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This year Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to grow by 30%. In this trillion-dollar economy there is more than enough for every Guyanese, yet workers continue to feel the economic squeeze from their meagre earnings and the deprivation in the upliftment in their standard of living. To workers personal development is measured not by the GDP but by the Human Development Index (HDI).
According to the World Health Organisation, the HDI is a summary composite measure of a country’s average achievements in three basic aspects of human development: health, knowledge and standard of living.
The cost of living remains a major issue that requires equal involvement of all relevant interest groups, i.e., labour, private sector, and government. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, and it is time for citizens to demand just and livable wages with adjustments to the tax threshold, etc.
There must be engagement between the trade unions in the public sector and the government in order to effectively address industrial-related issues in the sector. We must attack the cost of living in a very structured manner. We must also put our differences aside and develop ways and means to improve the livelihood and quality of living of our working class.
Workers have repeatedly called on the government to spread the country’s wealth around in an equitable and equal manner to improve the livelihood of the working class. Among the proposals made to ensure this are:
- Payment of direct cash transfer to every adult citizen. This must be addressed in a national and nonpartisan way. The money accrued from our oil and gas sector belongs to every citizen and therefore it must be distributed to the citizens directly and indirectly.
- Improve healthcare by providing medical services through establishment of fully equipped main referral hospitals in all ten regions with trauma centre, intensive care and diagnostic facilities. More resources must be dedicated to Preventative Care, inclusive of yearly mammogram, pap smear, prostate, basic annual blood tests, etc. as necessary for promoting a healthy lifestyle and society.
- Respect the constitutional right to free education from nursery to university. Article 27 of the Constitution of Guyana guarantees the right hence we demand compliance with this article. In the early 1990s, the nation was stripped of this right by the then PPP/C government via the introduction of tuition fees at our lone national university. This right must be immediately reinstated and debts owed by students be written off.
Free education was made constitutional under the Forbes Burnham regime, at a time when we were not yet exploiting our oil and gas resources. If we did it then, we can more than do it now. with ease and comfort.
Education is the foundation of national development, and no effort must be wasted to ensure that our citizens receive free accessible education at all levels. As per the constitution, it is a right and we must raise our voices in unison and demand its restoration. We must demand also the University be funded fully from the consolidated fund of this country.
Our younger generation must be involved, must be trained and encouraged for the future of this country rests in their hands and so does their future pension. Regrettably, if we continue the trajectory of increased prices and decreased value in income then the future looks bleak and our labour force will seek greener pastures, allowing for the invasion of a new labour force whose desperation may allow them to accept substandard wages and standards of living. This must not happen.
A caring government would provide the relevant services, and resources that will improve the standard of living of every citizen regardless of class, colour, race or geographic location.
Every single citizen has a responsibility to hold the government accountable for his/her standard of living and lack of improvement. We must be engaged, and the potency of our engagement depends on the potency that each brings to the national discussion for an increased wages/salary and better standard of living.