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Senior Minister within the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, came out in response to the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) highlighting information in the October 2022 World Bank Report that presented a dire situation of standard of living in Guyana.
According to the report about half the population live below the poverty line, subsiding on less than $1100.00 per day. The Minister said the figures used by the World Bank are from 2019 in as much as the figures/information presented by the Bank dealt with as recently as last month.
The Opposition’s response, as delivered by Low, follows: –
We note the recent comments that the “Senior Minister within the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance,” whose preposterous title makes it difficult to take his post seriously, has made regarding the alarming Guyanese poverty statistics the World Bank has recently released. He makes reference to the fact that the World Bank’s poverty statistics for Guyana relate to 2019, rather than the current year, in an attempt to paint them as reflecting the Coalition’s governance, rather than the PPP’s.
Given the common man has seen a relentless deterioration in Guyana’s standards of living during the past two years of PPP governance, this is a bold line of attack! After all, when it comes to poverty alleviation, didn’t it take the government nearly six long months to raise the national private sector minimum wage, which was already approved by the Tripartite committee, from a paltry $44,200 to a similarly threadbare $60,000?
Further, we have pointed out that the cost of food, from the time the PPP came to office to now, has skyrocketed. Research shows that the poor spend a greater proportion of their income on food than the well off, which means they have been hurt the most by this rampaging inflation. All economists know inflation hurts the poor the most, so poverty has only gotten worse under the PPP.
In our press release in September we pointed out: “When one examines food alone, Guyana saw food prices rising by some 11.6% in 2021. By June 2022, the Bank of Guyana Half-Year Report informs us that food prices have increased by a further 8.1%. On the current trend, food prices by Christmas 2022 will likely be 25% higher than during last year’s Christmas.” This trend has continued, with the prospect of a bleak Christmas seeming more certain by the day.
Even more astonishingly, the Minister with a title too long to repeat here appears to be looking to minimize the World Bank’s USD $5.50 a day poverty measure, as if it is insignificant, when we all know living on $5.50 a day is a desperate situation. In addition, for huge numbers of Guyanese to be living on $5.50 a day, when the country is earning Billions of USD in oil revenue, is both preposterous and shameful.
The PPP continues to peddle the lie that everything is the Coalition’s fault, that they remain blameless for all the country’s ills, and that nothing can be done to improve people’s lives now. We will not allow them to distract the nation from the fact that Guyana received hundreds of millions of US of unexpected revenue from the high oil price and the government has refused to use these funds to address the cost of living crisis.
We take this opportunity to again call for this unexpected revenue to be fairly distributed to households across Guyana, safe in the knowledge that at least $300,000 per household is available. This money can even be distributed over time to mitigate any inflationary effects. Paltry cash grants, like the Covid-19 25,000 are not going to cut it. Everyone knows the government’s coffers are full. The government is making a deliberate choice not to help the average Guyanese.