The cartoons above appeared in local newspapers after the release of the 2016 Budget. (The cracked word in the left-hand one says "infrastructure".) The $230 billion budget will result in one of the largest deficits in recent years, even assuming that revenues grow an optimistic 7.2 percent. But while Guyana's political cartoonists have focused on this, Guyana's politicians largely have not.
Most of the political discourse over the budget, both in the parliamentary debates and in the media, has focused not on the budget being too large, but on whether or not the Budget is pro-poor. Some common criticisms include:
1. The current government is just doing everything the same as the last government, and there are no new policies or programs.
2. The new policies and programs are terrible. Criticisms 1 and 2 often both show up in the same speech.
3. Not enough money is being spent on supporting rice, sugar, tourism, or other industries.
As for numbers 1 and 2, let's just say that no country has a monopoly on nonsensical political rhetoric. Number 3 is more economically interesting, especially since the budget is so large. It is true that spending is focusing on infrastructure, health and education, rather than industrial policy, and this is controversial. The government recently announced it will close one of its state-owned sugar estates, a decision that will put hundreds of people out of work. However, the state-run sugar industry produces sugar at almost twice the cost of the global sugar price, and the money that goes to propping up the sugar industry is money that can't be put towards programs in health, education, or other basic government services.
It might be that criticizing the budget for not having something for everyone scores more political points than criticizing its size. But it would be nice to see more of a conversation about the trade offs inherent in spending more on government programs. Guyana is a country that is very cognizant of the environmental sustainability of its policies; it should strive to be cognizant of the economic sustainability of its policies too.
Several weeks ago, a bony, scrappy kitten decided it wanted to live with us and our kitten-eating dogs. When it first showed up in the yard, we put it outside our gate, only to find it back in the yard again an hour later. We put it back out on the street, but it came back again and followed Jeremy up our stairs to the front door. To prevent a kitten massacre, and because it was a pathetic but affable kitten, we took it in with the hopes that our dogs would learn to distinguish between "kitten" and "kibble".
All our attempts to teach the dogs the kitty wasn't food failed. Maybe it didn't help that we ended up calling the kitten Meatball. For his safety, we kept Meatball in a separate room, with kitty litter and bowls with water and food. He slept in Zoey's kennel. Zoey got a couple heavenly weeks sleeping in our bed.
While Zoey enjoyed lounging on our pillows and cleaning up un-eaten cat food, Cody developed what can only be described as an obsession with eating the cat. He would pine away in front of the door to the cat's room for hours. I had to drag him outside for his walks. He would leave his food half-eaten (which Zoey took advantage of) in order to run back to his vigil by the cat's room.
We tried to train Cody to sit with us instead of fixating on the cat. But even while we ate dinner, his attention was fixated on the cat's door. When we weren't looking, he would crawl away from us towards the door. He would freeze when we told him "no!", only to inch forward a moment later, like a game of "red light, green light". We tried holding the cat around him, to get him used to it. His obsession remained, regardless.
Cody started losing weight, and Zoey was becoming agitated that her playmate no longer had interest in running around with her. Meatball was getting fed up with staying in one room alone most of the day. Jeremy and I were at our wits' end trying to care for a kitten and two dogs, one of which was neurotic and feli-cidal. We decided to look for a new home for Meatball.
Luckily, our friend Jason agreed to take Meatball. With an easy-going and fun personality, we thought he would be a good fit for the boisterous little kitten. We packed Meatball's cat food and litter box into Jason's car, feeling relieved that our dogs would soon be their happy, healthy selves again.
I haven't posted recently because things have been quite busy with the release of the 2016 budget for Guyana. The budget was delivered to Parliament on January 29th, and the Minister of Finance gave his budget speech on the same day.
The full budget speech can be found here.
For a good independent synopsis and analysis, see Ram and McRae's comments on the Budget at Stabroek News here.
Don't blame me for the cover. Apparently the cover design was a big negotiation during the last budget cycle, so they decided to just copy the same design from last year. I wanted this one:
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.