TOMORROW will mark two years of the Coalition Government being in office. After an extended run of 23 years, the people of Guyana removed the floundering People’s Progressive Party government in preference for the six-party coalition.
Despite considerable and undeniable advances and as is not unusual in public life, over the past two years there has been a fixation on a handful of the Coalition Government’s less than shining moments. These have been latched on to in an effort to construct a certain political narrative. The full picture, on the other hand, reveals that while there have been not unexpected challenges and difficulties, there have also been resounding successes. Reasonable observers and the average Guyanese are not fooled.
MORE DISPOSABLE INCOME
If the dollars and cents test is applied the results are clear.
There can be no question that people, public servants in particular, have more money in their pockets now than in 2014.
* The minimum wage has been increased by 38%. In May 2015, the minimum wage was $39540. Today it is $55,000. That represents a considerable increase of $15,460.
* The Income Tax Threshold has been increased from $50,000 to $60,000 (a 20% increase in less than two years).
* There have been two Christmas bonuses in 2015 and 2016 totalling $75,000 ($50,000 in 2015 + $25,000 in 2016) It was the first time that an across-the- board Christmas bonus was paid. The PPP administration limited Christmas bonuses to the security services, leaving all other public servants empty- handed at Christmas time.
* VAT has been reduced from 16%, which was the rate it was implemented at in 2007 by the PPP government to 14%.
* The VAT-exempt threshold has been increased from $10m to $15m.
* There has been a new Personal Income Tax rate (28%/40%), which allows for greater deductions versus the flat rate of 30% under the PPP government.
Guyanese have more disposable income now than they had under the previous government.
As recently reiterated by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, the economy grew in both 2015 and 2016 by 3% and 3.3% respectively. Though admittedly below projected targets, there was still growth.
Minister Jordan, in a television interview this week, explained the benefits of taking well thought-through fiscal measures now.
“From day one we said that the economy would never be able to have sustainable growth if we depend on one or two crops like we have done for 50 years. And in now attempting to diversify the economy, there will be a lot of growing pains but at the end of the day it is better we go through the growing pains now and have an economy that is on a firmer footing down the road than have to depend every year on rice or gold or sugar,” Minister Jordan advised.
Turning to national infrastructure,works are continuing at breakneck speed all across Guyana. The Coalition Government inherited a national infrastructural network which was substandard and decrepit. Roads were dilapidated, bridges were broken, stellings were falling apart. Literally.
Roads and bridges all across Guyana are being resurfaced, built and repaired. Where there had never before been paved roads, bridges, street lights and even potable water, there now are. Sophia, Leguan, Yarrowkabra, Mocha-Arcadia, Linden and Whim are but a few examples. The story however, is deeper than just shiny new surfaces. The quality of work is far superior to that which Guyanese had grown accustomed. Roads are not sinking and crumbling after mere months of use. Bridges are not collapsing within weeks.
After an intense programme of cleaning, clearing and reclamation and dredging of the outfall channels, Georgetown is no longer prone to chronic flooding for days on end after the lightest of rains. Even after heavy, prolonged downpours Georgetown now remains dry. In a few trouble areas, the water recedes within hours. This, Guyanese were told, was impossible and unimaginable — that they are doomed to be inundated by contaminated floodwaters at the slightest hint of rain clouds. Guyanese know better now.
The government is steadily moving forward in difficult circumstances and pressing ahead with the challenging business of managing the economy and the affairs of the state in the best interest of all the people. During this period of growing pains occasioned by the need to stabilize the economy and put it on a credible footing, there will be some restorative discomfort which we as a nation must recognise is temporary.
In May 2015, Guyana was not a vibrant, prosperous, economically stable country. Had it been there would have been no need for the people to remove the PPP from government. The Coalition Government received the keys to a nation in a broken state.
This is a story which is not always told, nor is it appreciated. And neither are the unavoidable ramifications of the corrective actions which are imperative to restoring order, equilibrium, credibility, confidence and lawfulness to the society.
It will take a bit more time, but once we are healed fully from all that ailed the nation, the good life will begin to emerge. We are already seeing unmistakable signs of it and the Coalition Government’s commitment to delivering the good life.
Have a look at your bankbooks, compare the numbers to pre-2015, look outside at your streets and bridges, appreciate that Guyana is safer now that it has ever been for the past 20 years. Guyana is not yet a paradise, but there can be no question that the country is on the path to prosperity and realising its long-lamented potential. After two years there have been lessons learnt, mistakes made, gains and successes, achievements and progress. Guyana cannot move from minus 20 to 100 overnight, but every day Guyana is moving forward.