Jan 22, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – Even though he has already aired his suggestions to the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) for Budget 2022, the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Mr. Aubrey Norton, has reiterated his call for the administration to take steps to curb the inflation rate.
During his weekly press conference, Norton told the media that it is urgent for measures to be implemented to tackle the increase of food costs, which he believes could be addressed with more focus on the agriculture sector.
He said, “If you look at the question of inflation and the measures that need to be taken to deal with it, we raised this question of food security which is a real important question because if you follow the history behind the oil and gas industry there is the tendency for resources to go in the direction of the oil and gas sector and a reduction in the agriculture sector.”
Therefore, Norton explained that the government must not only acknowledge the spike in market prices, but also take action to improve the situation, while it may still be in its budding stage.
“What we are doing is saying to the government prices are going up and you need to take action at this stage to ensure there are incentives for people to stay in agriculture, and to expand agriculture so that we have food security, and do not run into the problems that many other societies run into. Because of the lucrative nature of oil and gas, people in other sectors go in another direction,” the PNC/R Leader pointed out.
Already in Guyana, Norton noted that many waterfront businesses, which formerly accommodated the fishing industry, among others, have been converted to aid the oil and gas sector.
In this regard, the party leader urged that this development requires urgent attention by the government, which he expects to implement measures to address such matters in Budget 2022.
He said, “If they (government) don’t address it, then it would be obvious to the Guyanese people that they have no interest in pre-judging what is happening and to take the (necessary) actions to ensure that we don’t face the risks that are likely to come from not addressing the matter.”
Norton added that while it is “worrying” that the Opposition was not included in the consultations for the preparation of Budget 2022, he is hopeful that his suggested measures would be implemented to improve the lives of Guyanese.
In expressing his disappointment, he said that the Budget is being prepared with only a “select” group being invited to present their views while the main Opposition Coalition, which represents over 49 percent of the Guyanese people, has been systematically excluded from these consultations.
During the party’s press conference last week, Norton listed several measures he feels would bring a measure of relief to citizens, amidst escalating inflation rate.
Among the party’s suggestions were; the introduction of a COVID-19 risk allowance for frontline workers on a six months basis of $50,000, until the pandemic has been officially declared over by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/ WHO), an interim wages and salaries increase for public servants of 10 percent, pending the start and finalisation of Government/Union talks, which the party said should end in workers receiving at least a 25 percent increase and an increase to the Old Age Pension of $10,000.
To bring further relief, he suggested an overhaul of the income tax threshold.
In fact, he recommended that the income tax threshold be increased to $1.5 million or one third of gross earnings, “whichever is higher, from the present $780,000” and that changes be made in the Income Tax Law to ensure that the minimum wage is never taxed. Norton also said that the income tax rate should be restructured to “the first $3 million of chargeable income 15 percent, the next $3 million 20 percent and the balance 25 percent.”
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