Following a lengthy meeting yesterday between Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo and main Opposition Leader, Robert Corbin which was initially centred on considerations for confirming Mr. Henry Greene (who is currently acting) to the position of Commissioner of Police, President Jagdeo explained the outcome of the meeting at the Office of the President and touched on some of the additional matters discussed.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA) the President related that the meeting was planned sometime last week and yesterday, they explored the issues which will need to be followed through with laid down procedures.
LOCAL GOVT ELECTIONS:
Meanwhile, the President pointed to other pertinent matters discussed including Local Government Elections which has been a ‘bone of contention’ for both the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the main Opposition party as both parties have raised the issue of the sloth of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in the registration process. This has been further delaying the holding of the elections.
“We both expressed a desire for early Local Government elections but it seems as though that somewhere we have been unable to move forward in this regard so we undertook to examine that.
He is going to examine the formula for allocation of subvention to the Local Government organizations because a formula has been developed and I think that’s the subject of discussion with the working group that we have – the joint working group,” the Guyanese Leader pointed out.
As it relates to the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) which the main Opposition Leader had previously vowed to make unmanageable, the President said that during the meeting he urged the PNCR Leader to move away from the untenable position of not supporting the event as he noted that it would be good for all involved if the event was seen as a national one and if it brought people together, regardless of politics. He also asked that Mr. Corbin reconsider his party’s position on the event.
“He mentioned several things but once again I urged him that they should participate because we intend to pursue it aggressively and we plan to involve everyone including PNC supporters.
We hope that they will get very enthusiastic and be involved in everything because this is a Guyanese thing, it is not a PNC or PPP thing so I made that clear,” the Head of State related.
He pointed out that the festival is a national one that could only serve the interest of Guyanese and the country and serves to bring people together and showcase Guyana.
COST OF LIVING:
On the issue of the rising cost of living which the main Opposition Party has been staging protests over, President Jagdeo said the Opposition Leader brought a document from which he outlined a number of issues on this and a number of suggestions by his party.
However, the President asserted that his Government has already implemented some of these including addressing the rising cost of fuel by removing the excise tax on gasoline and constantly reducing the tax on gasoline.
Other government interventions he reiterated included Government’s subsidization of the two main utility companies, the subsidization of flour to keep the price of bread stable, the temporary cost of living adjustment for public servants and the raising of the income tax threshold.
We’ve not yet determined the full range of the assistance but we plan to assist single-parent households in some fashion in the near future. All of these things have been done….we’ve given up something like $3.2B from raising the threshold and that is why we could not reduce the VAT because we could have easily brought the VAT down to 14 percent and that would have been a loss of $3B in revenue.
We’ve given up more by increasing the threshold to ensure that the people at the bottom don’t have to pay as much taxes as people who earn more,” the President explained.
PROGRAMMES TO TRAIN YOUTHS, RAISE PRODUCTION:
The Head of State pointed to other issues raised by the Opposition Leader and said he responded by informing him that Government has simultaneously been looking at other forms of assistance such as increasing production through the disbursement of seeds while a programme to train some 2,000 youths is being implemented.
“We’ve set aside money to do that per annum and through the apprenticeship programme. I urged him (Mr. Corbin) to get the word out to even the PNC support areas and many of the communities in which the PNC has a lot of support for the young people there to join in the programme because they can get a skill as well as a small stipend,” he added.
The Guyanese Leader made it clear that his administration is willing to meet with the main Opposition party and to share information.
He also pointed out that some of what the PNC/R Leader suggested will see an expansion of the fiscal deficit and if that occurs, it would have an impact on inflation and affect the same group of persons Government is currently attempting to assist.
“I said it has to be a balanced approach. Trying to maintain a sound fiscal environment while cushioning the impact of the fuel crisis and the cost of living increases and this is a careful calibrated approach that we’re working
on,” he stated.
SUSPENSION OF CHANNEL 6 LICENSE:
Another topic of discussion by the two Leaders was the suspension of CNS Channel 6, for which President Jagdeo reiterated that he has no intention of reviewing currently.
Meanwhile, on the issue of the food crisis, the President pointed out that Mr. Corbin acknowledged that the problem is a global one.
CWC 2007 FUNDS:
Asked about the main Opposition’s concerns about the money for CWC 2007 not yet declared, the President said there have been audit queries which have to be answered by the parties involved including the Local Organising Committee (LOC).
“This report will be tabled in Parliament,” he affirmed. As it relates to the money being spent for CARIFESTA and the PNCR’s contention that this should be spent on reducing the cost of living burden on Guyanese, the President said the Guyana Power and Light Company has just requested a $5.6 B subsidy so that Guyanese would not have to pay increased electricity tariffs and noted that CARIFESTA is about business and would be a financial boost to the country in many ways including in the areas of employment, hotels, catering services and entertainment.
He added that the view that the money being spent on the event should go to another area is ‘narrow-minded’ as he pointed to the significant gains to be derived from the venture.
BOMBING OF CULTURAL ARENAS:
The meeting between the two Leaders also saw the issue of the attempted burning of cultural venues being discussed and the Head of State pointed out that he advised the Opposition Leader that if he is not in favour of these criminal actions then he needs o send a strong signal that this is unacceptable behaviour.
“He said he was not opposed to CARIFESTA, but he was just saying that the money should be spent elsewhere. I hope the PNC will send a strong signal,” Mr. Jagdeo concluded.
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