The parliamentarians took turns to question the Minister on reasons for reducing the total sums requested by each entity but were often met with interruptions from the Speaker of the House, Dr Barton Scotland.
On the issue of the GECOM budget being reduced to $2.9B, Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira questioned why the requested sum of $3.7B was not allowed when Local Government Elections (LGE) are looming next year and there are a number of works that need to be done. As she was explaining some of the processes that need to take place in the lead up to the elections, she was interrupted by the Speaker who told her to get to the point – causing Teixeira to fire back at Dr. Scotland for preventing her to execute her right as a MP.
The budget requested by the Supreme Court was also significantly decreased. The entity requested $2.7B but only received $1.8B. Former Attorney General, Mr. Mohabir Anil Nandlall during his questioning exclaimed that “A cut by two-third in the judiciary’s 2018 capital budget will cripple the work of the judiciary!”
Nandlall also questioned the reduced amounts allotted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), demanding to know if this is the government’s way of showing its true posture on preventing crime. Nandlall asked how can the government truly commit to fighting crime when it has significantly reduced the budget of the DPP from $223M to $174M.
Opposition MPs Yvonne Pearson and Alister Charlie rigorously questioned the Finance Minister on diminishing the budget of the Indigenous Peoples Commission from $27M to $25. The parliamentarians contended that the reduction demonstrates that the government does not care about the welfare of the country’s indigenous people and that it can be considered a violation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Amerindian Peoples.
Similarly, MP Sheila Veerasammy questioned the reduction of the budget of the Women and Gender Equality Commission, asking if this is the government truly cares about the welfare of women in the country. The budget proposed was $45M and the budget received was $43M.
Regarding the budget of the recently established Public Procurement Commission (PPC), the proposed budget was $251M but the government only gave the entity $177M.
The Opposition Chief Whip implored the government to give this newly constituted agency the full amount it requested to conduct its critical work of probing concerns of corruption in the government. She also referred to the response from the PPC to her request for an investigation as a reason why the entity should not be financially hindered from doing its work. The PPC had outlined that it will only conduct investigations in the parameters of its resources available and its work programme.
Despite the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Opposition, government approved the budgets for the constitutional agencies.