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The disbursement of the COVID-19 $25,000.00 cash grant has been marred in controversy from its inception. Government continues to attract criticism that the programme is not fair, it is not equitable, and the money being paid is insufficient. G$25,000 is equivalent to appropriately US$125. The fact of the matter, whilst some are inclined to say people cannot expect to get United States (U.S) dollars, the truth of the matter is, items in Guyana are often sold comparatively to the U.S dollar rate.
The government has devised some mechanism to pay out the grant that is resulting in many being excluded. Clear understanding on what has informed consideration about who will receive or be denied has been elusive. Some persons have said they have been denied because they are considered part of the household and were told only the head of the household should be receiving. Using this approach as the litmus test would benefit some and exclude others. This is not fair or equitable.
The cash grant should be paid to every adult not based on the household or the landlord of the property. Given Guyana’s housing situation and/or family structure, one home (house) could have more than one adult or family. Individually and collectively they are responsible for the upkeep of themselves, their immediate family, and probably others within the home.
For example, in that many-family household, they may prepare one pot (meal) but with the financial input of all or cook separate pots. Individually or collectively they take responsibility for a utility bill or together pool their money to pay. This is the reality of the Guyana’s family, the reality of the Guyana’s household. A reality the government should not have ignored and should have been factored into the grant distribution.
Former Minister of Telecommunications and Alliance For Change Member of Parliament, Mrs. Cathy Hughes, was on Mark Benschop’s ‘Straight Up’ programme last Friday evening talking about this problem. She alluded to being aware of a discriminatory distribution system. Mrs. Hughes went further to cite what she said has been found out in the opposition strongholds as against the government. It is being alleged that in the opposition strongholds, and where supporters of the opposition or perceived non supporters of the government live, the criteria to qualify is different from that where supporters of the government live.
Another point of concern is the distribution method even in single home occupancy. Many have allegedly been bypassed. Prime Minister Mark Phillips was recently in Paradise, East Coast Demerara where the issue was brought up. He sought to give assurance that those who have not yet received the grant will get theirs.
The coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), has repeatedly been calling for the Auditor General Office to audit the cash grant programme. An audit will also allow for transparency and accountability about what is taking place. That audit has not yet been completed. The cash disbursement, apart from the sum being inadequate, is being poorly managed. When things are being poorly managed allegations of corruption are hard to ignore or deny.