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Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton, on Tuesday awarded the Irfaan Ali government a failing grade for its period in office and declared Guyana is an authoritarian society hurtling towards dictatorship.
Outlying nine areas of abuse, the Opposition Leader pointed to: continued corruption in high places; use of the Police Force to intimidate, oppress and violate human rights; sabotage of the Public Accounts Committee; disrespect for Opposition communities; discrimination in the awards of contract; exclusion of the Opposition from State Boards and denial of access to State media; demolition of homes and stall of innocent Guyanese targeting primarily Opposition supporters and areas; rise in executive lawlessness; and exclusion of civil society.
According to him, under the two-plus-year Ali administration Guyana has seen incompetence, division, corruption and ordinary Guyanese are worse off. By “doling out” Guyana’s resources to the “elite, friends, families and favourites while allocating crumbs to the people” has forced people “into hardships, hopelessness and a life of poverty” he declared, as he lambasted the government for failing on its promise to create 50,000 jobs.
Asking citizens to do introspection Norton said “we need to ask ourselves: are we better or worse off in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and in our society? Are we more or are we less financially and economically secure and empowered? Are our concerns, grievances, and demands better addressed? Are we more confident of and hopeful in the future?”
Noting even though the PPP has unveiled the biggest budget ever and the nation’s first oil budget (50% larger than the previous budget), Norton said Government’s pledge of unifying the people and ensuring the lives of all Guyanese are meaningfully, demonstrably, and lastingly are mere words. “Clearly, these are mere words; the reality is that we are worse off.”
On the economic front, the cost-of-living keeps surging, while the government showed no urgency, no capacity, and no genuine care to ease the burden on the people, the Opposition Leader pointed out. Norton noted poverty and inequality have increased, people are living from pay cheque to pay cheque, led to more misery and many parents, especially single parents, cannot afford to feed much less clothes and house their children. “Hopelessness stalks the land.”
The World Bank in a recent report (October2022) stated that whilst the economy is growing at an extraordinary rate poverty is increasing. According to the Bank, 48 per cent of Guyanese live on less than US$5.5 dollars a day, which is approximately $1100.00.
The Opposition recalled “that as from as early as January they called for a range of urgent people-centered responses, such as a comprehensive anti-poverty plan; a 25% plus salary increase for public servants, healthcare workers, teachers and other state employees; $10,000 plus increase in old age pensions; the removal of income tax for low-income earners; multi-billion dollar investments to revitalize depressed communities; and a massive grants scheme to spur the start-up and growth of micro to medium-scale businesses.”
Also, in the face of rising cost of living and decline in real income, the Opposition said its call for a cap on fuel prices and for waiver of water and electricity payments for low-income households have been ignored. These measures, the Opposition said, would have brought direct relief to the people and put income in their pockets. “The rejection of these proposals is a clear indication that the PPP regime does not care for the people of Guyana.”
Turning attention to government’s management of oil revenue Norton stated there is sufficient revenue to have ensured $300,000 per household and for the sum to be equitably and transparently distributed in a structured and focused way, but again, the government rejected the proposal.
“Whatever cash transfers it doled out to citizens were one-off, selective in coverage, inadequate in amount, and/or politicised and discriminatory in its allocation. Whatever salary increases it awarded public employees were already eaten up by high inflation and its concomitant high prices.”
Further Norton said, “Guyana is worse under PPP rule. The PPP’s two years in government is a clear indication to all that the APNU+AFC did a better job at governing Guyana.”