Ms Walton Desir who is considered as one of the brighter lights on the opposition bench reiterated the widely held view, that since the new administration has taken office, it has embarked on a policy of wanton discrimination against Afro-Guyanese in the public service, rooting them out with vitriol.
Walton Desir pointed out that the matter of race discrimination in Guyana remained relevant and pertinent and must be highlighted.
“It is downright undeniable that this administration has embarked on an ethnicization of the public service. And so, what they are doing as well, is that they are not quite content to stop at firing you, but they go to the extent of making their disapproval known to anybody who would want to retain the professional services of these men and women.” Walton Desir lamented.
She slammed Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo over disparaging comments he made on February 11, suggesting that Coalition (APNU/AFC) Members of Parliament, if not for anything else, would turn up to the Budget debate just for the “food.”
“…one thing I can predict, they will come and eat the food; I can predict that; I can predict that with great levels of certainty. There is no margin of error, there is no variability in that, that is a 100% certainty,” Jagdeo said
The eloquent firebrand Coalition MP who hails from Linden, said Jagdeo’s crass comments connotes the view that Coalition MPs, the majority of whom are Afro-Guyanese, are “hungry belly dogs.” “It is no secret that Afro Guyanese have been branded as hungry belly dogs, and it is shameful, to say the least, that no less a person than the vice president of a nation would willingly reinforce, promote and endorse this insult of Guyanese people,” Walton Desir said.
“As a student of history Sir, I am mindful of the fact that the Nazis referred to the Jews as rats, the Hutus called the Tutsis cockroaches. Students of history understand that dehumanisation, the attribution of “less than human” to a group or race of people, is a precursor to terrible evil, and therefore it is incumbent on each and every one of us to roundly condemn such speech whether from friend or foe,” Walton Desir said, as she challenged the House and its Speaker, Manzoor Nadir to condemn Jagdeo’s statement.
Zooming in on financing the national budget Ms. Walton Desir told the House that while the coalition had a solid tax-base system which assisted greatly in budget financing, the PPP seems to favour borrowing and increasing Guyana’s external debt.
Ms Walton Desir described the budget as a “vapid, visionless and vacuous” document, noting that “If everything goes as planned with this budget, we will rack up about US$1B in debt, this is almost five-times the amount we have in the Natural Resource Fund, if you divide that by the country’s population, then you understand the burden, every Guyanese man, woman and child will have to bear. So, we are saddling our children and our children’s children with debt” Walton-Desir asserted.
“Mr. Speaker, there is nothing spectacular about this budget. In fact, if there is one spectacular feature, it is the fact that in August 2020, the PPP inherited an economy that was experiencing meteoric growth. The Minister of Finance has grudgingly admitted that that GDP for 2020 had mounted to an unprecedented 43.5% and that inflation was at 0.9%,” MP Walton-Desir said.
However, she cautioned that “Mr. Speaker it is impossible on every and any scale, for a government to change hands in August and by December, these are the numbers. Instead, it is clear and unmistakable evidence of the economy inherited from the APNU+AFC government, and evidence of the capable stewardship of the economy from 2015-2020.”
Turning to the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP), Ms Walton Desir submitted that while there is nothing wrong with the programme, the PPP/C Administration has a “nasty” record of failing to effectively execute its projects and programmes to the detriment of the Guyanese people.
Ms. Desir said that although the government continues to talk up big infrastructural projects, their record of overseeing these projects is not always good.
“The Skeldon Factory, the road to the Amaila Falls Hydro-Power projects, the Marriott Hotel, the wharves that floated away, the Kato School which after spending one billion dollars the PPP/C still couldn’t complete. The Coalition had to complete that project. And Mr. Speaker it wasn’t just these large projects, in every town and every village where work was done, residents were besieged by shoddy, overpriced infrastructural works, on roads, drainage and irrigation, schools….every conceivable aspect. This is known… this is no conjecture, one simply has to go back to the dailies prior to 2015 and the stories are there,” the Opposition MP pointed out.
She said the Government was proposing to double the PSIP at a time when the private sector lacks the manpower, machinery and expertise to execute some of the ambitious projects outlined in the budget, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now as if this were not alarming enough Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has declared that his administration intends to return the public procurement systems, processes and procedures instituted pre-2015.
We all know what the pre-2015 procurement system yielded: sole sourcing of drug contracts; contract splitting; overpayment of contractors; inflated engineers estimates; evaluation bias in favour of certain contractors; blatant discrimination against certain suppliers and contractors; the use of inexperienced contractors; the absence of District Tender boards and the lack of a Bid Protest Committee; poorly prepared bid documents and the limited publication of awards, to name a few,” the APNU/AFC MP added.
She noted that the Government had fired all of the highly trained, qualified staff of the National Procurement and Tender Administration, the majority being Afro-Guyanese. To further compound the situation, MP Walton Desir said the Government has moved to appoint the head of PSIP, Chair of the Tender Administration Board, resulting in a massive conflict of interest.
On the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Walton Desir called the government’s Covid-19 distribution a total disaster noting that the most vulnerable seem not to be benefiting.
“They have not done profiling in these communities to determine who are in need and who are less fortunate and should benefit first, a lot of requirements are being imposed, you have to present transport, you have to present utility bills and all of that”, she said.
According to Walton Desir, the Coalition’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, the government seems to be governing from a weakened position and this will put the country’s foreign policy at risk.
“We have seen the mismanagement of Guyana’s foreign and international affairs, we have seen the abandoning of sound foreign policy positions, the wanton disregard and violations of decades old friendship and guess what Mr. speaker we expect more of this, because when you sell your soul for power, you are at the mercy of the benefactors and so we can expect more of this erraticism”, the Opposition MP lamented.