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Ghanaian oil expert, George Owusu, has advised Guyana against utilising its oil revenues to facilitate cash transfers but a USAID Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment on Guyana underscores the need for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable to benefit from social protection and cash transfers.
“I don’t believe in subsidies and giving people cash. You have to work for it. I would rather spend the money on training, so that their income level will go up,” Owusu told the Department of Public Information (DPI) on the sidelines of the just concluded International Energy Conference and Expo at the Guyana Marriott Hotel.
The Ghanaian oil expert said equipping Guyanese with the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively operate in various sectors would prove to be more impactful in the long term.
“If you’re a welder and you don’t have any training, and you are trained and you get certified, automatically, your pay goes up, instead of sitting at home and getting paid. That doesn’t make sense to me. So, train, if you have to send them overseas for training, fine. If you have to bring trainers here to train them, fine. But whatever you do, when you improve the quality of the person, his skillset, he’ll be able to make the money,” Owusu reasoned.
But concerned that Guyana may be unprepared for its newfound wealth in the absence of a plan to manage the inflow of new revenue, the team of analysts that conducted the Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment for review by USAID, said cash transfers could become critical.
“Inequitable distribution of oil wealth will exacerbate the deep disparities between regions and ethnic groups so social protection and cash transfers will become important for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable,” a section of the assessment read.
According to the team of analysts, Guyana can afford to provide the most basic social services to every citizen of the country.
The assessment found that among the key challenges facing Guyana is the need for greater accountability and transparency across the public sector, and the need to design appropriate national development policies that deliver equitable services to all its citizens.
“Trust in institutions and rule of law remain low because government effectiveness and accountability are susceptible to political pressure. Guyana’s governance and human development scores are in the lower levels of global rankings. The most significant lagging indicator is the low level of citizens’ meaningful participation in local and national decision-making,” another section of the report states.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s developmental agenda is centered primarily on transforming the infrastructure and energy landscapes of the country through the construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, hydropower stations and gas-to-shore projects among others.
But the Working People’s Alliance, while acknowledging the importance of such infrastructural and human resource developments, has long made a case for Guyanese to receive cash transfers through the country’s oil wealth. Economist, Dr. Clive Thomas had proposed a transfer of US$5,000 per household – a move, he posited would aid in the equitable distribution of the country’s resources and simultaneously enhance the lives of all Guyanese in the areas of education and training, health and labour among others.
But the PPP/C Administration has not embraced the WPA’s proposal.
According to DPI, Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, during the energy conference, said the Government has witnessed the effects of splurging by other countries to the extent that they could not sustain themselves when their oil windfall went.
Jagdeo reported provided the example of Trinidad & Tobago, which spent 99 per cent of its fiscal revenues between 1999 and 2015 to increase transfers and subsidies. “Guyana has been cautioned by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) not to take this route,” the DPI said.
It said the country’s plan includes providing access to world class healthcare and welfare, quality education, building infrastructure, and access to affordable and quality training.