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|The Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition, made clear that they are not against citizens receiving handouts which they said is the people’s money and an “entitlement.” What the coalition is adamantly against is the government inadequate, sporadic and discriminatory handouts which they say which they contend should be done in a strcutured manner in order that citizens could receive support in an urgent, regular, and predictable manner. The coalition also shared that it is their belief if the people don’t collect the money the “PPP kleptocracy will steal those monies.”
In local parlance, the word “handouts” could carry derogatory connotations such as giving out money, food, etc., to the destitute. In national policy handouts mean the government providing relief to people in need.
Guyanese have been experiencing serious economic dislocations over the last three years due to the pandemic; unemployment and poverty, which predated the pandemic, remain high; pension, wages and salaries remain relatively minuscule to consumers’ purchasing power in a society with spiraling cost of living. Heavy rainfalls have resulted in flooding which is made worse by poor irrigation and drainage that is causing severe economic dislocation for families and businesses.
The Opposition, stating clearly it is responding to a Stabroek News’ Editorial (14th August) said they see “cash transfers as resources people need and are entitled to receive.” In a press conference on Tuesday, the Opposition made known handouts cannot solve the problems of increasing cost of living and poverty. Citing the need to establish targeted policies and programmes aimed at reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of Guyanese, the coalition is lambasting the government, who they said is corrupt, for having no plan and using handouts as a slush fund to enrich its elite and political activists.
“It is also opportune to note that the PPP uses handouts to bribe Guyanese, especially those in APNU+AFC strongholds. We condemn the PPP misuse of the state’s resources for narrow political gains.”
Turning attention to the social programmes the Opposition said their developmental vision is to put people front and centre, and their planning will be directed at achieving several people-first goals – in sync with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). According to the UN its SDGs, which is driven by a 2030 Agenda, is a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.”
Using the Goals as its launching pad the Opposition assured a next coalition government is going to:
“(i) ensure all citizens can finally enjoy (not only their political rights) but also their socioeconomic rights, as enshrined in the Guyana constitution and in the International Conventions this nation has signed,
(ii) eliminate poverty – its causes and consequences,
(iii) reduce socio-economic inequality (i.e., the gap between the have and the have-nots),
(iv) promote social cohesion and inclusion (All persons in society must be able to participate and to belong),
(v) build an opportunity society (All citizens and families must be able to pursue their own pathways to a comfortable life),
(vi) ensure that society rewards hard work and effort, initiatives, achievements, sacrifices, and investments, and
(vii) ensure safety, dignity, and care for all throughout their lifetime.”
A coalition government will craft a holistic and integrated set of short-, medium-, and long-term programmes to deliver benefits to the people, they said, and these programmes, will be felt immediately, will make a difference in living conditions and needs of the people, and can include, for example:
“(i) direct cash transfers (on a regular, fair, and predictable manner),
(ii) subsidies (such as on fuel, electricity, and transportation),
(iii) soft loans and grants for small businesses.
(iv) salary top-ups (for those earning below a minimum livable income),
(v) adequate social security (for the elderly, disabled, the sick, the temporary unemployed),
(vi) adequate social assistance (for low-income families or in sudden shocks or disasters),
(vii) child allowances,
(viii) adequate school-feeding programs and other nutrition support
(ix) modern social services (health and education, leisure and recreation, safety, justice, etc),
(x) significant increases in the wages and salaries of public servants to ensure a minimum livable income is guaranteed, and,
(xi) free university tuition and student stipends.”
The public service will be restructured and modernised to manage the identified programmes to ensure objectives with due regard to maintaining economic sustainability across generations, said the APNU+AFC.