…executive profligacy exposed – JagdeoBy: Devina SamarooAn anniversary is often a time to celebrate one’s positive achievements, but thus cannot be said of the APNU/AFC coalition Administration. This, at least, is according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who has expressed confidence that the “entire country” agrees with his conviction.Those who are uncertain about this conviction are urged to ask themselves one simple question, according to the Opposition Leader: “People just have to look and ask whether their lives were better two years ago. Or has it changed for the worse?” he posited during a press conference hosted at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition at Church Street on Monday.In recognition of its second anniversary in Government this year, the APNU/AFC Administration has placed full page advertisements in three of the four local dailies, boasting about some of its achievements; which include: “lower electricity rates”, “less blackouts”, “press freedom restored”, “VAT reduced to 14%”, “land rental fees restructured”, “8060 laptops provided to teachers”, among other things.But the Opposition Leader has ridiculed the “achievements sheet”, contending that the Government has done nothing to foster the promised “good life for all”. He asserted that reality would illustrate that unemployment, heavy tax burdens, less disposable income, an unattractive investment climate and executive profligacy are the order of the day.“If I had to candidly characterise this Government, I’d say that is has been a masterpiece of incompetence. We have a cabinet that is constantly in a mess. Confusion and disarray characterise most of (its) actions,” he surmised.Flashback: President David Granger being sworn in as the 8th Executive President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on May 16, 2015False achievementsJagdeo believes the APNU/AFC list of accomplishments is riddled with false achievements. He highlighted that within two years of APNU/AFC rule, Guyanese have witnessed an unprecedented attack on the judiciary; divisive actions; discrimination on the basis of race and politics; a precipitous decline in almost every economic sector; “fat fowling” in the executive; and (perennial) profligacy and greed.The former President pointed to the exorbitant salary increases the ministers have awarded themselves just a few months after arriving in executive office; their increased travel allowances; unnecessary spending on furniture and vehicles; and the use of private jets for luxurious travels in noting that while Government ministers are enjoying the good life, ordinary people have been losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet.He also pointed to the laying off of Barama workers, persons in retail employment, Amerindians who were directly employed with the Government, and to the plight of workers in the sugar belt in advising that Guyanese should brace themselves for more hardships, as another 10,000 persons are expected to hit the breadline once the full impact of the new tax regime takes force and Government perseveres with the reforms it envisages for the sugar industry.“They tabled a white paper on the sugar industry, and how is this an achievement? That they tabled a white paper which will result in close to 10,000 people losing their job?” he questioned.TaxesJagdeo said anyone who boasts of increasing the tax burden on the nation as an achievement needs to be sent to the “mad house”.Government has removed the long list of VAT zero-rated items to the VAT-exempt category, which means that employers will have to pay the input VAT but cannot claim refunds. This increased tax burden will naturally be passed on to consumers, Jagdeo explained.Regarding the restoration of press freedom, Jagdeo argued that such a claim is erroneous, as Guyana dropped three places on the Global Press Freedom Index. He also referred to the Executive’s seeming support for ministerial interference in the State media, as has been highlighted by the Guyana Press Association (GPA) on a number of occasions.Government has listed establishment of the Lands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) as an achievement, but Jagdeo said this cannot be the case when the entire Amerindian community is against such a move.He, moreover, noted that the achievement regarding laptop distribution to teachers cannot be credited to this administration, as it was the Peoples Progressive Party Government that acquired the devices.According to the Opposition Leader, the Government’s list of achievement screams desperation. And further alluding to the legacy of the coalition government, Jagdeo cited the collapse of the $97M monument at Palmyra, East Coast Berbice; the fully funded multi-million-dollar scholarships handed to Government ministers; increases in land rentals; the pardoning of prisoners; new taxes on mining, education, medical services, domestic flights; and the ban on used tyres, among other things, Jagdeo surmised that, within two years of being in office, the APNU/AFC had “failed miserably to meet the expectations of the people of Guyana; failed to keep its promises; and is clueless about where we are going in terms of development.”Jagdeo says he is lamenting the additional damage which would be visited on the country under another three years of APNU/AFC rule.