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…. proposes a series of measures
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Aubrey Norton has called on the Irfaan Ali Administration to utilise some $5B to expand the school feeding programme, subsidise basic food items and provide a market supplement to low-wage workers among other measures to cushion the impact of the steep rise in cost of living.
“We call for the $5 billion Guyana dollars that have been set aside for cost-of-living adjustments in budget 2022 to be immediately put to use in order to shield citizens from these increases in the price of flour and other basic food items,” Norton urged during PNCR’s weekly press conference on Tuesday.
He said Guyanese are looking with great concern as the cost of living escalates well beyond the staggering heights of 2021. Recently, the price of flour increased by 15%; cooking gas has reached $5,700 a cylinder, and prices at the pump have jumped as much as 20%. The costs of basic food items have also skyrocketed.
Norton said the $5B relief fund must be met with much wider efforts to reduce the cost of living as he proposed a number of measures.
“Mounting inflation in prices must be seen as a crisis. And a crisis demands emergency responses. A government serious about the welfare of its people would introduce emergency relief measures to help them cope. Such emergency measures could include (i) granting a market supplement to low-wage workers, (ii) expanding the school feeding programme to cover 2-3 nutritious meals a day, (iii) subsidizing basic food items, such as flour, cooking oil, rice, and milk, and (iv) providing increase resources to families in the Public Assistance Programme,” the PNCR Leader recommended.
However, he said for the measures to be successfully implemented, the PPP/C must end political discrimination in the provision of social assistance.
Further, the PNCR Leader lobbied for measures that would increase local food supply, explaining that inflation cannot be addressed solely by increasing people’s income.
“We believe that one of the ways to address these sharp food price increases is through building agricultural production throughout Guyana. Each region of this country should be food-secure,” he reasoned.
It is againnst this background that he called on the Government to focus efforts on building agriculture across Guyana.
“Every region should have an agricultural programme that is aimed at achieving food self-sufficiency. In addition, buffer stocks arrangements could be put in place to deal with rising prices. Serious efforts must also be made to facilitate agro-processing, not just grand aspirations with no concrete solutions but clear and well thought out policies and programmes to develop agro processing,” he submitted.
Special emphasis, he said, must be placed on small-scale farming – an important source of employment for many and a means of dealing with high food prices – he added while making a case for the expansion of the Rural Agricultural Infrastructure Development (RAID) Programme, which was initiated by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government, and the issuance of $5M grants to help micro, small and medium-scale businesses.
According to Norton, while the PNCR is cognizant that the world is experiencing inflation, it is disappointed that the PPP/C Administration has not conceptualise or implement policies that will bring relief to the people of Guyana.
“Had the government followed the PNCR’s advice and developed a people-centered approach; Guyanese today would have had more money to offset rising prices. The PNCR had advised, for example, increasing the 2022 salary of public servants by over 25%, raising the minimum wage and tax threshold, removing personal income tax for low-wage earners, providing a generous risk allowance to frontline workers, and guaranteeing all households a minimum livable income. Such measures would have helped considerably,” he said.
Noting that the rise in cost of living affects all Guyanese, Norton said a democratic government would have been guided by Article 13 of the Constitution and consult the Opposition with the aim of arriving at the most effective policies, but the PPP/C has shied away from such democratic stance.