–through removal of burdensome taxes, creation of part-time jobs, and increases in pensions and education grants, among other interventions, says Vice-President
THE Government, over the past two years, has placed more than $64B into the pockets of Guyanese through the removal of burdensome taxes, creation of part-time jobs and increases in pensions and education grants, among other interventions.
This is according to Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was at the time addressing scores of fishermen at the Uitvlugt Community Centre Ground, on the West Coast Demerara on Wednesday.
The occasion was the rollout of the $150,000 one-off fisherfolk grant in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).
The Vice-President pointed out that aside from the grant for fishermen, which is geared at helping them to cope with the increase in cost of living, a number of interventions have been made by the government to bring relief to all Guyanese across the country.
The government, he pointed out, has reintroduced and increased the ‘Because We Care Grant’ that was discontinued by the APNU+AFC Government. The Coalition Government had stopped the grant to parents and children, contending that the cost was unsustainable.
The total sum of the ‘Because We Care Grant’ to all schoolchildren at the time was pegged at $1.6B, around the same amount of money the Coalition spent on food while in Government.
Dr. Jagdeo, an economist by training, pointed out that the PPP/C Government, in fulfilling its promises to the people of Guyana, has demonstrated that the grant to schoolchildren is more than sustainable, by extending it to students in private schools.
“It is now $25,000, but we have more than doubled the school uniform grant. It used to be $2,000 in 2020; now it is $5,000. So, if you look at this year, if you have a child in school, they would have received $30,000. And it is going to go to $50,000 at the end of the term (Gov’ts first term in office); $30,000 to over 200,000 children, now given to children in private school is over $6B. That’s over $6B in the pockets of parents and their children that they did not have when APNU+AFC left office,” he said.
Old Age Pension, which is expected to double before 2025, has thus far been increased by 40 per cent.
Vice-President Jagdeo explained to the gathering at the Uitvlugt Community Centre Ground that every $1,000 increase in pension and public assistance is a $1B cost to the Government. The increase by 40 per cent, or $8,000, therefore represents a total sum of $8B more given to pensioners.
The $8B more given to pensioners, the $6B in school grants, over $10B for part-time jobs and reduction in taxes and removal of VAT on a number of items, which amount to some $40B, together represent a sum of $64B channelled directly towards improving the lives of Guyanese.
Some $1B was also allocated by the Government for the purchase of fertilisers for free distribution to farmers. Even though the Government has removed VAT on fertilisers, prices have still remained high, because fertilisers, the Vice-President pointed out, is made from oil.
The ongoing war between Russia and the Ukraine has caused a skyrocketing of prices for oil and gas, as Russia is a major supplier to Europe. Trade sanctions placed on Russia by other European nations have resulted in oil prices reaching an all-time high in recent times. This, along with the slowdown in the global supply chain, due to COVID-19, has been having a deleterious effect on commodity prices.
Both events, the Vice-President noted, are beyond Guyana’s control, but even with these challenges, the Government has not given up or ‘sat on its hands’ with regards to fulfilling its Manifesto promises.
“We have been busy fulfilling our promises, also trying to tackle things such as the cost of living, and generating more jobs. On education, we promised 20,000 scholarships, we have already done 11,000 scholarships,” he said, while also noting that the Government is on course to distribute the 50,000 house lots promised in its Manifesto.
House lots aside, the Government has started a building programme where it is building houses for persons who will repay the bank through a mortgage scheme.
“We even launched a programme to cushion the cost of living, that if you’re building a low-income house, to cushion the increase in prices, the Government will give you free steel for the foundation, and one sling of cement. We decided that we are not going to do this only in the housing schemes; if you got a plot of land that you got from your father, and you want a house built on it, the Government will build the house, and then take you to the bank, and the bank will ensure that you get a mortgage, so you end up paying the bank, and you get your house. We did this because a lot of people could not afford to make the initial deposit at the bank,” he explained.
Other interventions by the Government include the restoration of the end-of-year bonus for the Joint Services, removal of VAT on water, electricity, machinery and agricultural inputs, among others; fixing unjust D&I charges to farmers, granting of concessions to miners to make their operations more profitable, removal of corporate tax on healthcare and education and slashing the excise tax on diesel and gasoline to zero.
Dr. Jagdeo also said that education at the University of Guyana will be made free before 2025; 1,000 homes will be built in Linden, and electricity cost is expected to be reduced by 50 per cent by 2025, with the coming on stream of the Wales gas-to-shore project and other major energy projects.