COGNISANT of the challenges experienced globally as food prices and the general cost of living continue to rise resulting from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, President Dr Irfaan Ali, on Tuesday evening, raised the curtain on Budget 2022 which he said will include a sizeable allocation addressing the rising cost of living experienced by Guyanese.
“I am aware of the impact that cost of living is having,” President Ali said during a virtual address to the nation, adding: “while we cannot address all of the issues surrounding cost of living, I have instructed that resources be set aside to address the issue.”
“This sizeable allocation will be used through consultation with communities across the country to identify specific ways and initiatives in which we can deploy this budgeted allocation to ease the burden on the population.”
President Ali said his government’s budget is about removing burdens to Guyanese citizens and “creating opportunities, reducing burdens, enhancing welfare, giving back more to the population, enhancing livelihood, improving living conditions, and improving the quality of life of the Guyanese people.”
Plugging the need for Guyanese to explore more business opportunities, the President said “resources will also be set aside to build specific entrepreneurial programmes, [to] reward innovations, and [to] expand our tourism through support for the private sector, enhanced local and international branding, training and development, small business support, and collaborating with major international chains who are investing to integrate closer with our local production system.”
Dr Ali was adamant that by doing this, there would be a positive incremental impact which would see “more investment in people, more allocation to the vulnerable, [and a] better quality of life for the Guyanese people.”
OIL AND GAS
Turning his attention to creating space for Guyanese businesses in the country’s burgeoning oil and gas economy, President Ali said his government will utilise the Local Content Act to “reduce any disparities that exist in the tax system that can undermine the competitiveness of local companies competing with foreign companies for business in the oil and gas sector under the local content framework.”
With this historic budget, Guyana’s Head of State plugged the framework’s role in increasing the disposable income of citizens, a point he maintained throughout his address.
Conscious of the negative impact of the David Granger-led coalition government’s increased tax measures against the population, the President maintained that his government’s budget will focus on economic expansion and growth while maintaining a low-tax environment.
Impressing the importance of strong social services to a high standard of living, the President said his government will lay the foundation for a better health care system and educational services.
While not going into detail and taking the spotlight from the customary budget speech of the minister for finance, President Ali said there will be “improvement in the disposable income for the old-aged pensioners, more resources for children, more opportunities for women, better healthcare and educational services, and an expanded scholarship programme.”
FUEL AND FREIGHT COSTS
There is no divorcing the cost of living from the cost of transportation. As such, the President said his government will “continue to implement measures to reduce the cost of fuel. We will extend measures to address the issues of the cost of freights.
“Specific measures will be announced [in the budget] that will reduce the cost of borrowing for home ownership; specific measures to address and support our school children, to support the elderly, supporting the vulnerable, [and] supporting dialysis patients.”
PERSONAL INCOME TAX
Maintaining his focus on increasing household income as a means of surviving the global challenge of rising costs, Dr Ali said he has asked his finance minister to “look at the personal income tax of taxpayers, and to make necessary adjustments in keeping with the budgetary framework and the affordability of the country at this moment.”
“Notwithstanding what is happening globally,” he continued, “[with] rising inflation, the empty shelves, the increase in food cost, [and] the imported inflation, I have made it very clear to the Minister of Finance that we will not, in any way, introduce any new burden or taxes on the Guyanese people.
“And we will make the investment to ensure that we keep the cost of energy and fuel stable, essential and important to the development of our country.”