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The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) is sticking to their guns in calling on the Government to provide a nationwide economic relief, by way of subsidy, to low-income households. The call was repeated at the Tuesday press conference even as Government remains silent to the appeal to bring nationwide relief to vulnerable groups, i.e. low income earners/households.
The Opposition wants the Government to urgently introduce an ‘Electricity Bill Relief for Low Income Households’ with the aim of targeting as many low-income households as possible whose total monthly light bill is less than a specified dollar amount (a cap). These persons, the Opposition said, should not be required to pay electricity below the cap sum and government will absolve the cost.
The Government has not signaled its intent to look at the request.
Should government implement the proposal, once properly managed, would see some equity in Guyanese benefiting from the distribution of the state’s resources. It would be an indirect cash transfer to bring relief to the vulnerable in a country seen as having one of the world’s fastest growing economies. This year Guyana is expected to earn at least US$1.1 Billion in revenue alone from its share of oil sales. This sum for the sale of one commodity was never before seen in Guyana.
Poverty cuts across race, gender, region, political affiliation, and other issues that tend to divide Guyanese.
The World Bank Report, in a report earlier this month, drew attention that Guyana’s national poverty headcount is around 48 per cent. This is a dire figure that confirms at least half the population is living in poverty even as some analysts say the figure is likely higher.
United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), in a recent report, stated that three years into the pandemic many families in Latin America and the Caribbean are still struggling to bounce back. Some are forced to cope, according to the report, by reducing food portion sizes and children are eating less than three meals per day.
With vulnerable groups such as the disabled, pensioners, children, unemployed and low income earners the situation is dire.
When the Opposition first announced their electricity subsidy proposal they touted advantages such as being able to: “(i) effectively target those who are most in need of assistance, (ii) exploit the fact that monthly energy consumption is a reliable and consistent proxy measure of household income, (iii) as the scheme will use the existing GPL billing system, administrative costs to delivery benefits will be minimal for the government, and participation costs non-existent for beneficiaries, (iv) the use of a cap can incentivise households to become more energy conscious in using electricity, and (v) benefits are predictable and continuous (not one-off).”
With the spiraling cost-of-living it would be difficult for government to justifiably ignore what is probably one of the better thought out economic relief proposals.