–President Ali assures Guyanese, says stakeholder consultations key in this process
TO ease the rising cost of living, the government will soon convene a national consultation on the best options to ease the financial challenges faced by Guyanese.
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, said that having meetings with a cross-section of stakeholders would allow for open and frank discussions in addressing “this multifaceted problem that we are faced with.”
The Head of State made this announcement on Tuesday afternoon while pointing to the global challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“So, as if COVID-19 was not enough, the war in Ukraine came upon us, taking out close to 40 per cent of global wheat production, taking the price of oil to as much as $126 per barrel, driving up the costs of transportation, cutting off supplies, and if this was not enough, China with just an emergence of a few [COVID-19] cases, has gone into lockdown again,” Dr. Ali said.
President Ali assured Guyanese that his government is “aggressively” tackling the issue and examining the best approach.
He said: “We have already started discussions, and the government will be continuing that aggressively with a cross-section of Guyanese and communities so that we can come up with the best possible approach; listening to ideas, listening to some of the connected issues and then coming up with some policies.”
He reminded that nearly $5 billion has been set aside in Budget 2022 for interventions aimed at easing the burden of the rising cost of living.
Earlier this month, the Head of State said that dealing with issues affecting the cost of living is at the top of his government’s agenda and is being tackled head-on.
Since being elected to office, the government has introduced several measures to put more disposable income into the pockets of Guyanese. From the onset, Value Added Tax (VAT) was removed from water and electricity.
There has also been a constant increase in old-age pension and public assistance, which, in 2022, put $2.3 billion and $432 million into the pockets of Guyanese.
Additionally, the PPP/C government reinstated the “Because We Care” cash grant and school uniform grant, which stands at $30,000 per child in both public and private schools.
The government has also cut excise tax on fuel on several occasions in light of rising fuel prices since taking office.
“We have reduced it to a point where I think it’s at 10 per cent …so that has been continuously done without anyone calling for that,” Dr. Ali said.
It was reported recently that consumers in Guyana will not be forced to pay higher water and electricity rates stemming from the global surge in fuel prices because the government will be subsidising the increased fuel costs.
The increase in fuel prices, like the increased costs of food and other commodities, has been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, the price surge has been exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Both the pandemic and the war have led to supply chain disruptions and other adverse economic implications.
While speaking at the commissioning of a water well at Lusignan on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), on Tuesday, President Ali lamented that the cost of fuel increased by more than 100 per cent. This has resulted in the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) spending more than was budgeted to procure fuel for use.
Consequently, the rates ordinary consumers pay for water and electricity services were expected to increase to offset the rising cost of production. The Head of State, however, said that the government will ease the burden on consumers.
“Here in Guyana, the government is not going to allow that increase to translate to people. I said to both entities that you are not going to increase a cent,” President Ali said at the event, adding: “The government will take up the responsibility.”