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There has been negligible to zero improvement in the quality of life for ordinary Guyanese the last two years. For many the situation has worsened. Prices have increased a hundredfold on some essential items resulting in greater financial burden. Having to cut and contrive for those who can’t afford, and to make ends meet, many, including pensioners and single parent mothers, are finding it difficult to serve nutritious meals, maintain a roof over their heads, pay transportation and utilities bills, and save for a rainy day.
Numerous studies have shown nutrition deficiency affects children’s learning abilities, and creates various health challenges, affecting the development of families, communities and the country as a whole. As families are stretching themselves thin on small income the government has been withdrawing billions from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) but the sum has had no direct impact on the lives of ordinary people.
Thrice this year the government dipped into the NRF. In May US$200 million was withdrawn, in July another US$200 million, and this month US$207.6 million. The 2022 Budget was the largest ever, Guyana expects to earn more than US$ 1 billion from oil and gas, and the economy is projected to grow by 60 %. By no stretch of imagination is Guyana a poor country. Guyana is ranked among the world’s fastest growing economies, but the growth and spending are leaving the majority behind because of structural discrimination, nepotism and corruption. This discrimination has a face and those affected have feelings.
A pensioner is expected to subsist on $28,000 per month.
The average salary for public sector workers, many of whom are single parents, is less than $90,000 per month.
The entry level salary for a Police constable is $102,000 per month. A significant number of men and women in uniform are earning less than $130,000. Many teachers, tasked with the noble responsibility to mould our children’s minds, earn less than $150,000 per month.
A worker with a $8 million house mortgage pays $60,000 per month to the bank.
The minimum rental for a decent unfurnished, 2 bedroom- house, with the basic amenities, in southern Georgetown, is about $ 60,000 per month. Not to mention the cost of electricity, kerosene and/or gas and other essentials. Yet, a few days ago, there was not a tinge of remorse in Dr. Ashni Singh’s voice when he announced 52,000 public servants received the 8 % bonus.
In the last two years inflation has risen steadily, reducing the purchasing power of the dollar. Guyana’s inflation rate for 2021 was 5.03%, a 4.04% increase from 2020; for 2019, the rate was 2.09%; in 2018 the rate was 1.28%, a 0.62% decline from 2017. In 2022 the International Monetary Fund projects inflation will rise to 9.4 %.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for workers to survive on their salaries.
President Ali’s ‘one Guyana’ is definitely not about #All Guyana. In the eyes of Ali, public sector workers are not worthy of decent and living wages and the vulnerable are on the lowest round of the priority ladder. The government has repeatedly demonstrated this attitude by the way it treats the majority of Guyanese, with scant regard.
The election campaign promise of a 50% increase to all public servants, after more than two years in government, the president has not delivered. Neither would he be able to deliver. Unilaterally tossing less than 20% increase in wages and salaries to public servants, in recent years, is as discriminatory as it can get. In 2020 public servants received nothing; in 2021 they were tossed a 7 % taxable increase, and in 2022 an 8 % taxable increase.
Meanwhile, the government has been facilitating the massive transfer of state wealth and awarding huge contracts to the identified ‘one Guyana.’ Flagrant disregard for public sector workers and the vulnerable in our midst continues despite evidence of the vast economic disparities and repeated advice to pursue political inclusion and shared prosperity. Senior members of the Biden administration and most recently the Ambassador have too urged the PPP to act responsibly.
A recent World Bank Report (October 2022) drew attention to the ignored inequities, noting the:
- “ Negative impacts of the pandemic on household income, food insecurity and children’s education persisted in 2021 with about half of households (49 percent) reportedly experiencing lower total household income compared to the period before the pandemic.
- “Guyana’s national poverty headcount, the share of the population living below US$5.5 a day, is among the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean region at around 48 per cent.”
Guyana’s structural discrimination can only be dismantled when the PPP stops the selfishness of ‘one Guyana’ and accepts the wisdom, whilst sitting in the seat of government, of acting responsibly and governing in the interest of #AllGuyana. Many fear this may be wishful thinking.