RESIDENTS in riverine and hinterland communities across Guyana will be receiving a $25,000 per household cash grant as part of measures being financed by the $5 billion that was set aside in the 2022 national budget to cushion the rising cost of living.
This measure is expected to put an additional $800 million in disposable income back into the hands of ordinary Guyanese and will add to the other plethora of welfare measures that the government has implemented over the past three years as the world faced back-to-back global hardships, which has skyrocketed inflation across developed and developing nations.
This latest welfare measure was one of four that were announced by President, Dr Irfaan Ali on Monday, in a video statement aired on his official Facebook page.
“In order to bring relief to those households facing extreme hardships, my government will be providing a special one-off grant of $25,000 to every single household in the river and hinterland communities. This will place an additional $800 million at the disposal of these households that have been particularly affected by the recent rising cost of living,” Dr. Ali declared.
Guyana’s riverine and hinterland communities are often disproportionately affected by economic hardships and lack of resources, due to their remoteness, and are often given special attention and consideration when it comes to welfare measures.
Guyana, like the rest of the world, has been facing persistent economic hardships over the past two and a half years due to the effects brought on by the COVID-19 which started in early 2020, followed by the Russia/Ukraine war, which started in early 2022. The war in particular has led to the skyrocketing of oil prices, given Russia’s position as a leading exporter of oil. This increase has led to increases in prices of other commodities.
“These two global shocks have combined to exert tremendous pressure on economies across the world,” President, Dr Ali commented.
Putting it into context, he noted that: “The annual rate of inflation in the US as of April 2022 stood at 8.3 per cent, the highest level since the 1980s. Food prices rose by 9.4 per cent over the past year. The largest 12-month increase since 1981. The United Kingdom annual inflation is seven per cent as of March 2020, the highest rate in 30 years. Similar inflation is being experienced all over the world and in developed and developing countries alike. If you were to look at individual commodities in the case of crude oil, the world market price was as low as $20 per barrel in April 2020 when we came to office in August 2020 the crude oil price was US$44 per barrel. Today, it is $114 per barrel. Shipping a container across continents has increased by seven times since March 2020.”
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war, Guyana also faced severe flooding in 2021, which also affected farms and led to increased prices in the markets. Many hinterland regions were also disproportionately affected by this flooding.
The President noted that the government decided on the $25,000 cash grant to the riverine and hinterland communities following countrywide consultations.
This latest welfare measure follows a slew of measures the government has been continuously implementing over the years, including a previous $25,000 per household COVID-19 cash grant in 2020, which saw the injection of $7.5 billion back into the economy.
Other measures included the removal of VAT on electricity, water and other household necessities, as well as from education and medical supplies, cellphones and the most basic construction materials. The government also capped the cost of freight to pre-pandemic level, and completely removed the 50 per cent excise tax on imported fuel.
The old age pension has been increased to $28,000, while disabled persons also each received a $25,000 grant and a massive increase in the 2022 budget for the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant and uniform vouchers, which now see parents receiving $30,000 per child.
Another $7.8 billion in flood-relief grants was also distributed.
“Government has deployed the widest range of policy deployments to safeguard the well-being of the Guyanese people and cushion the impact of the very harsh external pressure currently being faced. We’ve implemented measures to ease [the] cost of living,” Dr Ali said during his address on Monday.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the current $25,000 going only to households and riverine communities, this by no means marks the end of the welfare measures that will be implemented under the $5 billion catered for in the budget. President Ali emphasised that consultations will continue.
“My government continues to consult with communities across the country with the aim of intensifying other measures to bring relief to the widest range of groups who have been affected by recent cost-of-living pressures. Among this group we’re talking about will be the pensioners’ children and [the] vulnerable. So our government is continuing this exercise of consulting to see the best possible measures that can be brought on stream to support those groups,” President Ali said.