Jan 04, 2009 Features / Columnists
The New Year has dawned, and with it the hopes and aspirations of everyone; all of them hoping that it will be as good as, or even better than, the year just finished. In his New Year’s message, President Bharrat Jagdeo pointed to the challenges that had to be overcome last year.
And the challenges were many. Most of them were not of our making. For example, there was the global financial crisis, which started in the United States and spread like wildfire across the world, affecting even small economies like Guyana’s. It is no secret that Guyana depends on foreign inflows to help it along the way.
These inflows have been responsible for the maintenance of the electricity sector, and the sea defence — without which the entire agricultural belt would disappear and the country would be without one of the mainstays of the economy.
Inflows are also needed for other infrastructural works, such as roads and bridges that help us move along for either work or pleasure, and of course for the health sector.
Without a doubt, the improvements in the health sector were all but astounding, because Guyana was able to perform surgeries that could only have been done overseas, at great cost to the patient and to the country.
There were heart surgeries, kidney transplants, hip and knee replacement surgeries, and so many others, all intended to give the people of this country a better life. There was also expenditure in the area of HIV and AIDS, which continue to ravage countries around the world, but which Guyana has been able to curtail.
Indeed, all of these things were not achieved with foreign funding. The Government had to dig into its resources; and, unhesitatingly, the Government has said that it has no regret, because there is nothing too much to ensure that Guyanese enjoy the best that there is to offer.
Two years ago, when the Government introduced the value added tax, the hue and cry was deafening. The critics shouted that the Government was pressuring the poor man and was creating additional burden for him. These critics did not see the far-reaching impact of the tax, which was to bring in people who had previously escaped the tax net.
The success of this tax cannot be overstated, and the money accrued went a long way towards creating even more opportunities for the people. This money helped cushion some of the harsh effects of the global financial crisis.
When flour prices rose, the Government was able to subsidise the commodity and others that had become staples. The money came from the value added tax and the public treasury. Later, money also went to providing cost-of-living relief.
The Government paid an increase on the wages and salaries then went further to provide money to everyone earning less than $50,000 per month. This translated to a whopping 11 per cent hike in pay.
For this year, this cost-of-living increase is being added to the workers’ wages and salaries. The critics did not say anything about this, but they continued to lambaste the introduction of the value added tax. They forgot that the money goes back to the people who really need it.
There was also need for further relief, so the Government reduced its excise tax on fuel and oil. This was to prevent the people from feeling the brunt of the harsh effects, and it worked. Again, the critics were among the beneficiaries, but they failed to recognize this.
Eventually, when prices fell on the world market, the Government further intervened, this time to ensure that the people got some of the benefits by way of lower fares. This is continuing to happen.
All in all, a lot happened during the past year, some of these things causing the Government to help prevent the full force of impact on the people. This year should be better, because the Government is prepared for whatever hardship the world has to offer, and the critics should in no way blame the Government.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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