GTUC calls on state media to allow equal access to Opposition Majority during Budget debate
GTUC calls on state media to allow equal access and expression to the voices of the Opposition Majority during Budget season.
Friday March 30th is Budget Day. This year’s budget stands out as one pregnant with expectations on many fronts:- One, it is the first budget under the presidency of Donald Ramotar and will offer an insight into the direction he wants to take the country and the financial resources he is prepared to commit to this end. Two, the government side of the House has always held sway and ignored the Opposition’s input, however valuable and well meaning. Three, it is the first time in our post independence history the Opposition side of the House has the majority. And four, the uniqueness of the political dispensation offers possibility for the national good, reducing the apathy for our politics, and bringing an end to a zero-sum political culture.
Given that the parliament is the supreme democratic power of the State and the executive does not hold the majority, there is hope for new beginnings, meaningful inclusions and checks and balances.
Since the budget is the instrument that usually signals the nation’s economic direction, inclusive of the programmes and the sums of monies that will be assigned to each project, it is important the workers/citizens be apprised of these programmes and monetary allocation since they are the ones funding them. And while it has been customary for regions, towns and neighbourhood democratic councils that did not vote for the administration to be sidelined, this year’s budget offers the opportunity to ensure all are included.
Though the Constitution gives responsibility to the executive for preparing the budget, it equally gives responsibility to stakeholders to be involved in economic development which the government continues to ignore. Successive PPP governments have excluded Labour in such engagements which is contrary to Articles 38 and 149C of the Constitution which expressly mandate the trade unions involvement in “National cooperation for development of [the] economy” and the “Right to participate in decision-making of the State,” respectively.
GTUC hopes this is the last year our Constitution will be treated with such contempt by those who have taken the oath to uphold it. Notwithstanding this, the GTUC sees the configuration of the National Assembly presenting the opportunity for leadership to be given to an inclusionary approach to management and decision-making, consistent with the Political Objective of the State as outlined in Article 13 of the Constitution. This 10th Parliament presents the opportunity to ensure economic development is even-handed; resources accordingly allocated and duly accounted for.
As such the citizens desire to hear the contributions of their elected representatives as we strive to move this country forward in an atmosphere where our politics will be issue-driven and considerate of the wellbeing of all. And in this process the GTUC expects spirited debates and its attendant disagreements, since such is the nature of social relations when there are diverse and competing interests. Unfortunately, in our political culture persons have substituted substance for verbal assaults and character assassination, exposing the worst in man, that have resulted in the desecration of our leading and hallowed branch of government and the alienation of a battle worn public.
The public has had enough of this infantile behaviour and desire a responsible and serious approach in handling their business. Equally they desire to known how the budget will impact their lives through reasoned and honest debates/discussions.
The GTUC is therefore calling on the State media (NCN and Chronicle) to ensure in their coverage of the budget and matters flowing there from, all sides are heard. While the independent private media continue to play an appreciative and pivotal role as the nation’s watchdog, this role is constrained in so far as their economic, distributive and band width power allow them. The state media as the medium with access to the people’s tax dollars, having the widest and most distributive scope (radio, television, newspaper) and presence in all Ten Administrative Regions, should meet the service of its financiers (the taxpayers) by keeping them informed of their elected representatives’ views.
As such GTUC proposes access for the parliamentary opposition which would include: a) equal access to prime time coverage of opposition’s views and equal news coverage by state reporters; b) fair and balanced reporting of opposition position/opinion and not skewing of events and reports to serve the incumbent’s political purpose; c) the right to respond guarantee in the instance where a party- opposition or governing- makes an allegation or wrongful accusation of the other, and the party making such claim called upon to provide credible sourcing/evidence; d) equal up to the minute news coverage same as the incumbent for timely news; and e) where there obtain programs on the budget the opposition be included or given similar time slot to air their views.
The GTUC also calls on the opposition to join us in this call to ensure their members and supporters hear from them through the state media. Together we can work for a better Guyana.