Oct 05, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – While Senior Minister Responsible for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh has announced a reduction of gasoline and diesel prices at the state-run Guyana Oil Company Ltd (GUYOIL), the opposition, A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), is calling on government to urgently introduce an electricity subsidy for low-income households.
The call comes days after ordinary citizens raised concerns about the fact that the relief route taken by the government will not reach them.
Among other things, Guyanese using public transportation have complained that despite the reduction in fuel prices by the government, minibus and taxi operators have refused to lower their fares, which they had jacked up due to the hike in gas prices.
Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Youth and Economic Policy Advisor at the Office of the Opposition Leader, Elson Low noted that the government could have offered a better form of relief much earlier given the persistently elevated international oil prices.
In fact, he noted that the PPP refused to budge despite calls from several sections of society including the opposition.
He said, “[The government] has only now, with understandable shame, meekly announced these cuts through its minister in the Office of the President responsible for finance… [But] We fully agree with the advice of the IMF in its September 2022 report on its Article IV Consultation with Guyana.”
He continued that, “The IMF advises that Guyana should ease the burden of prices on the most vulnerable groups of society by gradually unwinding untargeted measures and instead further develop and strengthen a well-targeted social safety net.”
Against that background, Low said that the opposition calls on the government to urgently introduce an electricity subsidy for low-income households.
In this scheme, he explained that households whose total monthly light bill is less than a specified dollar amount (a cap) will not be required to pay the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).
He said the government will stand the costs and compensate GPL for the total amount forgone.
“The cap must be chosen to cover as many low-income households as possible. Those whose light bills are above the cap will continue to pay GPL as per the norm for now,” Low said.
He stressed the advantages of this proposed subsidy effectively targeting those who are most in need of assistance.
He said, “As the scheme will use the existing GPL billing system, administrative costs to delivery benefits will be minimal for the government; and participation costs non-existent for beneficiaries; the use of a cap can incentivize households to become more energy conscious in using electricity, and benefits are predictable and continuous (not one-off).”
“Now that President Ali and his ministers have hopefully settled down from their overindulgences in national fetes, the APNU+AFC here reminds them of the serious pressures and hardships still faced by the Guyanese people. As the next government, we have crafted and will implement these and other measures to guarantee every Guyanese a high quality of life,” Low asserted.
In June this year, the APNU+AFC recommended that, “The government should ensure gas prices do not increase above a determined level by compensating suppliers for any price increases where the excise tax reductions have already been exhausted. This will help to bring prices down across a wide basket of goods, thereby easing the cost-of-living crisis.”
The measure, according to the APNU+AFC, has found support in many quarters of our society except for the PPP government.
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