GLU:
Real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years, external reserves rising threefold since 2006 to US$798 million, external debt being reduced from 658 percent of GDP at the end of 1991 to 47 percent at the end of 201, the fiscal deficit being reduced from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 4.4 percent in 201, foreign direct investment amounting to US$1.3 billion over the past five years, credit by the banking sector expanding by almost 20%, and inflation last year being only 3.3 %. Apart from economic growth, we are pleased with both the level of foreign interest and investment and the expansion of lending by our banking sector. First, let me complement the Minister of Finance and the Government for the macro economic performance particularly given the performance of the rest of the world over the last 5 years. It is a testimony to the persons in charge.
For the average working man, the biggest measure in this budget is the increase in the income tax threshold that put an additional 40,000 in one’s pocket/annum, if they are earning above 50,000 per month. This 25% increase in the income tax threshold is the largest on record and is very much appreciated. Given the pubic sector wage increase last year of 8% vs. 3.3 inflation for last year, the increase in the threshold this year will continue to see an increase in disposable income for both the public sector and the general working class. We welcome the continued focus on social services and the expansion of the OLPF program this year. It is hoped that the long overdue telecom reform will occur soon and consumers/workers will see a drop in telecom rates and greater access to the wide array of services now available in the telecom sector. We also recognize that the Government contribution to GPL of G$6 B is to avoid the 20% increase in electricity rates that the company is entitled to get –this is in essence a subsidy to the customer. Given the share of electricity prices in the average man’s budget, the Government support is very welcome; we also recognize that much is being done to reduce the price of transportation via the lower of applicable taxes on fuel. FITUG strongly welcomes the intervention in the sugar industry, with the intention of supporting the company on its return to viability. Without this, the company would face the real threat of closure or substantial loss of employment. Subsidizing sugar ensures the continuity of employment for over 18,000 and their families and those who benefit from the sugar industry—the budget notes that over 120,000 persons will benefit from this. While last year’s performance of Guysuco was better than before and the workers are to be commended for achieving this, it is hoped that the company performance will improve as projected and that this subsidy will be avoided next year. But the sugar sector and workers are important and deserves our support.
We also support the continuing subsidy to our bauxite brothers and sisters in the towns of Linden and Kwakwani; it is hoped that the transition in tariffs announced in the budget will be manageable but it is recognized that fuel has increased and the prices in Linden is about 10% that of GPL for residential customers. Persons in Kwakwani receive electricity free. It is heartening to see the expansion of investment in the bauxite industry despite the difficulty in the world markets and declining prices. We recognize the increase in benefits for old age persons and pensioners and while it would have been desired to have a larger increase, we recognize that over the last 5 years, this represents a doubling. We would want to ask Government to consider this group of Guyanese as our brother and sisters that are most vulnerable and do deserve as much support as possible. We look forward to this budget being approved by this unique composition of Parliament. We wish to call on all political parties to conduct the debate in the best interests of all Guyanese with a focus on issues rather than personalities.