The examination of the 2017 estimates and expenditures continued today with several Ministries’ budgets being approved.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson making his presentation to the National Assembly during the National Budget Debates
The sum of $34.6B was considered and approved in the Committee of Supply for the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. The sum allocated will be used for the Ministry’s capital and current 2017 expenditures.
The electrification programmes will utilise a great portion of the money allocated for the Ministry.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson in response to questions by the Opposition Members, pointed out that the Linden Power Company (LPC) will receive $2.162 B, the Hinterland Electrification Company Incorporated (HECI) -$46. 8M, Matthews Ridge Power Company- $15M, Moruca Power Company- 10M, Mahdia Power Company- $37M, Mabaruma Power Company – $7M and Port Kaituma Power Company- $27M.
Other sectors catered for with the allocation under the Ministry include:
Transport- $9.6B (Capital Expenditures)
Transport- $83.4B (Current Expenditures)
Policy Development & Administration- $2.3B
Completion and rehabilitation of hinterland airstrips- $385M
CJIA modernisation project- $9B
Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Juan Edghill subsequently sought clarifications of the functions of the HECI, and whether the company is responsible for the distribution of solar panels in the hinterland. Minister Patterson responded that HECI provides electrification to hinterland communities and does distribute solar panels in the hinterland.
Following that, the MP questioned why there was an increase from $1.8B to $2.1B in subsidy to LPC , and whether there are measures in place to encourage conservation in Linden with the introduction of the new 14% VAT; and if yes, why.
Minister Patterson responded that the increase is to cater for the unforeseen high fuel prices that may arise and the idea behind the VAT is indeed to promote conservation.
In a follow-up question, MP Edghill asked whether revenue was considered when the decision was taken to provide the subsidy. The Public Infrastructure Minister pointed out that the subsidy will be used as payment to BOSAI Mineral Group while administrative cost will be paid for from revenues.
The Opposition MP, further questioned the Minister whether there are plans to improve the service of electricity offered to Guyanese with
opposition parliamentarian, Juan Edghill
the introduction of the new tax. The Minister responded that with the combination of the Power Utility Upgrade Program (PUUP) and the Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL) it is expected that better service will be offered. He added that this will be coupled with the construction of four new substations in Parika, East Bank Essequibo; Canal Number One Polder, West Bank Demerara; Kuru-Kuru on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway; and Williamsburg, Corentyne, Berbice.
With the construction and an additional transmission line from Sophia to Kingston, services to Guyanese will definitely improve for the remainder of the year and in 2017.
On the Demerara Harbour Bridge, it was revealed that some tolls will be increased from January 1, 2017.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson who provided information on this aspect pointed out that motor cycles, motor cars, and tractors, and trailers, will see a 100 percent increase. Goods vehicle and motor vehicle tolls will be raised by 200 percent. Four -wheeled jeeps and mini buses’ tolls remain constant.
MP Edghill wanted to know when the public would have been updated with this information, to which Minister Ferguson responded, before the year ends.
On the issue of the D’Urban Park Project, the Committee of Supply, through a unanimous vote approved $500M from the $34.6B to the Homestretch Development Incorporated Company (HDI).
Opposition MP, Edghill took the floor and stated that this was absurd. He demanded information on who will be paid and whether or not it can be concluded that the project was a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Minister Patterson in defence told the House that the sum will go to HDI to pay persons who contributed to the completion of the park which is now state owned. Minister Patterson added that the sum of $27M in cash and $33.9M in kind were provided by the public for completion of the project, and they will now be repaid by HDI.
Other areas that were approved for interventions include the Canal Number Two Polder main access road which has been allocated $30M for rehabilitation; maintenance of roads in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Ten ( $1.3B); a total of 19, 600 solar units are to be distributed and installed across 186 Indigenous communities of which 6,600 were done after June 2015, and 25 hinterland community hubs to be powered by solar panels in 2017 among others.