…realism vital to Guyana’s success – party leaders…commits to reversal of burdensome taxes…pledges to stand up for all GuyaneseAs it gears up for the constitutionally mandated General and Regional Elections, the People’s Progressives Party/Civic (PPP/C) has commenced promised public consultations.During a stakeholders’ forum for a framework on national development held at the New Thriving Restaurant at Providence, East Bank Demerara on Saturday, the Party’s leaders emphasised the need to be realistic in delivering promising to the people.Addressing the packed gathering which included a wide cross section of Guyanese, Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP, Bharrat Jagdeo, said these stakeholder engagements are important and could have a defining influence on the future of the country. He pointed out, however, these consultation have not only now started but was prevalent even when the party was in office and was significant in the transformation of Guyana from a poor country to middle-income and this was done without oil. He went on to say that during these consultations, there will be hundreds of ideas coming in, but nothing will get into the manifesto that cannot be funded.“We’re not going to do like APNU and make all sorts of promises to the people to get their votes and then you can’t deliver. It must be realistically costed and be deliverable,” he asserted.The Opposition Leader pointed out that the coalition Government made seven promises for large-scale infrastructural projects in the 2019 Budget that have no source of funding such as the paved road from Linden to Mabura and a bridge across the Kurupukari River. “A PPP Government will never do that sort of thing. If make a promise, we will know where the money is coming from and how we will fund it. So when we talk about 50,000 jobs, we’ve already identified which sectors they will come from, what will be the policy-making environment that will allow the Private Sector to create those jobs and how many can come from Government itself by a reorientation of this budget which has a ton of wasteful expenditure. We can cut $30 billion out of this budget without harming development objectives and the welfare of our people…” he said.Against this backdrop, Jagdeo emphasised that realism is vital.Turning his attention to the impending oil and gas, Jagdeo contended that one of things a PPP government will ensure is that Guyanese benefit equally from the sector.“One thing on local content is to ensure that Guyanese actually benefit from opportunities there and that that is not just on paper. This Government has abandoned Guyanese and we will never allow Guyanese to become second class citizens in Guyana,” Jagdeo said to resounded applause from the gathering.He added, “We as a country, all of us together, have to ensure that the people who come here to invest that they are treated well and they make money – the oil companies – but the share of the wealth come to our people.”According to the PPP’s General Secretary, the party is working on a framework that will make every Guyanese, despite their political affiliation, feel that they are part of its vision and will benefit from what is coming in the future.Among those at the stakeholders’ forum on Saturday were the business community, religious organisations, non-governmental organisations and other members of civil society.Consultative andinclusive approachAlso addressing the packed venue was the party’s presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali, who posited that this consultative and inclusive approach is part of the PPP’s national big tent strategy in getting as many stakeholders’ views.“A manifesto is a serious national document and not an imaginative compilation of unachievable and unrealistic promises. Governments have a moral and ethical responsibility to implement their manifesto… We take seriously this document, hence your participation here today. As we move forward as a country, it is vital that we take ownership and feel part of the development pathway…,” he said.The presidential candidate noted that a manifesto must be one that is realistic, achievable, time-bound, implementable and measurable.“Our manifesto must create hope for all our people, that they will have improved living conditions, access to better services and a promising future. At the end of today’s (Saturday) session we should have ideas and discussions that would be further crytalised, defined and refined in the final document that will be presented to the electorate,” he asserted.TaxesAli outlined that over the past three years, the local economy has suffered tremendous difficulties with private consumption falling by $196 billion, while tax collections have increased.“It therefore means that the increased tax collection was not as a result of growth in consumption but as a direct result of the 200 new tax measures. Our economy is showing some worrying signs. Non-performing loans increased by $28 billion, 58 per cent of this is in the business sector. This means a lot of our businesses are at risk especially the small-medium size businesses. We’ve seen the effects of this at the regional level, where a number of big businesses have closed or downsizing causing loss of jobs,” he posited.Highlighting that domestic credit of commercial banks to the central bank increased by a whopping $259 million whilst domestic credit to the Private Sector grew marginally by 12 per cent, Ali pointed out that this shows a contraction in the Private Sector with less borrowing and this is a direct result of no new businesses opening and very limited expansion in existing businesses.As such, he noted that in the future, it is imperative to critically analyse spending priorities and cut out waste.“Going forward, we cannot afford to manage the economy on tradition indicators and ratios. Instead, we have to manage our economy to ensure sustainable development which balances economic growth with social development and environmental priorities. The development must be felt by every Guyanese. In this regard, we have to focus on issues of inequality, income distribution, vulnerability of at-risk communities and groups so as the tide of the economy rises, all would be placed in a better position,” Ali asserted.