I welcome the embrace of the Cash Transfer policy by the two major political formations. As readers know, traditional parties by their very nature do not embrace revolutionary policies unless they are pushed to that point. That is what happened here.
WPA’s advocacy of the idea, in the face of serious pushback by the political elites in both major parties, and our decision to plant it among the people have led to this outcome. In that regard, the embrace by the major parties is a rejection of the thesis that so-called small parties do not play major roles in the society, and also the backward notion that the Coalition is all about the PNC. But above and beyond that, it as an initial victory for the Guyanese people, who are the ones that would benefit from the policy.
We placed the policy proposal on the table long before the electoral campaign started in order to emphasize the point that for us, it was and is not an electoral gimmick. We were of course dismayed that the political leaders were talking about everything to use the imminent oil wealth for, except direct investment in people—all the other proposals were indirect.
So, as a party that has always argued that public policy must be grounded in both the direct and indirect needs of the people, and must be aimed at altering structural deficiencies in the society, we felt we had to take the lead in pushing the parties and the country in that direction. You cannot as a poor post-plantation society stumble upon oil wealth and think about economic development in the same old way—there must be a transformative agenda. And you begin by first transforming the lives of the people, especially the poor, in direct ways.
As it turns out, the Cash Transfer is the only new and innovative policy that has been advanced since the announcement that Guyana would become an oil-rich nation. If properly implemented, it would transform the lives of the poor and the powerless in dramatic ways. For the first time, poor people would have added income to use in ways that they see fit. It has the potential of banishing the “pay cheque to pay cheque” syndrome that bedevils poor people.
WPA is proud to have been the initiator of this policy initiative, which is being successfully used to tackle poverty by many societies across the world. We emphasize our pioneer role in this regard because in Guyana, we tend to think of a party’s worth solely in terms of its ability to directly win votes. We are confident that this Cash Transfer policy would indirectly win votes for the political contestants, especially the Coalition, which has advanced a more serious proposal. We are confident that many voters who would otherwise opt out of the electoral process, will now go out to the polls because they see a direct benefit for themselves and their family.
From the time of its announcement in Buxton in August 2018, it has been very popular among the masses. So many people have contacted the party to express support for it, and to tie their vote to its embrace by the Coalition, which had initially expressed reservations about it. We also were able to gauge its popularity when the WPA held over 20 community meetings across the Coast in August-September last year.
WPA would have preferred an Unconditional Transfer for every household. But in the spirit of compromise, we have gone along with the initial Conditional Transfer that is linked to school attendance among other conditions .
The Coalition’s manifesto also lists transfers in the form of Nutritional Support, Housing Support, Public Transport and a Single-Parent support program, as well as vouchers for day-care and elder-care services, adult remedial classes and training, increased stipends for students of technical institutes, nursing schools, school of home economics and the Guyana School of Agriculture.
We are aware that that approach deviates from the original proposal, but we hope is that the feasibility study would help to bring it closer to where we began. We also welcome the PPP’s embrace of the proposal, but that party has not offered much detail. It has not spoken much about it on the campaign trail beyond reference to the $10,000 cash grant it gave to parents with schoolchildren.
We wish to point out that that initiative was more of a political gimmick than a serious policy aimed at a transformative outcome. WPA reiterates that what is needed are serious policies rather that electoral gimmicks.
While the WPA welcomes the embrace of the policy by the political parties, it intends to be vigilant to ensure that it is implemented when the elections are over. We are aware that political parties play games with the people—they put things in their manifestoes only to water them down or ignore them altogether when the get into power.
Already we have noted the attempt to change the language from Cash Transfers to Cash Grants—we don’t think that is accidental. Cash grants is not a bad concept, but it is more suited to the PPP’s $10, 000 initiative and was correctly labeled as such by that party. The Coalition’s proposal goes beyond the PPP’s initiative. It falls more in line within the universally accepted Cash Transfer model that conceives of the money to the people as an added income rather than a “grant.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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