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Cost of living in Guyana is spiraling out of control and the Jagdeo/Ali regime is definitely not interested in arresting this situation. They seem content to communicate to the nation, by their actions, that once they can eat pork they do not care who eats the hog’s hair. My visit to the market on Friday reinforces growing concern that in this oil rich economy, dubbed the world’s fastest growing, the average working family of four (parents and two children) cannot afford three nutritional meals per day.
2 pounds of plantains are $600, an increase from $300 at the beginning of the year, representing a 100 per cent increase. Eddoes which were $500 for 4 pounds at the beginning of the year are now sold at $250 per pound. Over the last year the price for a pound of fish has increased by approximately 70 per cent. Beef has moved from $400 per pound to $700 per pound, which is dependent on the cut of the meat. For instance, a T-bone cut could cost as much as $900 in Georgetown.
Powdered milk has moved from $440 per pound to $760. A bag of rice has increased from $1300 to $1900, sugar from $80 per pound to $170. 4-pint cooking oil has moved from $1100 to $1800. 2 pounds of flour increased from $180 to $260. Butter has increased from $340 to $540 a pound. The prices for vegetables, though expensive, vary.
The above prices are subjected to be higher based on the areas one lives or shops.
Workers are being forced to make choices about what necessities they must forego, including whether they can afford to save. A meal today for the average worker is not based on nutritional choices but what persons can afford. A diet of such nature has serious implications for brain and physical development, including the health risk (s) associated with poor/deficient diet.
Officials of the Jagdeo/Ali regime delight in boasting how wealthy the nation is as they conspicuously wine and dine at taxpayers’ expense, flaunt their wealth gotten on the backs of taxpayers by virtue of holding offices, and using their offices to influence the accumulation. Their cohorts are similarly fortunate as they are financially empowered through the transfer of state funds and properties. The lesser among them are reduced to small contracts for cleaning drains and doing small community projects.
Guyana is a tale of two cities- those in office and their cohorts get the most, whilst others get the trickle or nothing at all.
Life is hard for the average worker who is paid approximately $3000 per day. We can only imagine the critical economic state of the pensioners who are expected to survive on $16000 monthly public assistance. In a single parent or one-person earning household with two or more children the situation is much worse. We could only imagine how some get by day-to-day, particularly the unemployed and pensioners who do not enjoy the benevolence of overseas or local loved ones.
This regime expects teachers and public servants, who have been denied a decent pay for the past three years, to go to work every day and give of their best. Some officials are so arrogant they would say those who don’t want to work could go home. They ignore that workers’ nutritional, economic and other well-being, along with the state of their mental health, are significant contributors for good performance. It is difficult for workers to give of their best when foremost on their minds is their half/empty stomach, how they could put the next meal on their tables, commute back and forth to work, and take care of family expenses and obligations.
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other international institutions that have highlighted the wealth and growth of Guyana have also pointed to increasing poverty, declining health and education, which are key indicators human development is not moving in tandem with the wealth. These reports are not being used as barometers by the Jagdeo/Ali regime to engage stakeholders-including the Opposition, independent trade unions, civil society, etc-to move people out of poverty. In fact, these reports are being ignored or denied and in some instances the institutions are being attacked.
This is a cruel, ruthless and heartless regime. Without exception every single one of them in office today came from poor backgrounds. Many are probably pinching themselves at their income and the nation’s wealth at their disposal but, rather than create policies and programmes to help the less fortunate and give every Guyanese the opportunity for personal growth and development, they continue to put systems in place to deny others and those who receive a little being made to feel they have to grovel for it.
The 2023 economy is not only one that can boast of producing the largest budget in history (G$782 Billon), earning US$1.63 Billion from oil and gas revenue, but an economy with the largest sum of money ever garnered in any year. Evidently, the Jagdeo/Ali regime could afford to do better by the people but has taken a deliberate decision not to do so.