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Cash transfer- direct and indirect payment
Education is critical to the development of society and people. We must watch this Irfaan Ali regime with gimlet eyes and be ever prepared to demand the money received from oil be invested in the masses, not a few. This business where they want to use taxpayers’ money to buy top of the line SUVs, etc, to benefit themselves, families and friends, we must condemn.
Cheddie Jagan often said Guyana is a donkey cart economy. More than 20 years after his death the economy has not changed much. We have 35 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most workers, be they in the public or private sector, are what is described as the working poor. These are the people paying taxes to keep government functioning, including the beleaguered Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), and are servicing the debts government racks up on the backs of the working poor, who are the majority.
There must be intolerance from us when oil revenue is being used to create Cadillac lifestyles for the selected few. We are all children of Guyana and must not be placed in a position akin to standing outside of the ballroom, in rags, looking in at the parade of our wealth by a few. These are not the days of slavery, indentureship or colonialisation when the masses were forced to accept two societies. They on the outside looking in as the few gorged on our labour, some to the point of obesity.
Erase students’ loan/debt
The wealth of Guyana belongs to all Guyanese. The millions of U.S dollars earned to date from oil and gas resources must be invested in the people. One such investment must be education. This abuse by elected officials and their families to benefit from scholarships paid for by taxpayers as the ordinary man’s constitutional right to free education continues to be transgressed must stop.
The Constitution of Guyana, in Article 27, clearly states education from nursery to university shall be free. The Constitution is made for the society and must be honoured by society. We must not accept any promise that free education at UG will be honoured in the future. It must be honoured now because this Constitution guides our lives now and we must not allow it to be honoured in the breach.
Government must erase all debts for students who attended and are attending the University of Guyana (UG). Cancelling the loans is not only constitutionally right but would economically liberate persons from financial burden even before many start working. Even for those working, being saddled with this unjust debt is unconscionable and confines them to the life of the working poor.
Gov’t must invest in trade and tertiary education
Government must begin the process of investing in trade and tertiary education. There needs to be more specialised education to satisfy the needs of the new economy. UG must be upgraded to the level of the University of the West Indies and similar institutions. Post-secondary institutions such as the Guyana School of Agriculture, the technical institutes, Critchlow Labour College, etc, could be upgraded to provide associate degrees or more universal titles.
Rather than investing millions to send students abroad, government must invest in UG and other post-secondary institutions. Provide opportunities for citizens to develop more technical and trade skills. Not everyone will have to go to university, but if government allows for trade schools as was done in sugar and bauxite, to equip people to be employed in these sectors, then Guyanese would be able to compete. Both bauxite and sugar had technical schools that trained their artisans. In bauxite there was a Cadet scheme that produced engineers, accountants, economists and administrative personnel.
We must also revisit the secondary school curriculum. Have specialised high schools as intended with the multilateral schools. These schools need upgrading to include training that would equip students with skills to function. When persons graduate from them with a technical education, they can either go to work, a technical institution or university.
Guyanese workers must be able to compete in oil and gas
The school that one graduates from should be able to provide the skills for better trades men and women going into the world of work. Though Guyana is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), the fact we knew since 2015 oil and gas were found in commercial quantities, systems should have been put in place to make local labour viable and competitive. This has been a clarion call from the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).
I recently read an article where the General Manager of Guyana Shore Base is bemoaning the fact we have limited human resources to meet the demands of the industry. We are advised these include chemical storage, warehousing, handling waste management, construction, berthing of supply vessels, etc. Guyanese must be given preferential access to these jobs but we first have to be trained. Whilst there is an influx of CARICOM nationals and from other countries, we have got to cater for our own people. We must train them so that in the long run they will be able to take over, to occupy these spaces.
Politicians failing us
Oil and gas money must be used as cash transfer. Direct, through student stipend, to purchase school supplies such as textbooks and laptop, etc. Indirect, through erasing students’ loans, providing school buses, restoring the right to free education from nursery to university, etc.
The politicians are failing us. If we do not as a collective demand better from them our lives will not improve. Neither will we be able to compete in our own labour market. We must insist they set aside their egos and differences and make sure local labour can compete and Guyanese can do better. We have had enough of them talking past each other, doing foolishness, and squandering taxpayers’ money.