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As ordinary workers and citizens face financial burden due to reduced spending power because of the eroding of their already small pay, rising inflation and unjust taxes, the president, his ministers and businesses face no such stress. The high salary of the president and ministers is tax free. Foreign businesses are offered tax incentives to do business in Guyana as the burden of shouldering the nation’s spending remains on the backs of ordinary people and working poor.
We are experiencing the absence of nationalism from the political leadership and any desire to create fairness and equity in the society. We bear witness daily to the continuous orchestrated plan to pauperize the masses. The ordinary man and women must pay income tax, VAT, water rates, property taxes, and even tax on their little savings in the bank.
The masses are being taxed senselessly which keep them in perpetual poverty, living hand to mouth, as government officials and politically connected businesses live off the hog. Whilst the small man must tighten his belt, officials of the government and their cohorts bore new holes in theirs to accommodate their expanding waistline.
We live in an oil and gas economy. It is more than reasonably fair to expect that by now the tax burden would have been removed off the backs of the masses, and wages and salary would reflect the economic growth in society. For years the Labour Movement has been calling for new wages/salary bands, and the revisiting of the tax system to allow for everyone to pay his or her fair share. The government has no interest in creating equity and fairness in society because these are tenets that underpin cohesion. A cohesive society is inimical to their agenda.
The regime continues to dole out tax concessions to local and foreign companies who are working in consort with them to keep the minimum wage at starvation level. The minimum wage is around $44,000 a month which reflects approximately US$200 per month. This income is grossly insufficient to feed one person and take care of rent/mortgage, transportation and utility bills, much less a family of four. Between the government and business, they have made the minimum wage the maximum wage for a number of workers in the private sector.
So when Bharrat Jagdeo walk around the country, like Santa Claus, telling the people that they will be given part-time employment and will be paid $40,000 per month, it is the minimum wage that he and President Irfaan Ali agreed with the private sector to deliberately keep low, that is being used as the benchmark. Their ploy for doing so is not only to create false comfort in the minds of Guyanese that it is ok to settle for less when they are capable of doing more and deserve more, but an act of making people feel that they have to grovel, accept less or be forced to cede their rights and freedoms in order to eat.
At the same time the regime is deliberately refusing to fix and improve existing structures and create sustainable and empowering opportunities for the masses. They are working assiduously in creating a society where the masses become mendicants. They are creating the environment to justify importing labour to work in the new economy because Guyanese are being choked of opportunities to compete. We will have to confront the threat of becoming second class citizens in our land.
Look at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). The Scheme is in financial crisis. The NIS needs money to sustain it but the government is not interested in providing the necessary finances. If NIS is given the financial support it needs, the government is fully aware that disbursement of payment becomes an entitlement based on the law, and they will not have a say in determining who qualifies.
Further, the Unemployment Benefit, which is in the Act from inception, has not been activated in as much as the Scheme has been in existence for more than 50 years. Unemployment Benefit allows for displaced workers to acquire financial benefit in an atmosphere that is not demeaning.
This behaviour of politicians walking around telling workers and citizens how much money they can give them, as though the money belongs to the politicians, is nonsense. They must do right by the people. Better can and must be done. We the people must demand that our money be managed in a structured and uplifting manner and the politicians treat us with respect and dignity.