Dubbed “not people focused”By Samuel SukhnandanWhile Budget 2018 has been touted the largest of the budgets to ever be presented by the coalition Government since it assumed office in 2015, outspoken economist Ramon Gaskin believes that it is not “people focused” as it offers nothing for the ordinary Guyanese who continue to struggle daily to make ends meet.Economist Ramon GaskinGaskin, who provided his views on the Budget, said that the document contained many words which had little meaning. According to him, too much focus was also placed on “World Bank economics” and the technical jargon being used in several instances too had no meaning for the ordinary Guyanese.The Russia-trained economist noted that the Budget, and by extension Finance Minister Winston Jordan, failed to include some important issues particularly as it relates to job creation and unemployment.“He didn’t speak about a lot of issues, including the rate of poverty in Guyana. He didn’t speak about the dropout rate in the school system and the migration rate of Guyanese. The Minister did not speak about the malnutrition rate in Guyana. What about unemployment?” he questioned.Other issues that were not addressed in Budget 2018 include: maternal mortality, infant mortality, crime rate, crime population growth rate, tax evasion rate, and excessive rate of borrowing.“Winston Jordan doesn’t know what he is doing. He is entirely incompetent as a minister and it is not focused on the needs of this country and the needs of the communities. He doesn’t focus on poverty, the education system and the dropout rate in the school system,” Gaskin asserted.Another point raised by Gaskin is the fact that $20 billion is being spent on the salaries for the Joint Services. According to him, there has also been a 60 per cent increase in the salaries for Police over three years.He said if the Government had placed more emphasis on creating jobs and addressing issues such as poverty, then there would not be a need for such a high bill and there would have been a reduction in crime.Gaskin said, “What we need is to get jobs for these young people. Look at the dropout rate and they are turning to crime. That is why the Police payroll is so many billions. You have to keep hiring Police all the time and build new prisons, because they not dealing with job creation and pumping in the education system to keep people in school. Parents can’t keep them there either because of poverty.”He said if the Minister was to go into any community across Guyana and tell the ordinary people that Guyana had a three per cent growth rate, that would mean nothing to them. “All of these things, they will laugh at you. And that’s because they are struggling to make ends meet, to pay light bill, phone bill, water bill and you telling me all these things. All of these things mean nothing to ordinary people.”Several Private Sector bodies have also come out to state their disappointment with Budget 2018 particularly, as it relates to job-creating investments or facilitation of job-creating investments.Budget 2018 contained very few benefits, one of which was the increase in public assistance to $8000, which represents an increase of approximately 36 per cent over the period of two and a half years.Teachers who work in interior locations will also benefit from the new measures to be implemented for Budget 2018, including an 80 per cent increase in remote area incentives.In an effort to move and retain teachers in far-flung areas of Guyana, the Finance Minister said the remote area incentive would be increased from $5000 to $7000 and from $9000 to $12,000.Meanwhile, companies and individuals will be granted amnesty to file outstanding tax returns and pay outstanding taxes in 2018. Government on November 27 tabled in the National Assembly the Budget to the tune of $267.1 billion.In presenting the Budget themed “The Journey to the Good Life Continues”, Minister Jordan also disclosed that the economy was expected to grow by 2.9 per cent, failing to meet the revised growth projection of 3.1 per cent for 2017.He reminded that the initial projected growth of the economy was 3.8 per cent, but this was revised by midyear to 3.1 per cent after the economy only grew by 2.2 per cent in July of this year.