ON Thursday last, President, Dr Irfaan Ali announced an eight per cent increase in the salaries and wages of all government employees.
He announced too that the eight per cent increase would be retroactive to January 1, 2022.
Also, President Ali gave a long list of measures that the government rolled out since 2020 to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living and inflation. He also pointed to measures implemented over the last two years to increase the disposable incomes of all Guyanese.
Dr Ali then carefully announced that an adjustment in the salaries of members of the disciplinary services and healthcare professionals would take place this week.
Before the Guyanese public could digest the President’s announcement and do a proper analysis, members of the political and parliamentary opposition took to their social media platform and propaganda sites to peddle the view that the President’s announcement was disrespectful to the workers.
They continued to spread videos in which President Ali allegedly said, when he was in the opposition, that the PPP would increase the salaries to 20 per cent.
Then came a statement from Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton who criticised the increase. He said the increase was measly and that President Ali was giving “the small man crumbs while he enjoyed the entire bread.”
He then said: “A critical component of our people-centred vision is the elimination of taxes from the working poor and we will ensure public servants do not have to struggle to make ends meet. Further, we will eliminate taxes for public servants.”
In entries, the Guyana Public Service Union again slammed the announcement and said it was minuscule. It said: “Workers should treat any handout that is being made available to them as an interim payment and it must be tax-free like all other handouts given to PPP/C supporters.”
Firstly, the President’s announcement was well received by the apolitical public servants who still believe that an increase, regardless of the figure, is better than nothing at this time of the year.
Surely, they will bless and accept it because the salary increase will certainly come in handy.
So, if one took the seven per cent increase in 2021 plus the eight per cent in 2022, one would have over those two years, a 15 per cent increase.
Those people who are ranting and raging about the increase might have spoken too quickly and do not have an appreciation for microeconomics and macroeconomics, and development and growth.
As a matter of fact, a majority of them are not public servants.
So, it is good and welcome that the President made his announcement at this time, and Guyanese must wait till this week on part two of the President’s announcement.
Secondly, increasing a person’s pay or salary does not necessarily mean that their well-being and welfare are being addressed. The salary increases have to be seen as another phase in the PPP/C government’s thrust to develop the lives of workers by empowering them to acquire their own homes and lands.
Also, public servants have benefitted from access to thousands of GOAL and other forms of scholarships this year that did not exist prior to August 2020. Their lives and welfare have been positively transformed since then by this government’s socio-economic policies.
For example, the restoration of the one-month, tax-free, year-end bonuses to the disciplined services totalling more than $1 billion per annum and the increase of about 40 per cent in the monthly old-age pension from $20,500 to $28,000, providing a total pension payout of more than $21 billion to our senior citizens.
Further, restoration of the cash grants to parents of school-aged children, increasing the amount provided for each child to $30,000 and extending the programme to children attending private schools. In total, this provides $6 billion in direct cash transfers to the parents of over 200,000 schoolchildren.
So, salary increases could be higher, but if the government is not making the investment in improving the livelihoods of ordinary people and has the right fiscal policies, it is useless.
Thirdly, the opposition politicians are being less than creative and smart with their spin on the President’s announcement. They must tell the public that they too will take home the increase, including the Opposition Leader who will be pocketing a sizeable sum in December.
Recall, some of these same politicians were a part of the APNU+AFC Administration which plotted and engineered the famous 50 per cent salary increases for then ministers and other officials. So, how dare they speak about the salary increase of public servants when they did not even include them back in 2015?
Also, who is to say that President Ali is not going to increase the salaries of public servants by “far more than 20 per cent” in the coming years?
Surely, he did not give a timeframe for doing that in the video clip the opposition is clinging to for dear life. So, the arguments coming from the opposition politicians on the increase are puerile, petty and frankly, have no substance.
As for their commitment to reducing and eliminating taxes, one should not hold one’s breath because they had said so in 2015, but when they were in the executive seat, did the opposite.
Search the record and one will come across former Finance Minister Winston Jordan announcing more than 200 hardship taxes on Guyana’s poor and struggling economy.
Finally, the GPSU should be condemned in the strongest possible manner for calling the increase a PPP handout.
Workers deserve every cent that will be paid to them and more. It is irresponsible and derogatory to tell the workers that the government is giving them a handout.
What the GPSU should do is sit down with the government to resolve the salary increase debacle and sort its affairs out with its credit union. The GPSU is behaving like an arm of the PNC-led APNU and AFC with its confrontational stance.