Kaieteur News – The education cash grant has once again become the subject of the tit-for-tat between the PPP/C and its nemesis, the PNCR. The latter is contending that the PPP/C originally planned for a one-off cash grant and that it was never the intention for it to be an annual payment.
The PPP/C had introduced the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant in its 2014 Budget. In his budget speech for 2014, the Minister of Finance explained the grant as providing additional support for parents of school-aged children.
He said that it was intended to be used to meet costs such as transportation, and was expected to improve enrollment and attendance rates. In addition, it was said to be aimed at increasing the disposable income of parents of school-aged children.
At the time, there was no indication as to whether this measure was intended to be a long-term measure. The PPP/C did not present a 2015 Budget because the parliament had been prorogued in the latter part of 2014, and the PPP/C subsequently lost the May 2015 general elections.
After the PPP/C had demitted office, the then Minister of State Joseph Harmon had said that the grant was intended as a one-off payment and was unsustainable. He indicated that he had seen documents to this effect.
Prior to this disclosure, another APNU+AFC Minister had said that the continuance of the $10,000 cash grant would depend on a review to be undertaken by the new government. However, this Minister also labelled the grant as unsustainable, and further argued that such grants are supposed to be accompanied by a means test to ensure that the most vulnerable were the prime beneficiaries.
The APNU+AFC had discontinued the grant when it assumed office. The Minister of Education of the APNU+AFC government, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine had said that the government had not yet made a decision on whether to continue with the cash grant. And later in an address to the National Assembly, he said that the cash grant had not met its objectives, but he did not expound on how he arrived at this assessment.
The PPP/C had reintroduced the grant when it returned to office in August 2020 and it made a big splash in condemning the failure of the APNU+AFC to continue it.
The mere fact that the grant was reintroduced in 2015 does not mean that it was not intended as a one-off grant in 2014. Unfortunately, however, the APNU+AFC has never made public the documents which at least two of its member said they saw indicating that the PPP/C had deemed the grant unsustainable.
During the 2020 election campaign, the APNU+AFC promised to introduce an education cash grant. However, this proposal was patterned after the Bolsa Família Initiative in Brazil, which pays grants to families on condition that their children attend school, and are vaccinated. Strangely, it did not incorporate this suggestion in its published Manifesto but did commit to providing meals and transportation to eligible students.
The argument for a targeted cash grant remains strong. But the PPP/C is a party which does not like to concede its offhand approach to developing initiatives. It appears to act on brainwaves rather than well-thought out plans, and it would not have been unthinkable for the education cash grant of 2014 to have been a mere one-off election gimmick.
It has reintroduced the grant but has not tailored it to suit the original objective of supporting transportation needs of students or increasing enrollment and attendance. Surely, if that was the real intention, it should have abandoned David Granger’s initiative of providing buses, boats and bicycles to get children to school.
A while ago, after the National Grade Six Assessment results came out, a video appeared on social media showing a father giving his daughter what appears to be a gift of about $5M for her success at the examination. Under the PPP/C’s ‘Because We Care’ cash grant, this multi-millionaire parent will be entitled to the same cash grant as that poor child from rural Guyana who was crying while complaining that he could not attend school because some days he did not have food.
The ‘Because We Care’ cash grant is inequitable. It is not a targeted grant and therefore, it can never derive the objectives which it set itself – that is to increase enrollment and attendance.
Those billions that the PPP/C is using to give the grant to both the rich and the poor can be used to provide transportation for poor children. But don’t tell that to Priya!
(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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