GUYANA has truly bounced back from a particularly precarious position largely brought on by poor management of the economy by the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government, which must never be divorced from the 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE) crisis, but also resulting from the crushing blows of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in eastern Europe.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2022 Article IV Consultation report noted: “A political crisis stalled the reform program and delayed the government’s response to the pandemic. After a no-confidence vote in December 2018 requiring prompt elections, and a delay in transition from the March 2020 elections, a new administration took office in August 2020.
“As a result, the 2020 Budget was approved only in September, affecting confidence, and forcing increased reliance on direct financing from the Central Bank as external funding slowed down.”
It truly was one of the worst public spectacles in the history of Guyana’s electoral culture, especially since the 2020 election was broadcast to the entire world. Surely, the political actors in the APNU+AFC reading documents such as the Article IV consultation must feel a deep sense of shame that they had intentionally brought Guyana to the point of brinkmanship.
The country remained largely ill-equipped to battle a deadly, rapidly-spreading virus that warranted immediate, pointed public health measures across the world.
Guyana, at the time, remained compromisingly bound to a situation that restricted the public sector’s access to funding to a narrow margin of the overall budget, in keeping with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (2003).
“The COVID-19 situation has significantly improved. In 2020, the government implemented containment and mitigation measures that severely restricted mobility, and provided additional public resources to the health system. Guyana has administered ‘COVID’ vaccines to around two-thirds of the population. A three-phase reopening of the economy started in 2021,” the IMF September 2022 report recorded.
In a previous editorial, this newspaper noted: “Recognising the correlation between unwavering democratic values and a prosperous society, a country that is on such a development trajectory as Guyana must have strong, well-functioning institutions which preserve the peace and stability of the nation and, in turn, ensure the uninterrupted growth of the country and well-being of its people.” An additional charge was made that “What transpired in 2020 must never happen again.”
Guyana is on the recovery pathway, and the IMF is quite familiar with this. IMF staff recorded: “In 2022, the government implemented tax measures to limit the pass-through to consumers of rising food and energy prices from the war in Ukraine.” More specifically, the representatives of the international financial institution “welcome the authorities’ efforts to reduce electricity costs, improve transport infrastructure, diversify the economy, improve access to and quality of social services, and advance more broadly towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The measures felt directly by the citizenry have, time and again, been recorded in this newspaper. Aside from sector-specific measures, the President, Dr. Irfaan Ali-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, since being elected to office in 2020, has introduced several measures to put more disposable income into the pockets of Guyanese. From the outset, Value Added Tax (VAT) was removed from water and electricity, a burdensome measure placed on the backs of Guyanese by the former ‘Coalition’ administration.
There has also been a constant increase in old-age pension and public assistance, which, as it is, in one year 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 cash grant which stand at $30,000 per child in both public and private schools.
Every household in the hinterland will receive a $25,000 one-off cash grant; fisherfolk have started receiving a one-off $150,000 grant; farmers will receive $1 billion in fertilizer support, and there were and are many other initiatives geared at addressing the rising cost of living induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
While these measures cannot be permanent, as also recognised by the IMF, Guyanese have seen a number of cushioning interventions which have largely shielded the population from the full blast of the economic shock experienced in other parts of the world. Guyana is truly bouncing back, and, with continued responsible leadership, the country remains stable on its path to growth and development.