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—-PNCR says no clear plan outlined to tackle poverty
The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), in pouring cold water on the $552.9B National Budget presented to the National Assembly by the Irfaan Ali Administration, said it fails to deliver to the poor and vulnerable the resources they need to improve their lives and livelihood.
“This Budget is unfit for purpose – that purpose being the transformation of the lives of ordinary people. This Budget is short on delivering resources and services to the poor and struggling masses,” PNCR General Secretary, Geeta Chandan-Edmond said.
At the time, she was addressing reporters during a virtual press conference held on Friday.
According to her, the budget fails to bridge the widening gap between the legitimate expectations of the average Guyanese and their daily lives.
“Those expectations are based on the vast and fast-accruing oil wealth with which the country is blessed. But the use of this blessing to lift the living standards of ordinary people seems increasingly unlikely under a PPP/C government steeped in mediocrity,” the PNCR General Secretary contended.
In presenting the budget, Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh said Guyana’s economy continues to grow exponentially – a growth significantly attributed to the country’s Oil and Gas Industry.
The country’s production capacity is expected to increase to 340,000 bpd when the Liza Unity FPSO goes into operation year, and the deployment of the Liza Prosperity FPSO in 2024 will further raise capacity to 560,000 bpd. With the anticipated fourth production area, Yellowtail, estimates are poised to reach 810,000 bpd by 2026/27.
In light of these developments, the real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to grow by 47.5% in 2022, a rate of growth which no other country in the world is currently projected to achieve in 2022. But notwithstanding these developments, the PNCR said Guyanese are losing hope at a time when they are supposed to be most hopeful as it laid the blame at the feet of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
According to its General Secretary, the offers little or no benefit to the regular Guyana – a trend she predicts will continue.
“We are talking here about billions of US dollars pouring into the national treasury of a country with only 750,000 people. Yet, this government has provided the people with no vision and no comprehensive plan – and has demonstrated no sense of urgency – to address the plight of the poor, the vulnerable, and the struggling masses of this country,” Chandan-Edmond reasoned.
In an attempt to strengthen her case, she said though the country has the country has the fastest growing economy in the world, the Government proposes to increase the income tax threshold to $75,000 from a low of $65,000. But such an increase, the PNCR General Secretary contended, is unacceptable, as she made a case for it to be increased to $125,000.
“We in the PNCR are calling on the PPP government to put more money in the purses and pockets of our working class and struggling families by increasing the threshold from $65,000 to $125,000,” Chandan-Edmond urged.
She said such an increase is necessary to cushion the impact of the sharp increase in cost of living and food prices.
“Without a higher tax threshold, there will be a reduction in people’s spending power and an increase in poverty,” she posited. The PNCR General Secretary also question motive behind freezing budgetary allocations to the University of Guyana at a time when the country should be focusing on developing its Local Content.
“Is this the future the PPP/C is looking to build? One where education at the highest levels plays a smaller and smaller role? Apart from restoring free education – which the PPP/C ended in 1994 – we demand that University of Guyana students be given a stipend to help with expenses such as internet and travel, among others. Too long have our students been neglected. We must take measures that will benefit them directly,” she urged.
Chandan-Edmond said the PNCR is adamant that the measures in the Budget to reduce the cost of living (such as freight costs) should impact where relief is most needed – the lives of the ordinary Guyanese people. Weighing in on the matter, Economist and PNCR Member, Elson Lowe submitted that enough finances were not pumped into small and medium size businesses where they are needed the most.
“As regards the development of small-to-medium businesses, whereas the PPP/C in 2021 provided $329 million for such businesses, it now proposes less — $300 million. How could the first oil Budget fail to give an increase to this important sector of the economy? Let us remind the nation that the PNCR had proposed up to $5 million per business to help them develop and fulfil several development goals, such as the economic empowerment of women and young people,” he said.
Lowe said the budget promises very small increases and benefits here and there for some. He such meager increases can be deemed acceptable as he made a case for pensioners and poor families to receive more than just a $,3000 increase.
Old Age Pension was increase from $25,000 to $28,000 while Public Assistance has increased from $12,000 to $14,000. “Our party believes that Guyanese have reached the peak of their impatience with these stingy morsels that are, in any case, eaten up by inflation and will not improve the lives of our people,” the PNCR Member said.
Like Chandan-Edmond, he too underscored the need for a comprehensive national development plan to guide the budgetary allocations. It submitted too that the budget should have included effective anti-poverty measures that are designed to ensure all Guyanese are guaranteed an income on which they can live decently. It was noted that just recently, the PNCR called for a National Poverty Survey to inform the design of policies and programmes to eliminate poverty forever in Guyana. “The PPP/C has no such intention,” Lowe contended.
He submitted that eliminating poverty and guaranteeing all Guyanese a livable income can run in tandem with infrastructure development, agriculture expansion, reducing energy costs, and other economic development effort.
“The PPP/C does not get this. They only see infrastructural development as an avenue for corruption, nothing more,” he opined
He added: “The PPP/C has avoided telling us when, for example, it plans to eliminate poverty, provide full employment, and eliminate child hunger and malnutrition from our midst. PPP/C incompetence makes them incapable of delivering a better life to the people of Guyana.”
According to him, the PNCR, as part of the next coalition government, intends to provide good governance and a national development agenda that result in a better quality of life for all Guyanese