Government’s decision to offer public servants an eight per cent increase a mere three weeks ahead of the national elections has aroused much concern within the Alliance for Change (AFC).
At a special press briefing held at the opposition party’s Fourth Street, Campbellville, Georgetown headquarters, yesterday, officials of the party regarded the announcement as an elections gimmick. “This eight per cent obviously comes at a time when government wants to in a sense bribe the voters. We see it as a form of bribery at this stage.”
Presidential Candidate of the Party, Khemraj Ramjattan, made reference to the fact that the ruling party has been seeing very low turnout at its street corner meetings and even within its strongholds, thus the wage increase is a strategic maneuver to solicit the electorates’ support.
Ramjattan also alluded to the fact that now that parliament has been dissolved there has been no supplementary allocations to ensure that the increase could have been scrutinized by parliament before it is paid to the workers.
“We are happy that the workers will get an additional eight per cent but we would make the workers even happier with 20 per cent and that is why we are here to prove why they have been denied 12 per cent…”
The Presidential Candidate said that President Bharrat Jagdeo, when he held the portfolio of Senior Minister of Finance under the rulership of Mrs. Janet Jagan, had argued the case that public servants are not entitled to more than six or seven per cent. It was during this period, too, that the Aubrey Armstrong report had recommended 26 and 31 per cent increases for public servants.
Ramjattan said that it is in fact suspicious that after taking up the reins of the President that finances are being sourced to pay workers. “It is rather strange that you would have a president during the dissolution of parliament three weeks away from elections…We are hoping that voters out there, including the sugar workers and others, would not be beguiled, fooled and cheated…”
AFC’s Economic Adviser Sasenarine Singh and Dr. Asquith Rose both of whom were given an opportunity to voice their opinion on the eight per cent increase underscored that the move by the ruling party is nothing short of a gimmick.
Dr. Rose, a qualified Political Scientist, observed that the PPP/C is in a crisis mode and “they will throw every and anything to the people such as promises, propaganda and so forth.”
He speculated that the situation appears to be one where the government has no real policies planned out for the elections even as he made reference to the fact that the ruling party’s action plan has not been working.
“They know as well the people are fed-up with their lies, they are fed-up of their promises and high-handed tactics that have been going on all the time…they want change!”
According to Singh the PPP/C announcement “is designed to con the Guyanese people into feeling that the Jagdeo regime cares.” He said that unlike the ruling party, the AFC has really been advocating for years now that the workers deserve a better deal.
The AFC has for several months now been proposing an even better deal than the eight percent increase to the deaf ears of the ruling regime.
However, efforts on the part of the AFC have detected in excess of $22 billion of funds that could have been re-allocated more effectively Singh said, adding that “there is no trickery in our proposal,” said Singh.
He pointed out that unlike the Jagdeo/Ramotar Regime, the AFC has plans for real relief for the Guyanese families, even as he regarded the current pay that workers receive as starvation wages. We are going to provide 20 per cent salary increase to all civil servants, all public servants, those at the para-statal agencies including sugar workers, security forces…Let us make it clear policemen will be getting a 20 per cent salary increase on top of what they are earning now.
“In addition to that the nurses are going to be covered, the teachers are going to be covered and so forth…this is our commitment to the workers of Guyana.”
And should the AFC assume power after the upcoming national elections, the PAYE (workers tax) will be reduced for all workers from 33 per cent to 25 per cent in the first term, Singh said, adding that “everything cannot happen immediately. We are growing the economy but before the AFC government goes to the elections the people are going to be having a tax rate of 25 per cent.”
Additionally, the tax free allowance will immediately be increased from $40, 000 to $50,000 per month, Singh said, even as he revealed that parents will be able to receive a $2,000 value child benefit allowance on a monthly basis.
“We are also strongly advocating gender equality in wages; men must not be paid more than women if they are similarly skilled, qualified and fit for the job.”
And while the intent is to give back to the people, Singh revealed that the hardest attempt to give back to the people has been in the area of reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 16 to 12 per cent. He pointed out that while the VAT is in fact a very good tax “the VAT at 16 per cent is very oppressive.”
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