T`he party was established in late 2005 by three Members of Parliament who had walked away from other parties. They are Raphael Trotman (PNC), Khemraj Ramjattan (PPP) and the now late Sheila Holder (WPA). These stalwarts attracted quite a few others of like mind and together on common ground started a Movement that captured the nation’s attention as the likely ‘third force’ on the political landscape. Trotman was elected leader of the party.
In the 2006 General and Regional Elections, about seven months after the founding of this movement, AFC received 8.1% of the vote and won six seats in Parliament. Our vote share increased to 10.3% in the 2011 General elections and we gained seven parliamentary seats.
Then, some three months before that critical 2015 election, the AFC’s members came to the conclusion that alone it could not wrest the future of Guyana from the greedy hands of the PPP. This led to the decision to join forces with, coalesce with our partner in Opposition, APNU. We both were already battling together the nation’s common enemy, the PPP, since 2011 on the people’s behalf.
The AFC’s raison d’être, our purpose is rooted in Progressivism, Nationalism with a modern day brand of Socialism. Put simply, Progressivism is support for social reform based on advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization that result in improvements in the lives of citizens.
Nationalism promotes the national interest and the nation’s sovereignty. It builds and maintains unity and a single national identity, and supports all of our people’s cultures, languages, religions, and traditions.
Modern Socialism for us promotes citizens’ ownership of the nation’s resources, with the profits generated from their own private enterprises remaining their own without any interference.
Raising profiles despite heavy odds
The AFC has never lost sight of our responsibilities to this nation, even to the Guyanese who live in the diaspora. At the Ministries under our stewardship, the respective Ministers have raised the business and services profiles, productivity levels, the quality of the working conditions and environments, and we are still swimming upstream finding and implementing the means to root out entrenched corruption in the public sector.
We did find a high degree of un-awareness among the perpetrators of corrupt activities. This essentially means that workers at several levels, from Office Assistants to senior managers, still do not agree that the large sums of money they had been collecting from ‘clients’ or holders of permits to operate in fields under their purview, are really BRIBES which are illegal and inimical to everyone else’s interest.
In some places where the Coalition Government succeeded in putting a dent in corruption by restricting certain operators (some foreign) because they did not hold relevant licenses or GRA compliance certificates, and who were allowed to muscle in and take over certain operations which effectively forced Guyanese truckers and haulers e.g. out of business, we found that our own people, the takers of the bribes, are now very upset with the Government because their personal income stream has taken a hit, as has the organizations they are attached to.
You win some, you lose some, although we would prefer our workers to be able to see the bigger picture in which everyone is able to make a decent living, especially the people residing in the communities where much of the illegal mining, forestry, quarrying and haulage were taking place.
The AFC would like to remind citizens of some of the gains made by Government in four years, gains that are bound to go into a gallop once the Coalition is re-elected to office:-
1. Increase in the minimum wage by over 60%, effectively removing thousands of workers from the Income Tax bracket: workers earning $780,000 or less do not pay P.A.Y.E.
2. Old age pensions increased by 56%, now at $20,500 monthly
3. Government workers at bottom end of salary scales have received 8% increase since 2016, plus Christmas Bonuses and tax-free retroactive pay
4. Corporate tax reduced from 40 to 25% with tax amnesty on arrears
5. Small businesses earning under $15M exempt from VAT
6. Revolving Fund created to help entrepreneurs
7. Duty-free concessions for machinery imports
8. Re-migrants get $5M tax-free for vehicle imports
9. Over 5,000 new jobs created, some by self-employment with micro-financing for startups
10. Youths in sugar and bauxite belts receive oil-and-gas training, and other skills training from Youth Skills Training projects
11. Communities in the city, towns, inland, poor, remote and hinterland areas now have access to free Internet
12. Free Internet connections at over 175 Primary and nearly 200 secondary schools
13. Teachers received free laptop computers & outstanding students free tablets
14. A new Centre of Excellence in IT opened to teach advanced Technologies
15. Seven community radio stations commissioned, and UG Campus Radio is on the air.
16. Gold production has jumped to 700,000 oz.
17. Farmers have increased land (ownership/lease) to plant, graze, process
18. New Markets found for paddy and rice in Mexico, Panama, Cuba and about 35 other countries
19. New housing communities created, house lot costs reduced with VAT removed
20. 50/50 Jubilee Payment Plan benefitted 2,881 house lot applicants who also received Home Improvement subsidies
21. Three new water treatment plants were constructed, 8 new wells completed in the Rupununi, and new potable water wells are being dug in new housing schemes
22. 72 Hinterland, poor & remote communities have free access to Internet with 24 more by December.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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