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Aubrey Norton – the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – said the working poor in Guyana will benefit from the removal of the personal income tax, a hike in the minimum wage and tax threshold, and salary top-ups if the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) is to regain power.
Detailing the party’s economic philosophy during its weekly press conference last Tuesday, Norton said unlike the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), the PNCR does not believe in trickle-down economics. “We do not believe, as the PPP does, in trickle-down economics. While we do believe in the Private Sector as the engine of growth, we do not subscribe to the position that lifting living standards must await — or be totally at the mercy of — this growth. Growth, in any case, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. It is no use having an expanding economy if the less-fortunate are worse off as a result of rising costs of living,” Norton told reporters.
He said PNCR’s people-centered vision is based on guaranteeing Guyanese a quality of life free from poverty, exclusion, inequality, hunger, and want. Once in Government, he said the PNCR and its coalition partners will first determine what should be the minimum livable income – the amount of money a person or family must earn to live comfortably above the poverty line in Guyana.
“In the APNU+AFC government of which the PNCR is a part, I will task our economists to regularly calculate the minimum livable income based on costs of living, family size, geographic location, and inflation.
Based on these calculations, the next Coalition government would use the revenues from oil production and from an expanding non-oil sector to ensure all households earn at or above the minimum livable income. In other words, no household will be left below the minimum livable income,” the PNCR Leader explained.
To achieve this goal, the next Coalition government, he said, will consider and use several anti-poverty and economic empowerment tools.
“For the working poor (those hard working teachers, labourers, nurses, public servants, etc), we will remove personal income tax, raise the minimum wage and tax threshold, and provide salary top-ups. So, if a minimum livable income for a family of four in Linden or Corentyne is set in any given year at $200,000 per month, and Family A earns $150,000 per month and Family B earns $125,000 per month… then we will use the various financial tools to ensure Family A gets $50,000 more and Family B $75,000 more. In this way, the APNU+AFC government of which the PNCR is a part will be using financial equity to achieve social equality,” he explained.
Norton assured the press that self-employed and small business owners will not be left out in the cold, noting that they too will benefit from the removal of personal income tax, the provision of business grants, and other measures.
“In our people-centred vision, we are fully aware of the many Guyanese (mostly women) who work informally as housemaids, security guards, caregivers, and stay-home Moms. We will ensure that they too can enjoy a good living standard,” he added.
Norton posited that these measures, which are intended to economically empower women, young people, micro and small business owners would form part of the party’s comprehensive anti-poverty strategy.
“All Guyanese must be empowered regardless of who they are: the working poor, the elderly, the low-income families, children in single-parent families, frontline workers, residents in rural and hinterland communities, etc,” he emphasized.
Norton added: “We believe that the focus on the people need not await the completion of large infrastructure or agriculture and other projects. Giving all Guyanese a decent and comfortable life can and must occur in tandem with other development efforts.”
HIGHER SALARIES IN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTORS
In the interim, the PNCR Leader called on the Government to follow in the footsteps of Sol Guyana Inc, a private company, which just days increased its minimum wage to $133,000 per month.
“This increase is welcome and stands in sharp contrast to the national minimum wage of $74,900 and the private sector minimum wage of $44,200. Like the PNCR, the company has obviously recognised that for its employees to live relatively decently in an environment of high inflation, a minimum wage in excess of $100,000 is required,” Norton said.
He posited that better salaries within the public and private sectors would minimize brain drain, as he pointed to the return of international recruitment drives for nurses to work overseas.
“Clearly the unattractive salaries and working conditions will act as a push factor in the decision of many nurses to seek and accept job offers in the UK and other countries,” Norton contended while iterating calls for the Irfaan Ali Administration to provide adequate remuneration for all Guyanese workers.