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Sep 21, 2016 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
The government this past week issued a debenture to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for $5.6 billion. This is not a bailout. It is a series of advances over a long period so as to allow the NIS to recover what it lost in the CLICO deal.
The key question to be asked here is whether this is a smokescreen to try to show that the government has to bailout a number of agencies because of PPPC mismanagement and therefore it is unable to pay workers a decent increase in wages and salaries.
It is not that, but it has implications for the wages issues. The parliament had directed that the government assist the NIS but the government can use the fact that it has to repay the monies lost by NIS to make its case that it cannot afford to pay public service workers a higher pay.
The NIS, according to reports, will be receiving just over $300 million next year as part of the payment from the government. There hundred million dollars a year really cannot impact the fortunes of the NIS. If NIS really had a cash flow problem that $300 M would not make a major dent in it.
For the government, it all adds up though! Billions to bail out Guysuco! Billions to loan to the NIS! Billions to keep the University of Guyana afloat! And billions more to subsidize electricity, especially at Linden where the subsidy is the highest in the country!
With all those billions, from where will the money come from to pay teachers, to pay policemen, to pay the nurses, to pay the doctors, to pay increased benefits to veterans whenever the report of the commission of inquiry is completed?
Burnham used to sing the same old tune. He once asked the workers at a May Day Rally whether they wanted $14 a day or hydroelectricity. His supporters in the front rows drowned out whatever the workers were going to say. They shouted back that they wanted hydro. They are still waiting for the hydro.
Now they are waiting also for oil. However, the workers of Guyana do not have to make a choice between oil and wages. They know that with oil will flow increased riches. So they think! But assuming they are right, it means that the government within five years will have more money that it can spend.
So why is the government claiming that it does not have the money to pay workers more. The government found the money to pay the NIS even though the NIS is not about to go under.
So how about the government borrowing a few billion dollars from the Central Bank over a period of twenty years to pay the workers. The government has the ability to pay this back with interest. After all, if it can pay the NIS, why not pay the workers. Oil is coming and with it the government is going to be awash with funds.
The government has been saying how the economy has been improving under its management. So how then is the same government which is boasting about its superior management of the economy unable to pay workers a living wage?
The government is making out as if it is bailing out everyone. It is bailing out the Guyana Sugar Corporation. It is bailing out the electricity company in Linden. It is bailing out the University of Guyana. It has to bail out the NIS.
When is it going to bail out the workers? When will the workers receive what is due to them.
The government is not acting in good faith when it tells the nation that it will pay the increase it had proposed as its final offer to the union. It says it will pay this in October, retroactive to January.
Does this not sound like your typical PPPC? The only difference being that the PPP paid it in December. The APNU+AFC government cannot pay it in December because it plans to bring out its 2017 Budget in December.
If the government and the union cannot reach an agreement on wages, then the next step is conciliation. If that fails, then the next step is arbitration. Not imposition.
Tomorrow I will tell you why a significant increase cannot be paid to workers, now or ever?
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