Kaieteur News – The ideological confusion in which the PPP/C finds itself is best captured by the comment that today’s Budget is pro-poor and pro-entrepreneurial. In other words, it is pro-poor and pro-business, a contradiction in ideological terms.
Ever since Bharrat Jagdeo became President, the country took an ideological about-turn. The PPP/C still pretends that it is a working class party, but the bourgeoisie knows that in Jagdeo and his acolytes, they have their greatest champion.
The PPP/C tries to do enough to keep the poor in check. They give out school grants of G$10,000 and uniform allowances of G$4,000 but since there is no means test, it means that both the rich and the poor parents benefit. And the poor get excited about this.
The PPP/C also shares out a COVID-19 cash grant of $25,000 per household. It could easily have been $200,000 per household, if they had negotiated with Exxon over Payara. But they sold the country short when they granted the production sharing licence. Yet, the people will get excited about that $25,000 COVID-19 grant, because under the previous government, they got nothing and for a poor person $25,000 looks like a God-send.
The main beneficiaries of the PPP/C’s public sector investment programme are the contractors. These contractors are given overpriced projects and they make a fortune, while many of them deliver substandard work. Each Budget, however, brings new schools to be built, new roads to be fixed and bridges to be constructed. Each new Budget makes provision for the government to spend huge sums on running and equipping government officers and it is the business class which benefits.
The sugar industry is being reopened and it will become a cash-cow for contractors. The decision to reopen the sugar estates was not a working class decision; it was a political calculation. Jagdeo and his cohorts calculated that it needed some extra votes to win the elections and the only way to get those votes was from the sugar belt and by promising a reopening of the closed estates.
The decision to provide public servants with a post-Christmas bonus was because the PPP/C was hearing rumblings within its constituencies in the sugar belt. The sugar corporation is not making money and could not afford a production bonus to sugar workers. But it would have been politically suicidal to offer a bonus to the sugar workers and not public servants who did not enjoy an increase at the end of the year as was the tradition started by Jagdeo.
Today’s Budget is going to see increased government spending. But the bulk of that spending will not get into the hands of the poor. The bulk will go to run the bureaucracy and to support the business class, especially the construction sector.
The APNU+AFC had increased taxes and licence fees. The PPP/C promised to reverse these. It did not reverse all of this because it operates like a ‘sweet man’ – it provides enough to create the mirage of a caring government. It rolled back some taxes last year and it will roll back others this year. This too will create excitement.
The PPP/C leaders have an ego problem. They do not accept that any measure they implement should be reversed or challenged and so what they are doing is re-imposing that which existed before.
The so-called pro-poor measures never reflected a working class orientation of the PPP/C. It was part of the strategy of throwing a few sweeteners of the people to divert attention from the real beneficiaries of the PPP/C’s fiscal largesse – the business class.
It is the business class which will benefit the most from the tax holidays and tax concessions. It is the bourgeoisie class, which benefits from the non-payment of taxes on dividends – how many people own shares. It is the contracting class which will derive the greatest benefit from this year’s cycle of the public sector investment programme.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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