“Peeping Tom,” came a shrill but recognizable voice, “money sharing out like Christmas.”
“What! Courts has another promotion?” I queried.
“No, Peeper not Courts! Jagdeo sharing out money like Christmas in November!”
I was stunned. I asked for an explanation.
“The Salvation Army get five million; the Guyana Teachers’ Union got a huge sum to host the schools’ championships; and now 15 Michael set aside in some fund for something yet to be determined to fight domestic violence. Money setting aside for things even before a decision is made as to whether money will be needed in the first place.” “I got yuh point my friend.”
“No, you ain’t get the point as yet Peeper. Because is more than one point. The first point is that money is not short. If the government can give to the Salvation Army, 5 Michael. If they can give another ten for school sports and then set aside 15 Michael even though its exact usage has not yet been determined, then they can reduce the VAT.”
“I am not supporting that,” I replied. “I would say that if money is not a problem, then the workers who endured a fourteen per cent inflation last year but only got a five per cent increase this year, deserve a little something for Christmas.”
“Peeper, that was not my second point. My second point was how could the government create a fund to help with domestic violence when there is no national plan yet developed. The funding has to emerge out of the plan, not the other way round.” I finally got the point.
It reminded me of earlier this year when the government created a $100M fund for single-parents even before a determination as to just how many persons would be granted assistance, the criteria for assistance and just who would qualify as a single-parent for help under the fund.
As it turned out the government no longer needs a fund; they need an entire Budget because over thirty thousand persons registered as single-parents and this means that instead of one hundred Michael, what is needed is a couple of billion dollars.
The government is as usual placing the cart before the horse. It begins with setting a sum and then trying to build policies around it. This approach is doomed to disaster.
The better approach is obvious. The problem has to be identified and assessed. This will give the policymakers an idea of the extent of the problem and allow for a realistic determination of what can be done, given the constraints of resources.
They will then be better able to put a cost to what can be done and thus avoid the calamity that has developed in respect to the single-parents’ fund.
We now have a new fund to fight domestic violence. I am sure that those persons who were part of the recent domestic violence consultation at the Office of the President would have offered many useful ideas and suggestions as to how to deal with the problem of domestic violence.
I am sure they also recognize that funding is necessary, and I am sure that they also welcome any offer of assistance from the government to deal with the problem.
However simply setting aside $15M without a clear assessment of the problem in Guyana and what this money will be used for and how effective it will be is a waste of time.
Domestic Violence is a serious problem in Guyana. It is pervasive. It is not limited to only the cases we read in the newspapers.
It takes place daily in thousands of home in Guyana because the violence is not just physical; it can be verbal. It does not only have to involve husbands and wives; many children are verbally abused each day; many elders are treated with disdain and neglected. This is also domestic abuse.
I welcome the money that has been set aside and I hope that a committee will be formed to help determine just how much more will be needed. I hope that the committee would have sole jurisdiction in determining how the remainder will be spent.
The first thing that has to be done is for a study to be conducted of domestic violence in Guyana by a reputable research entity. This will require more than fifteen million dollars.
This study is imperative if we are to be effective in dealing with the problem of domestic violence in Guyana. This study will identify the extent of the problem, where it is most serious and the appropriate strategies that are necessary to deal with it, based on the findings of the research, and not simply on the aggregate brainstorming of persons with good intentions and knowledge of the subject.
I have no doubt that the collating of the ideas presented at the just concluded high-level consultation would be extremely useful and healthy.
However, what is needed is a more scientific approach, one that assesses the extent of the problem, and based on the statistical and other findings, emerges with proposals to deal with the problem. These proposals can then be put before a national consultation and from this a plan of action developed.
A cost would then be placed to the plan and towards this the government can decide just how much it is willing to commit.
This is how problems of this nature are supposed to be handled and this is how budgets and funds are created in the process of policy development.
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