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Most families in Guyana continue to wrestle with unrelenting price increases for those essential goods and services they need to survive in our oil rich nation. The price for market goods, rent, transportation, school supplies, and arguable every good and service available in Guyana has increased significantly over the past two years. The cost for food items manufactured locally has given no reprieve to Guyanese and those of us who intentionally focus on ‘buying local’ find ourselves paying significantly more than the cost of many imported alternatives.
The government’s purported interventions to alleviate the suffering of more than half of the Guyanese citizens have proven to be ineffective and lacking in its ability to offer any sort of substantive relief to citizens. The 30,000 education grant has already been spent while parents still cry out for relief. The fertilizer subsidy has not offered any meaningful relief to the price of vegetables, one only has to check one’s shopping list. The cash grants which were shamefully targeted to PPP constituents were not effective as a cure for the unrelenting inflation which is strangling the working class and forcing families to reduce the number of meals they prepare for their children each day.
The people of Guyana did not expect that in this oil economy, they would still be forced to rely on remittances from the diaspora to survive. While President Ali continues to search for ways to remove the obstacles that impede the path of his private sector cronies in their quest to benefit from Guyana’s oil wealth, the vast majority of Guyanese are left to fend for themselves, with no meaningful social safety net or financial support program from which they can benefit.
The government of Guyana must prioritize development investment that will immediately impact the quality of life and cost of living of the working class. Priority must be on an investment in education–specifically school facilities, teacher salaries, recruiting quality teachers and providing adequate school supplies that will reduce the burden on teachers and parents. The government must bolster the confidence of the Guyanese people by releasing a plan for road upgrades and installation and by the use of contractors who have a history of building quality roads and offering the best value for money.
It is not enough to remove or reduce gasoline taxes to drive down the costs of gas, the government must offer a subsidy to allow a significant reduction in gas prices to below the $200 target. The government of Guyana must hire competent workers and desist from installing talentless cronies who contribute to the degradation of services offered to the public. The government must invest in improving hospital facilities for patients and staff, increase salaries for hospital staff, implement a proper inventory and storage system for managing medicines and supplies so that costs can be properly managed and move quickly towards the computerization of records and systems to improve hospital administration across the country.
We expect the government of Guyana to invest oil funds in upgrading community recreation facilities–ball fields, buildings, sports courts so that young people have an alternative to liming and getting themselves into trouble. They must partner with entities that can bring skills training to local night schools in communities across the country and encourage young people to learn plumbing, electrical, welding, coding and other technical skills which can immediately change their fortunes by allowing them to become employed and earn decent wages. The government must reduce the VAT rate which continues to strangle the working class.
The above list is not exhaustive. President Ali has a team of people around him who should focus on improving the quality of life for citizens–they’re called ministers. The people of Guyana need ministers to cease the photo ops and to focus instead on working with talented partners to offer meaningful improvements in the lives of the working people of Guyana. Oil funds should benefit all Guyanese, not just the super rich who continue to get even richer while the working class continues to beg and suffer.