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The Alliance For Change (AFC) is calling for greater transparency in the distribution of cash grants and for oil money to reach more citizens.
Speaking at its last press conference party leader, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, said the government must do more to ensure the distribution of public money is above board. One such way would be to put the names and addresses of grant(s) recipients on the respective ministry’s website so the public can scrutinise who received or didn’t, he offered.
“Let it be known to the public so we can know who and who are getting it. We believe it is massive discrimination on ethnic grounds and the PPP is buying votes” said Ramjattan, and to prove this is not so, the government must make the information public.
The party leader also wants the government to make public the rationale for the payment. Similarly, the demand is being made to strengthen the rationale by presenting an analysis of the reason (s) the money is being disbursed to persons, likewise the amount. “But most importantly let it be known to the public so the public can scrutinise.”
The party also pointed out that repeated calls to government to make cash disbursements transparent have fallen on deaf ears.
Turning attention to the oil revenue, which this year is pegged to be at least US$1.1 billion, Ramjattan said it is important that this year’s money benefits everybody. The party does not believe this is happening, making known that it is once again clear to all the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government’s cash grants programme is handing out crumbs to the citizens when today’s economy can distribute much more.
So much for ‘we care,’ he said, playing off the government’s “Because we care” cash grant to each school-aged child for the new school year. Said grant is also mired in controversy where some parents are yet to receive the money more than two months after distribution.
The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) in a recent statement revealed the Wai-Wai nation community that has 115 school-aged children, their parents are yet to receive the grant. The Ministry of Education, whilst apologising for the non-payment to date, blamed the situation on unavailability of a flight into the area which the Opposition said is “lame excuse and unacceptable.”
The AFC wants to see an approach to the disbursement of funds managed through the government apparatus to allow greater scrutiny through government systems and to avoid allegations of people not being paid or denied payment.
The PPP’s operatives or individuals should not be the ones determining who gets or not and using criteria that are not absolutely fair, said the party. The reference to a number of persons who were given pink slips to receive the $25,000 and are still holding those slips was used to draw attention to the distribution dysfunction.
In 2018 Professor Clive Thomas, Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), proposed a US$5000.00 cash transfer per year to every citizen, in the form of direct payment, in response to the revenue generated from oil and gas. Thomas argued it was an important approach to combating poverty. More than a third of Guyanese live in poverty, according to some official statistics. However, some analysts argued the figure is actually higher and would have gotten worse with the pandemic.
Thomas’ proposal was widely accepted by civil society and others.