The 2020 General and Regional Elections battle of manifesto ideas clearly differentiate the two main parties. The PPP/C is focused on what it can do to support families with conditional cash transfer programmes, with or without oil money. APNU+AFC has no plans for conditional cash transfer programme, unless it is with oil money, and only after feasibility studies.
It has come down to simply this – the PPP wants restoration of cash-transfers for families; APNU+AFC wants feasibility studies.
Cash grant for schoolchildren is something families already benefitted from in 2014 and it was taken away from them. Pensioners were helped through water rate waivers and electricity subsidies; pregnant women and infants benefitted from certain cash grant vouchers; nursing and teachers college students had stipends; people in difficult circumstances got cash support.
These and several other safety net cash and material support were things people got before, some for decades. None of these depended on oil money; none needed feasibility studies to figure out if people deserved these things.
The first thing that APNU+AFC did in 2015 was to eliminate several of these and tamper with others. APNU+AFC did not do any feasibility studies when they eliminated or reduced some of these benefits. Instead of acknowledging they were wrong and promise to restore these benefits, in their 2020 manifesto, APNU+AFC proposes studies to determine if they should use oil money to restore these benefits. It is shameless!
Between 2015 and 2020, APNU+AFC had an aversion to feasibility. The 2020 manifesto now shows a metamorphosis to an obsession with feasibility studies.
APNU+AFC proposes several feasibility studies and commissions to decide whether people deserve help. Everything they need to give to the Guyanese people will now be subjected to feasibility studies or dependent on the whims and fancies of commissions. It is just a dog whistle, people will get nothing.
After stubbornly resisting people’s pleas for five years, APNU+AFC is proposing to establish feasibility studies to determine if, how and when to provide cash transfers for schoolchildren, pregnant and reproductive age women, students attending nursing schools, technical schools, people in difficult circumstances, etc., using oil money.
Some people still have these cash grants as stipends, for example, nursing and teachers’ training school students. These are things people have or already had, under the PPP, without oil money. In addition, the unemployed sugar workers who were promised land for housing and agriculture after estates began closing in 2016, and who have not gained an inch of land yet, are now being promised a State Land Resettlement Commission that will decide if they will or will not have any land.
This is exactly what APNU+AFC did when they suspended the land titling for Amerindians. It is a ploy to deny people their fundamental rights. For people who still are squatting, they are promised a study by a State Squatter Resettlement Commission to determine what will happen to them, as if squatting is new. What happened the last five years that APNU+AFC saw no need to address squatting?
In 2015, APNU+AFC eliminated the popular schoolchildren cash grant programme, providing $10,000 per child in 2014 and which was supposed to reach $50,000 per child in 2020. After stubbornly defending their cruel action for five years, APNU+AFC now proposes a feasibility study to determine if a schoolchildren cash grant programme – with oil money – makes sense. It has become a major APNU+AFC manifesto promise – to establish a feasibility study to determine if oil money should go to schoolchildren. But this is a benefit people enjoyed without oil money.
This position is in contrast with the PPP, which has promised to resume and expand and increase the schoolchildren cash grant programme, with or without oil money, ensuring that cash grant reaches $50,000 per schoolchild, a total cash transfer of about $10B annually by 2025.
The schoolchildren cash grant feasibility study is one of the many feasibility studies proposed in the 2020 APNU+AFC manifesto. The PPP’s position is that the cash grant programme is one that was already part of the safety net for families, needs no feasibility study, and not dependent on oil money.
The truth is Granger and APNU+AFC are hiding behind feasibility studies because they hate the PPP footprints on the cash transfers for schoolchildren
APNU+AFC did no feasibility study to determine the impact of removing a popular programme, one that meant much to thousands of working class families, particularly, single-parent families. The schoolchildren cash grant programme cost about $1.5B annually. They claimed that the country could not afford that programme. But they increased salary and benefits for Cabinet members, their vehicle maintenance increased, as did their food and drinks budget, etc.
It was simply unconscionable for them to eliminate a programme that provided much-needed support for schoolchildren and families, while increasing their own benefits by far more than the schoolchildren cash grants cost.
Between 2015 and 2020, APNU+AFC demonstrated a curious revulsion to feasibility studies. They studiously objected to any kind of feasibility study for sugar, before closing four estates. There was no feasibility study when they increased so many taxes, or when they introduced VAT on education, water and electricity, or when they introduced VAT on medicines, food and hundreds of other items. There was no feasibility study when they removed subsidies and tax waivers for agriculture supplies, tools, equipment and machinery. They vehemently rejected the usefulness of feasibility studies, while wickedly using COIs as platforms for intimidation and discrimination.
Now faced with an electorate that overwhelmingly support cash transfers, Granger and APNU+AFC are using proposed feasibility studies to fool people. It will not work.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
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