Flushing the slush fund in Guyana

Less than a week after the two parliamentary opposition parties embarrassed the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) by slashing the budget of some of its pet propaganda and corruption arms to a dollar each, authorities have decided to take the issue to their supporters just in case it needs to call fresh elections sometime this year or next year.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) led by retired army general David Granger and the Alliance For Change (AFC) of attorney Khemraj Ramjattan waited until the last sitting on the assembly on the budget last Thursday, May 26 to take away $2.5M from the elections commission to prevent it from participating in any snap elections under current controversial rules, awarded GINA, the highly abused news agency and the state TV station, (NCN) a dollar each, and several other agencies the opposition parties had long accused of being slush fund agencies.

Also decimated by the two parties, were the government’s low carbon or reduced carbon emissions program, a free laptop distribution project and a land demarcation program for native Amerindians, all regarded as budgetary agencies being used by authorities for the personal enrichment of top officials, their friends and families.

But despite the total amount voted off the 2012 budgetary estimates being only about $12M from a total budget of $960M, government had made it clear that it is upset and plans to send home dozens of workers in the near future.

Not impressed by its convenient support for the workers cause, opposition activists and newspaper letter writers say government never showed any sympathy or cared when opposition supporters lost their jobs or were targeted unfairly. They point to the firing of more than 60 mostly Afro, APNU supporters who were let go in 2009 by Rusal, the Russian bauxite miner whose top managers are known to be close to government.

They say that the labor ministry was less than aggressive in fighting the workers’ cause and waited for nearly three years before ordering compulsory arbitration which Rusal is now challenging in court. The workers remain at home.

As this week began, Finance Minister Ashni Singh said that the slashing of the budget for the various agencies now means that workers will have to hit the breadline.

“I can say with certainty that some jobs will go,” Singh said. “I can tell you that we are in the process right now literally as you and I speak, several agencies and offices of government are considering the next step. We need to reconsider how those entities will continue operating with the loss of this fund source.”

All three parties have taken to street corner meetings to explain their position, to counter government’s full court propaganda press to frighten their supporters and anyone else who would believe into thinking that the opposition is targeting them and wants to fire them.

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