CRIME, COVID AND COST OF LIVING  

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— Citizens reeling from effects of pandemic  

— householders, vendors cry out for help as food prices spike 

— Opposition intensifies calls for additional financial relief  

By Svetlana Marshall 

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With the cost of living steadily increasing in Guyana amid the growing the COVID-19 pandemic, acting Leader of the Opposition, Roysdale Forde, S.C said it is important for the Government to provide additional financial aid to citizens.

Leader of the Opposition (ag) Roysdale Forde along with other Members of Parliament engaging residents of Rasville and Roxanne Burnham Gardens

In an interview with Village Voice News, Forde – an A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament – made a case for citizens to be provided with financial grants to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a toll on economies across the world, Guyana included.

He said through an “equitable and fair” system, citizens should be issued with financial grants to meet their daily needs during this difficult period. A special grant, he posited, should be given to the unemployed. “We also need to have an unemployment support plan for persons, who would have been laid off as a result of the shrinking markets that would have affected businesses,” the Opposition Leader (ag) said.

Further, he submitted that mortgage relief should be given to home owners currently repaying commercial banks but are having difficulties doing so. “I believe both businesses and individuals need to have a mortgage relief plan put in place by the President through the Ministry of Finance that would be able to ameliorate their failure to pay their mortgages,” he said.

Forde said the recommendations are based on his interactions with citizens. In recent days, Forde along with other Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine has bee speaking with citizens in the market places, commercial zones and in their communities to have a greater understanding of the challenges they face. It was noted that while the PPP/C Government during its first months in office initiated a $25,000 COVID-19 cash grant programme, the money has long been exhausted, and in some areas, households are still waiting to benefit.

“Numerous vendors reported that sales have significantly diminished and some days they do little or no business. This has resulted in them experiencing severe economic hardships which have been worsening over the past year. The vendors, many of them parents, and some single parents, related that the situation is so dire that they have had to make adjustments to what and how much they eat and are able to provide for their children,” Forde said in statement on the issue.

He added: “They have related that the sharp increase in the prices for basic food items has caused much difficulty for them and their households. The vendors noted that the economic situation has taken a nose dive under the PPP regime as it was markedly better under the APNU+AFC administration.”

Forde told Village Voice News that while Guyana awaits the Mid-Year Report on the Economy, the Opposition, based on its review, has found that prices for basic food items have increased by 6% since the PPP/C took office.

 He said the Mid-Year Report, however, is needed to have a better understanding of the state of the country’s economy. “The Ministry of Finance by Section 67 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act is required to lay in the National Assembly…a Mid-Year Report outlining the conditions of the economy. It has been over 62 days since that mid-year point has passed and yet they have failed to lay in the National Assembly the Mid-Year Report. Additionally, the Bank of Guyana is required by the Bank of Guyana Act to lay over quarterly reports – statistical reports – the last one was submitted sometime in March and they have failed to submit subsequent reports,” he told this newspaper.

CRIME AND SECURITY  

APNU+AFC MPs engaging vendors at the Stabroek Market

In the area of crime and security, the acting Opposition Leader said while the Guyana Police Force continues to report a decrease in serious crimes, citizens remain concern.  “Guyanese also conveyed their fears about the escalating crime situation. They feel unsafe at work, in their homes and even while travelling, whether in private or public transportation. There is a sense that robberies in particular are on the increase with business persons, businesses and traders being particularly targeted,” he summarised following his most recent outreach on Thursday.

Like citizens, Forde said the Opposition has been viewing the Statistical Reports coming out of the Guyana Police Force with a “great degree of skepticism.”

“What the Guyana Police Force has not also indicated to us, is the number of unresolved crimes, the number of cases they have not been able to resolve in relation to murders, in relation to robberies, and other attacks on private properties,” he said.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC  

Citizens, the acting Opposition Leader said, are equally concern about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the gazetted orders being implemented by the Government.

“Many persons also related that the arrogant and high-handed manner in which the illegitimate PPP regime is attempting to impose quasi-mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations on the nation is a major turn off and has resulted in persons who had been inclined to take the vaccine to decide not to do so. This is particularly troubling,” he said.

He said while the Government has intensified its vaccination drive in the absence of much needed consultation with stakeholders, it is not doing enough contacting tracing or quarantining of persons who may have been exposed to the virus. This, Forde posited, leaves much to be desired. He said there is a clear need for the government to revise its plan to combat the pandemic, but this he emphasized must be done in consultation with stakeholders.



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