If one thing can be said about Budget 2017, it’s that it’s not a budget for the poor, and definitely not one that will stimulate economic growth. Instead, it might just kill consumerism and small businesses altogether! Miners, entrepreneurs, small businesses, donkey cart owners, cleaners, vendors, farmers, housewives: all are concerned come 2017, and what’s certain is that people will find alternative means to thrive and subsist. If there’s one thing that Guyanese learnt from history, it’s how to survive. As PSU executive Ramesh Persaud, said: “the stricter the government, [the] wiser the population”.Let’s start with the subject on everyone’s lips at the moment: A 14% increase on GWI and GPL bills above $1500 and $10,000, respectively. A family possessing all the basic appliances for a decent life in modern-day Guyana, along with other useful necessities such as, for example, a transformer to convert electricity, a computer and related equipment, a blender and other kitchen appliances, a microwave oven or a washing machine, will already be overstepping the monthly imposed $10,000 limitation. Modest families (a good half of the population) will be forced to sacrifice their comfort to save a few dollars at the end of the month. But what’s more is that there will never be compensation for GPL’s disgraceful service which blights Guyanese with hours upon hours of blackouts, ranking the company among the most hated, disreputable entities in Guyana. Despite that the Amaila Hyrdro Project presented a liberating and sustainable solution for Guyana’s energy dilemma, the coalition prefers to make us pay more taxes to live in oppression.As for the quality of GWI’s service, we’re all familiar with the brownish vitriol spewed daily by our taps, having to use “blue” to obtain brighter white school shirts, having to let rust settle in our buckets, or having to cope without water from 10 am to 3 pm everyday (ask the Essequibians what they think about this; most of them still drink rain water!). Yes, we’re going to pay a scurrilous increase of 14% for sheer mediocrity. Cash crop and livestock farmers who depend on tap water for business, might just be tempted to scale up the prices of their products, and rightfully so.Then there’s the case of abolishing zero-rated items, converting them to exempt products. Not only does this penalize businesses which would no longer be able to reclaim VAT, but as a result will engender increases on basic kitchen necessities, including milk for children. The people living in the hinterland are already forced to pay much more for food items due to poor infrastructure and distance which significantly augment transportation costs. Subsequently, they will be the first to feel the backlash of this measure which will add to the cost of living. A plausible scenario is the multiplication of contraband activities importing products coming from Venezuela and Brazil at much cheaper prices (already the case for some items).What calls for equal worry, is the risk of seeing the cost of medical supplies and services increase by up to 14%, which will take a toll on the working class and poorer families. Amerindians are already struggling to cope with the cost of medical expenses, including transportation fees, causing some families to even become stranded in Georgetown being unable to fund their return home. (During the penury of medication which hit Guyana under George Norton’s watch, Amerindian patients were already unable to finance prescriptions in private drugstores). Other major increases and inflexible penalties on small businesses appear to be more of a punishment than a progressive reform. In addition to the proliferation of contrabandists, big businesses might adapt to propose alternatives to Guyanese consumers, albeit sacrificing quality in the process. A new form of competition might emerge but always at the benefit of the rich minority and detriment of the small woman and man. Where the State ought to guarantee some level of security for its people in the development phase of our history, it is pauperising them, rendering them vulnerable to those who have the resources and will to thrive off the backs of the poor. All changes must be progressive, unlike the 2017 reforms which leave no space for Guyanese to transition comfortably. The coalition is by its actions, the closest thing to a right-wing establishment we could hope to see in Guyana.It ignores that a progressive, socially just Government is what paves the way for human development.