Budget Speech Ms Baveghems - 20123029 11 Apr, 2012
April 11, 2012
Mrs. Baveghems: Mdm. Deputy Speaker, thank you. I rise to speak after my honourable and dignified colleague, Mrs. Volda Lawrence, and to say that it is an honour to be part of this year’s Budget debate. I rise to speak in representation of the so called “grassroots” persons in society, in particular our senior citizens, nurses and teachers. In this regard, this year’s Budget is the worse that I have ever seen.
The Hon. Minister of Finance boasts about the rise in the income tax threshold. [Mr. Ali: Mr. B. Williams, did you write that speech?] Yes. What you want to hear you will hear.
That sounds good, but how many workers receive a salary of $50,000 per month? Nurses who have brought us all in the world, who are there to provide nursing care for us during our lifetime, have not received any mention in this Budget, in terms of a salary increase or incentives. No money has been allocated to them, hardworking as they are. These workers who cannot refuse to treat any patient are left open to contract diseases and are exposed to harm, for example, those nurses who work in the psychiatric ward and those who work with patients who have easily transmitted diseases. Nurses need and deserve special salaries. If not, we will continue to loose nurses each year and the health care system in Guyana will remain in a deplorable state. Perhaps some of the Members on the Government side in this House should go to the emergency section of the Georgetown Public Hospital, in disguise, and they will experience, at first hand, what Guyanese experience daily. Citizens spend hours without receiving proper attention. And when some do get attention, they cannot get the drugs ordered for them. And when they do get the drugs - sometimes they have to get two or three drugs – they get one free and have to buy the rest. That is how Georgetown public Hospital Corporation operates.
The staff- both doctors and nurses are short. Perhaps if there were greater incentives in pay, we may be able to retain more health workers in Guyana. So serious is the situation that some private hospitals have resorted to recruiting nurses from overseas. One hospital has imported some from India and they cannot speak proper English. The patients are at the mercy of these nurses who cannot communicate properly with them. So the Minister can boast about how many millions he has allocated for the health sector, but if we have a shortage of nurses, how will that improve health care for the grassroots of this country?
Like nurses, teachers also need special salaries to teach our children who range in ages from three years, nine months to an average of 17 years. They enable their students to obtain careers but most times these efforts go unnoticed and unrewarded. There are numerous teachers who work very hard with their students for them to obtain passes at internal and external examinations. But they still did not get any reward. The Government takes all the credit, boasting about how much money it spent on education. It is the teachers who go beyond the call of duty, sometimes teaching through their lunch periods and after normal school hours. They do this for their students. The teachers have to ask and sometimes they have to take care of their biological children. Do they get any incentives? None! Not a single extra dollar! What a shame! Teachers are exposed to the threat of and sometimes actual assault from both students and parents who visit the schools with pieces of wood, knives and even guns. The teachers are left to defend themselves as the majority of schools have limited or no security. Mdm. Speaker, could you believe that teachers from a few schools were asked to give remedial classes last July to August and to date some of them have not received their full payments for this.
Teachers prepare our children for the world of work and these same children end up in jobs which pay fabulous salaries and have numerous incentives. But the teachers who prepared them for these jobs are earning a pittance in comparison. How will this Budget help to improve education? The truth is that the ordinary citizens cannot afford to pay for extra lessons and so they have to endure with the existing system where many teachers are dissatisfied with their salaries and have to look for alternative means of earning a living.
I want to talk about social assistance which was granted a “princely” sum of $400 as an increase. Social assistance is given mostly to single parents who have to take care of their children. Presently, there are lots of children who perform odd jobs, either before or after school, just to help out with the family expenses. This increase is inadequate and should be reviewed.
This brings me to the issue of the School Uniform Programme. One uniform is not enough. I am humbly requesting that this allocation be increased from one uniform per child to, at least, two uniforms per child. There is a saying that children are our country’s wealth. If this is so, then we should allocate more funds to their future. GPL and GuySuCo have gotten billions so we should be able to allocate more funds so that our youths can secure their future. Or is it that we prefer our youths to become dropouts and turn to a life of crime?
There are lots of vulnerable children who have hardly anything to eat and where some of them decide to do anything in order to get a better life. Some of them turn to steeling, selling drugs for the “big ones” who get the drugs in easily and give them to sell or other nefarious activities since they believe in the motto, Get Rich or Die Trying. Not having a good schooling or not being able to attend social activities is a terrifying experience.
There is a single parent who I met recently. And she revealed to me that some days, in order to feed her children – four in number she has – she looks at the television programme, death announcement, and goes to the wake nearest to where she lives. She then is able to get food from the wake for herself and children for the next couple of days. Sometimes this is a nightly activity for her.
The drastic increase in electricity rates at Linden may turn out to be disastrous. Persons will not be able to afford such a high increase in their tariffs and many may turn to activities that will be detrimental to themselves and others, similar to what is happening in other parts of the country where people use all manner of methods to obtain electricity without paying for it.
Old age pension is supposed to be increased by $600 per month. Pensioners are persons who would have worked very hard in their younger days doing whatever jobs they could. And are we saying that $600 more is sufficient for them? This increase represents a one-way taxi fare since most mini bus drivers refuse to transport the elderly in their vehicles.
Sometimes when pensioners turn up at the post offices to collect their measly pensions, they are told that there is no money to pay them. Pensioners are human beings too. They have needs and wants like every other person. Could the Hon. Minister give each pensioner a basic hamper every month? It should not come from Food for the Poor at all. This hamper should include such items as rice, flour, sugar, milk, margarine, oil, Quaker Oats, bath soap, washing soap and toilet soap. One pensioner told me that she is very upset with the proposed increase since she was looking forward to the back pay to pay off her debts to GPL and her landlady. Becoming a pensioner is a frightening experience except if you are a former President and will be guaranteed millions in pension and benefits despite your age. Most times, it is only when a pensioners reach 100 years old that a lot of attention is paid to them. They are showered with gifts, hampers and attention. And this may be the reason why they die shortly after. They are not accustomed to all the fuss and attention. Mdm. Speaker, I would love to see more attention being placed in the Budget on the less fortunate, nurses and teachers. After all, the Minister boasted of how much increased revenue the Government collected last year. Well, if that is true, where are the benefits for the grassroots in this Budget? The truth is that there is nothing significant which is the reason that I began my presentation by saying it is the worse budget that I have ever seen.
I thank you, Mdm. Deputy Speaker. [Applause]
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