Kaieteur News – The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) was the first to demand the payment of direct cash transfers or cash grants from the oil proceeds be paid to the public. The APNU+AFC leadership however did not support that proposal.
The APNU+AFC had its reasons. It knew the implications of that awful agreement which it signed with the oil companies and therefore realised that the resources were simply not there to pay direct cash grants at the level and scale envisioned by the WPA.
In August 2018, Professor Clive Thomas had called for direct cash transfers to households. Thomas was quoted as saying, “Whether it be US$5,000 [G$1M] per year or whatever it works out at, we can put the figure together – there must be a mechanism in place to ensure every single household and by extension every single person, sees the benefits of oil and gas in terms of cash or cheque received in their accounts.”
The APNU quickly attacked this proposal. One of the leaders of the smaller parties of the partnership came out swinging. He was reported as accusing Thomas of making irresponsible statements, accusing the renowned economist of raising people’s expectations.
The then President appeared unsure. At first, he said he did not know much about the proposal and that it sounded like a handout. His Minister of Finance was more cautious. He was reported in one section of the media as saying that he preferred investments in social programmes. This is what he was reported as saying: “Rather than just giving people Five thousand (US) dollars a year, why not look at issues such as education, health, youth programmes, small businesses…so I would rather hear more debate about using our resources to create opportunities for people so that they themselves could have lasting incomes as opposed to short-term incomes because monies that you are going to be giving out will soon end and you would have pitched your lifestyle sooner or later to the monies that you receive and when you can’t no longer give those monies, then what is going to happen?”
The AFC, the other main Party in the Coalition, supported the idea of direct cash transfers. The Party expressed support for direct cash transfers, seeing it as a means of assisting neglected segments of society. The Party opined that it did not believe that the concept of direct cash transfers should be dismissed without further examination.
Jagdeo, ever the cagey politician, exploited this ambivalence and division within the ruling APNU+AFC Coalition. But mindful also about the meager rewards, which would flow from the oil contract, he offered support for direct cash transfers to targeted segments of the population.
The oil revenues have not yet been touched but the PPP/C government has been doling out cash grants to targeted segments of the population. It has paid out a $25,000 per household COVID-19 cash grant; a $19,000 per child educational cash grant and how it is providing a $25,000 cash grant to pensioners, the disabled and those receiving social assistance. Farmers will also receive billions in flood relief assistance. And the resources for these sums are coming not from the oil proceeds but from local revenues.
The combined cost of these cash grants to the treasury is estimated to be around G$30B. The PPP/C has also promised public servants an increase for later this year retroactive to January. This will add a few more billions more to the tab.
It is amazing that the PPP/C could have found these resources considering the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and from this year’s devastating floods and in spite of the reduction of taxes and fees. It shows that where there is the political will, resources can be found to assist persons.
And as mentioned earlier, the oil revenues, fast approaching US$500M, is still untouched. But the working people should not for one harbour any expectations that they will see receive direct cash transfers from the oil revenues. They will not see a blind cent from the oil revenues.
No, the oil revenues are reserved for other purposes, not for the small man. The oil revenues will be invested in projects and these projects will benefit you know who.
Nor should the average citizen think that the cash transfers are being given out of a sense of goodwill. These cash transfers are being injected to support the stuttering non-oil economy.
The business class, which is aligned to the PPP/C, is believed to be concerned about the slowdown in commerce. They are losing money. The billions, which are being injected in order to stimulate greater business activity because the government knows that every cent of these cash transfers, will be spent in the supermarkets, shops and stores.
In addition, when the back pay is paid in December, the same will happen. The workers will unload every blind cent in shopping. The business community will be happier and the workers will say, “The PPP/C is such a caring government!”
(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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