Budget 2018 has been read, and the parliamentary Opposition is unhappy with what it refers to as a “disastrous” budget. According to the party, its efforts to meaningfully contribute to the budget process were frustrated by the coalition Government.Responding to questions during a post budget press conference, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo noted that his party, with 23 years in governance, was willing to help the coalition with its ideas.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoAccording to Jagdeo, the party submitted a motion to the National Assembly with over 100 proposals that would have been both growth-enhancing and welfare-contributing. But despite the potential to create a framework of development and growth, his party’s motion never saw the light of day.“We have run Governments several successful years. We’ve been in these positions. We’ve dealt with these issues. We know what it takes to create frameworks. And unless you get the data, which we have been asking for… We requested the data to prepare our presentation to come to (their) meeting, he refused to give us. Clearly he didn’t want a productive engagement.”Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira corroborated Jagdeo’s contention that the party had submitted their motion since October. She said there was ample time to have the motion debated, but it was continuously stalled.Shadow budgetThe motion in question was submitted since October 9 by PPP Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali. Among other things, it had recommended the reversal of Value Added Tax on education, zero rated items, essential food items, electricity and water, as well as local construction materials and heavy duty machinery.The PPP’s motion also advocated the removal of VAT and other taxes from businesses earning less than $400,000 monthly; the removal of VAT from local products from the forestry sector, and the reduction of VAT to 12 per cent, one of the coalition’s promises on the campaign trail.There were other recommendations: for the directive to licensed currency dealers, banks and cambios to limit the spread between buying and selling rates of the US dollar to G$3 or less.The motion had sought the restoration of the annual one month tax free salary bonus for all members of the disciplined services, as well as the active negation with unions for increases in salaries and benefits for public servants (who have already been told they will receive no Christmas bonus) and teachers.Among the motions’ other proposals was to allow public servants, in particular medical professionals, to choose whether they would be on a pensionable fixed establishment or on contract. It would also seek to cap benefits and allowances to ministers, in keeping with the caps on former Presidents Benefits (Amendment) Act of 2015.In the arena of social services, it recommended the restoration of the Single Parent Assistance Programme, with vouchers to assist with costs for day-care.It would also restore public assistance on a permanent basis for caregivers of disabled persons and patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS).The PPP motion would have recommended the increase of old age pension to $25,000, from the coalition Government’s last increase of $19,000. The Government did increase the pension in Monday’s budget- by $500.It would also introduce evening and night child care centres for women on the night shift; as well as increase public assistance from $7,300 to $12,000; as well as recommend published statistics on the number of recipients by region every six months.In agriculture, the motion proposed to “Resume negotiations with the Government of Venezuela with the intention of selling rice and paddy to that country,” as well as to “Negotiate with neighbouring Brazil for increased quotas for the export of rice under the Partial Scope Agreement.”There were also recommendations to “commence discussions with all the commercial banks lending to the industry, to review terms and conditions of loans taking into account the prices farmers are getting in order to ‘soften’ repayment conditions; bring supplementary provisions to the National Assembly to provide financial support to farmers in order to aid in the purchase of seed paddy and fertilizers; implement an aggressive marketing strategy in order to enhance current prices and secure new lucrative markets.”The motion proposed a number of other decisive measures, including the repeal of the Broadcasting Act 2017; implementing the UN Working Group of Peoples of African descent prison recommendations; and auction unallocated oil blocks.