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President Irfaan Ali recently announced the Government of Guyana will pay out another partial one-off $25,000 cash grant. This time specifically to old age pensioners, persons with disabilities, and public assistance recipients. Households using less than 75 kilowatt hours per month will get a credit equivalent to one month of their electricity bill. These are one-off incentives and commendable taken from the perspective the government is offering citizens some return on their taxes. The payment however does not go far enough, will not keep pace with market prices, and will not sufficiently offset economic constraints.
What $25,000 could have purchased before the pandemic can no longer be purchased. Citizens are paying much more for basic items of necessity which would make the one-off grant or electricity payment a drop in the economic bucket. Before the Bank of Guyana or economists make public the state of the economy the ordinary citizens will know.
The truth is income has not kept pace with market prices. Reduction in water tariffs and licence fees; removal of VAT for data and basic construction materials; and increasing the ceilings on low income mortgage loans would not sufficiently offset financial burdens in households. Basic items such as sugar, milk and cheese have increased. The $25,000 in effect will only be a stop gap, akin to placing a clove into the hole of a bad tooth to dull the pain which is only temporary.
It would help if the government could examine better ways to cushion the economic pains the pandemic and its policies have brought on the masses. Many have called for a sustained cash grant, which could be subject to review. Those on public assistance, old age pensioners, are disabled, and getting a one time relief on their light bill represent a very small percentage of the society. Most Guyanese are poor. They face the same markets and prices and could benefit from cash and other financial incentives.
The government is moving to compensate farmers affected by the floods to the sum of billions of dollars. This is another form of cash grant pay out but what about the public servants who are the primary payers of income taxes. They deserve a cash grant. They have not been paid any salary increase for the last two years. This is most unfortunate. They too are feeling the increases in prices and must purchase using the same salary they received two years ago.
Then what about the market vendors, private sector workers, and unemployed. They too deserve a cash grant. And even as this is being recognised many are still to be paid the first cash grant, which was only given to home/property owners not every adult. The non-payment of the first cash grant has created a stir in society and suspicion of corruption. This view will likewise affect perception the next cash grant will have the same problem. Public request for the auditing of the last payout is yet to be made known. This is either because the Auditor General’s Office has not submitted the report or the Government has not announced if a report was submitted.