President engages small parties on Budget 2021, national unity
President Dr Irfaan Ali on Tuesday held a working lunch at State House, Georgetown, with representatives of the small political parties that make up the political opposition, where they were invited to give their input as the government looks to finalise Budget 2021.
The President told the representatives that they will be “pleasantly surprised” to see that once the ideas put forward are feasibly viable, it would be included in the final document. Budget 2021 is expected to be read in the National Assembly within the coming weeks.
Dr Ali said Tuesday’s meeting with the political parties is just the first of a series of such engagements the government intends to hold to get the opposition’s input on matters of national importance. He said the greatest project is to unite the country, while at the same time, ensuring prosperity and economic viability.
“Coming together and unifying requires breaking down barriers and transforming personality… that is harder,” the President said.
He was joined by Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh; Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira and other cabinet ministers.
The President reminded of his inauguration address where he noted his intent to engage across the political divide to ensure his plans and programmes not only reflect the priorities of government but also the priorities of the citizens.
Dr Ali said the aim is to achieve physical, economic, social, political, and societal transformation.
“This will depend on how each individual understands the agenda and can transform themselves in keeping with that agenda,” he added.
Dr Singh, in his opening remarks, thanked the representatives for the integral role they played in ensuring that Guyana’s democratic traditions were upheld during the protracted elections period in 2020.
He welcomed the input on Budget 2021, explaining that it will be the first full budget for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, following the emergency Budget of 2020.
Dr Singh said the budget will outline the government’s strong medium-term vision and respond to the most pressing and urgent needs of the country. Some of the opposition parties represented were the Liberty and Justice Party, the New Movement and A New and United Guyana; these three parties formed a joinder and currently occupy a single seat as part of the parliamentary opposition.
The other parties present were Change Guyana, United Republican Party, and the Citizenship Initiative.
There was no representative from the main opposition – A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition.
While praising the President for the inclusive meeting, Kian Jabour of ANUG said he was “upset” that the APNU+AFC was not represented at the table.
Dr Ali, in turn, reminded that the coalition was still being mischievous in maintaining that the PPP/C was not a legitimate government. The President also reminded of his invitation to former President David Granger for a similar lunch with all former Presidents but Mr Granger had turned down that invitation.
The small parties were also briefed on the ongoing Guyana/Venezuela border controversy by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd.