No end in sight for high cost of living

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—Ali says govt trying its best

Already under pressure with high cost of living, President Irfaan Ali on Friday warned Guyanese to brace for further increases.

During a televised statement on Friday Ali reminded Guyanese about the menu of measures his government has already put in place to offset the impact of the global supply chain issues while promising to do more to improve the cost of living.

According to a Department of Public Information release, the Head of State, who recently returned from the UN Climate Summit, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, said that efforts have also been ongoing in the form of bilateral meetings to offset additional expenses for local producers.

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Ali spoke of the difficulties at the global level and explained that the issue would continue to be a problem “at least in the short term”. He said that the increase in the cost of production and logistics have driven prices up across the world. Additionally, it has resulted in shortages and price increases from building materials to food.

FOOD REPLACEMENT
“That is why at CARICOM, we are pushing on an agenda to do what we call food replacement; that is to have a reduction on our food import bill by 25% and having the local production fill that void.”

At home, the President noted that it is necessary to have more “local consumption”.

He said that his Government will continue to give incentives to those investing in agriculture, given the nature of the global situation and the fact that Guyanese are also feeling the effects of the price increases. Along with supporting farmers and cushioning the net effect of the increased cost of freights, the President said that the range of tax benefits that his Government has instituted since returning to office, has helped offset the full brunt of the problem.

He reminded of the removal of VAT on electricity and water, the 5% reduction—across the board—on water tariff, the zero-rated status on essential items and household items, the removal of VAT on data, the reduction of the excise tax rate on fuel (first in February and then in October) and the reduction of licence fee.

Additionally, he made mention of the many non-tax measures that directly impacted Guyanese, including the one-off $25,000 relief grant, the re-introduction of educational grants (benefited both public and private school students), a one-off 25,000 cash grant for pensioners and a range of other incentives.

“All of these measures were to remove more tax burden from the population and give them an opportunity to have those resources as disposable income. And the measures that we have implemented are praised by many international agencies and organisations. They are actually used as good practices in combatting the challenges we are facing globally.”

The President noted that his Government would continue to help alleviate the pressure of the cost of living on the general population and committed to transparency.

“We recognised that this is a continuous problem and that the Government has to be proactive in addressing these issues. I want you to know, just as we have done over the year plus; we will continue to pursue measures that minimise the effect on the people of our country, that minimise the effect on your pockets—you can rest assured.”

The President said that at the international level, his Government does not intend to sit down and wait for the situation to correct itself. He used the rising cost of fertilisers as an example and said that over the last four weeks, discussions were held with many bilateral partners to remedy this. “We are doing this so that the farmers, the sugar industry, the rice producers—they can all benefit. Because if we don’t bring down the cost, we know too that the cost of rice will increase.”

MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
Guyanese, especially those who are benefitting the most from the Government programmes and incentives, need to have a moral responsibility, according to the Head of State, in ensuring that the benefits reach the ordinary man.

“In all of this that the Government is doing, the measures that we are implementing to help the importers, to help the farmers, to help the producers, we expect them to act in a way that befits their moral responsibility to the consumer, to minimise the impact of the consumers.”

The President spoke highly of the poultry sector and said that his Government expects all other sectors to play their part.

“This is a global challenge that requires us to act collectively, that requires us to support each other. You have a greater responsibility to society, and you should not look at profiteering—we are in this together. You Government would confront these challenges with strong, workable measures, but we also need the support of all the stakeholders.”



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