IF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS WERE HELD SOON: THE APNU/AFC WILL LOSE MISERABLY

Housing sector in Guyana headed for collaspe  – Former Housing Minister

The obvious downturn in the construction sector and the suffering endured by the hardware stores in Guyana is as a

Former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali

Former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali

result of the negativity and criticisms of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change Government, says former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali. During an exclusive interview with this publication on Friday evening, Ali stated that after the examination of the 2015 National Budget, and listening to the government policy and programmes in the housing sector, he is very concerned about its future. “I am very worried about the future of the National Housing Programme, but much more importantly its implication to the housing market itself. The PPP/C (People’s Progressive Party/Civic) Government understood that housing is not merely allocation of land, but that it has severe economic ramifications. Right now we have the hardware stores who are suffering because the demand is not there, because the construction sector is sliding and less people are constructing,” Ali stated. He explained that although this is the existing situation, and it is quite evident in the country, it appears as if the coalition Administration is not interested in “making an aggressive housing programme”. Guyana Times was told that the Government’s idea of distributing 5000 houses/properties in five years is a “good idea”, but is totally inadequate to match the demand for housing in the country. This is also not enough to create the necessary “excitement” in the housing sector to push the economy forward. Ali maintained that the present Administration is manipulating the process and situations surrounding the housing sector and this will lead to nothing but an inevitable downfall. “Look at the East Bank of Demerara housing scheme which was a booming area, a heavily organised area, where persons were building every day. Trucks upon trucks of sand, stone, cement were going there. Check it out today, it has come to a halt because of the negative propaganda coming out of the Government in relation to the future of this expansion,” the former Housing Minister emphasised. This newspaper was told that the land on the East Bank of Demeraram, in the housing scheme, has a certain degree of equity held by the bank and also by the private developers and private investors. According to Ali, as such, the private investors and developers are essential in stimulating growth and economic activity while stimulating the housing sector itself. “When they pump liquidity into the system and the Government matches that liquidity, then the entire construction sector benefits. But look at what they are doing; they cut the 1000 home programme. The delays and the slothfulness in that programme has cost almost 350 jobs already and now they are saying persons had preferential rates on the East Bank,” he explained. Ali told this newspaper that this process, where persons were being accused of receiving preferential rates, is a fact because it is as if one invests in a new area. “Those who go first will have certain benefits. Those going after will have a lesser degree of benefits maybe the cost will be more because the asset value is driven up by those who went there first. And then this also depends on the type of activity there.” Ali posited that the Housing Development Programme in the housing sector was “not by guess”. In fact, he stated that it was designed in a way to stimulate economic growth and stimulate the construction sector. “But the negativity, the slothfulness and the lack of an aggressive housing programme is going to take us backwards. I am warning the policy makers not to play with the equity value. Do not play with the equity value of land or the equity value of the assets in these housing areas because it has implications not only for the developers or the property owner, but also has implications for the banking sector,” Ali added.

Govt withholds assets; stymies Opposition’s work 

PPP/Civic Chief Whip Gail Teixeira

PPP/Civic Chief Whip Gail Teixeira

…Granger’s Opposition office should be audited – PPP

 

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has accused the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government of what it said were “double standards” in its move towards transparency and accountability as far as State assets were concerned.

The PPP made the statement in light of the Government’s inability to hand over State assets to furnish the Office of the Opposition Leader, which has stymied the work of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

The situation seems to be getting out of control, the PPP/C said, as the Party has already identified its office and has been awaiting the furnishings to get on with its work.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

Party members on Monday said Government has not been able to hand over the furnishings it utilised while it was in the Opposition, so that the now Opposition could move ahead with its work.

PPP/Civic Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who was assigned by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to follow up the matter, told the press that some five months after the elections and several smooth transitions, the Party could not move forward in this regard.

The PPP/C, she said, was prepared on Saturday last to begin removing the furnishing from the office, which was occupied by President David Granger on Hadfield Street, but was informed by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon that Government was not ready to allow this.

“This is a serious constitutional issue. We have our building; we are ready to move. And that is why we say that there are threats to the parliamentary democracy of our country. We make no bones about it. The threat is not only in the parliamentary committee, it now comes into the realm of what is constitutionally required implementation,” Teixeira said.

Among the assets still to be handed over to the Opposition, Teixeira related, are 13 laptops.

In enquiring about these, the Chief Whip said she was told that APNU could not hand over the laptops to the PPP since “personal files” were still on the computers.

Teixeira reminded that the Office of the Opposition was constitutionally accommodated and there were provisions in the law, which allowed for its full functioning.

 

Limited

According to her, the budget for the Office as it stands now is very limited and will be unable to provide any additional burden by way of purchasing the same assets again.

“The budget for the Office of the Opposition Leader was less than $15 million. I was advised by Parliament Office that there is $10 million left. From $10 million, one pays for the rent, one pays for the staff and electricity, so that the number of staff is also stipulated.”

She said former President Jagdeo has already indicated that he would not be accepting the salary of the Leader of the Opposition and so the only money the Office of the Opposition has was that $10 million that has been budgeted.

Asked if the Party would prefer receiving new items in lieu of what were currently with Government, Teixeira said taxpayers monies were given to the “Leader of the Opposition Office” via the Budget. She said the Parliament Office would usually purchase these items under the capital budget.

“If you’re telling me that out of that $10 million, we make a choice. Do we buy equipment or we pay people or we do not pay the rent. My point is point of principle and financial regulation.” Five months, she added, is too long for this transaction not to have been completed.

More than that, she stressed that Government must also be held accountable, particularly because it has been carrying out the State Asset Recovery Programme.

Teixeira lamented that if the Party did not get down to furnishing the building, it would have to be given up. The Office is located on Church Street where the Suriname Embassy was. “ We have a contract. Within the parliamentary confines as what is stipulated as rent for the building, we don’t have an open ended arrangement, Parliament budget defines that. The building cannot be occupied unless we have the assets that were purchased for the building.

“It was entered into the assets register of the Parliament Office, marked for the Office of the Opposition and handed over to the Opposition Leader at Hadfield Street,” Teixeira said of the assets. She said the Party had been advised against fighting over those assets, but as things are, there is a budget that is limited in Parliament.

“This has never happened before; we have never experienced this before,” Teixeira continued

In June, after taking up office, the present Administration set up a unit to go after missing State assets. Minister Harmon had noted that the unit would be a multi-agency one, independent and free from political intervention.

When the PNC/AFC Gang cannot pay Pensioners any increases, they themselves took from the Cookie Jar, extravagant Pay Increases and the Gang regarded it as

Increases for new Ministers justified – Harmon

By Michael Younge

 

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Wednesday defended the Cabinet’s decision to increase its own pay by millions of

Harmon [2)

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

dollars, declaring that it was “justified”. Harmon made the comment after being plagued by a plethora of questions from sections of the local media following revelations by this newspaper that the four-month-old David Granger Government had increased the salaries of its Cabinet members by over $266, 119, 248 even in the face of widespread condemnation and concern by the public and other stakeholders. When Guyana Times broke the story two months ago, the Government denied having deliberate intentions of implementing significant increases in the salaries of Executive Members and instead said that they were only being “considered”. On September 25, following the Minister’s budgetary presentation in the National Assembly, the Government then gazetted the increases secretly without being forthcoming with the media and public that it had indeed worked out the scale, quantum and criterion for the increases which many believed were not going to be pursued within the new Government’s first months in office. But State Minister Harmon on Tuesday said that the Government had to pay itself well if it wanted itself to perform well. “It is justifiable, we cannot have a situation like the PPP where they were prepared to accept low salaries, because they were thieving money all over the place. We cannot have that,” the Minister stated. “I am not going to say that I make any apologies whatsoever for Ministers getting increase in salaries, they deserve it,” he added. Minister Harmon said that he would not work for the salary of $560, 000 paid by the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to Ministers of Government regardless of their rank. “…That is money I paid to my attorneys who worked with me when I was in private practice…why should I be working for that…?” Minister Harmon protested.

 

Outrage The Minister’s statement sent shockwaves throughout the country given the fact that the new Government and its Ministers have only been in office for four months. On social media, several Guyanese voiced their concerns over the Government’s decision to increase its pay by millions of dollars and compared that with what was being offered to the public servants by a seemingly pro-working class Government. Additionally, Guyana Agricultural  and General Workers Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand is quoted as describing the move as “callous” and “shocking”.

Facts Under the order, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who vehemently protested the extravagant lifestyle of the former PPP/C Ministers and had condemned the super salaries paid to its Government officials, will now receive an increased salary of over $20, 580, 000 annually. The three other Vice Presidents (Khemraj Ramjattan, Carl Greenidge and Sydney Allicock) who will now pocket $11, 135, 064 annually will altogether cost the public purse $33, 405, 192 per annum. Surprisingly, no official figure was released for Attorney General Basil Williams’ salary, but Guyana Times learnt that he could earn over $18, 000, 000. Additionally, no figures were released yet for increases in the President’s salary which Guyana Times understands may have been jacked up to a whopping $2,000, 000 minus allowances and benefits. The Senior Ministers in Government namely Catherine Hughes, Joseph Harmon, Ronald Bulkan, Noel Holder, Amna Ally, Winston Felix, Rupert Roopnaraine, Raphael Trotman, Dr George Norton, David Patterson, Dominic Gaskin, Volda Lawrence and Winston Jordan will cost the public purse over $10, 439, 124 per annum. Altogether, they will rack up a bill of $135, 708, 612 annually. In addition, the Junior Ministers namely Jaipaul Sharma, Simona Broomes, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, Annette Ferguson, Nicolette Henry, Karen Cummings and Keith Scott will pocket $8, 346, 492 annually. Altogether the public purse will be charged $58,425, 444 per annum for these recently-appointed Ministers.

Benefits Each Minister of Government is entitled to benefits and allowances which amount to over $500, 000 per month. Given this rate, all of the Ministers’ and their benefits could cost the treasury $13,500, 000 monthly and $162, 000, 000 at the end of one year. In addition to their huge salaries and benefits, all 27 Ministers will each be receiving a duty allowance, an entertainment allowance, $45,000 housing allowance; and chauffeur allowance of over $100,000. It must be reminded that ironically both APNU and the AFC, prior to taking office in May 2015, had vigorously spoken out against the “abuse” of taxpayers’ money to fill the pockets of “greedy” Government officials. Carl Greenidge, the then Shadow Finance Minister, had even written a letter to the Stabroek News just before the elections, in which he complained about the “lifestyle” of PPP/C Ministers. “PPP Ministers have always paid themselves higher salaries than existed prior to their assumption of office…By 2014, the Minister of Finance was receiving $579, 951, and today the PPP Ministers’ vacation allowance at $420,000 is ten times the minimum wage.” In August, former President Bharrat Jagdeo had stated that the coalition Government had ‘duped’ the Guyanese populace when it had highlighted its proposed salary increases for public servants in the 2015 National Budget. He said it was “nothing spectacular”, and was less in comparison to what his Party, while in power, had been offering. (micyounge@guyanatimesgy.com)

“Meat for the boys and bones for the workers” – PPP

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee

Govt’s mega salary increases scandal…

 

… calls for decision to be rescinded

 

 

The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition came in for much criticism on Wednesday from the Opposition with respect to the massive pay hike they awarded themselves.

 Earlier this year, when Guyana Times had reported that the new coalition was planning to give Cabinet Members a hefty salary increase, the new Government categorically denied this.

 However, in the official Gazette dated September 25, 2015, it was revealed that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and all Government Ministers have been awarded a salary increase, which is much larger than what the Administration had given to public servants in its 2015 Budget.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon

Minister of State Joseph Harmon

 On Wednesday, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Clement Rohee called for the Government to rescind its decision to dole out such large increases in salaries for its Vice Presidents, Ministers and MPs.

During a media briefing at Freedom House, Rohee stated that this course of action taken by the APNU/AFC was “ugly”, politically motivated, and is evidence of the Government’s self-interest.

 “Only two months ago…spokespersons in the Government were loud in their denials….that whopping salary increases were in the offing…allowing them to line their pockets with tax dollars,” said Rohee.

 The PPP General Secretary emphasised that sometime in June, when the coalition came into power, its officials were trumpeting statements declaring that the Treasury was without funds and was, therefore, empty. This, he deems, was an act by the APNU/AFC to “dupe” the nation.

 “The question now being asked is how with a bankrupt economy and an empty treasury can such whopping increases be afforded?” he questioned.

According to Rohee, the “big lie” has now been exposed for what it is and as such, this Administration will have to ‘take the blows’ from infuriated and offended Guyanese who will outwardly reject this “meat for the boys and bones for the workers’ salary increase(s)”.

 On Tuesday, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had defended the increases, stating that persons need to be paid well by the Government if the Government wanted them to perform.

 “I am not going to say that I make any apologies whatsoever for Ministers getting increase in salaries, they deserve it,” Minister Harmon had told the media.

Rohee further noted that “Chief apologist for the APNU/AFC Coalition Administration, Joseph Harmon had declared in June 2015 that APNU/AFC had essentially found the cupboard bare meaning that the public treasury had no money and that the “country was bankrupt…The APNU/AFC Coalition had promised to bring Guyanese ‘a lean and mean government’. Also, a “good life” was promised to all Guyanese and all of this has now ‘gone fuh channa’.”

 In relation to Minister Harmon’s most recent statement on the matter, that is by increasing these salaries corruption will be prevented since Ministers will be motivated to work ‘harder’, Rohee said there is no evidence to support the Minister’s claim.

 As such, the PPP General Secretary questioned the basis on which such a conclusion was formed by the State Minister.

“Where are the studies and data supported evidence showing that higher salaries will make a better politician or motivate elected Government officials to work harder?”

Guyana Times was further told by the PPP spokesman that the Party was not convinced that the “overgenerous” pay hikes are well-deserved.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo will be benefiting from a whopping $20,580,000 per annum, while the other Vice Presidents will each receive $11,135,064.

Under the APNU/AFC Government, a Cabinet Minister will be given a hefty sum of $10,439,124 – annually – more than $300,000 over previous Ministers and a Junior Minister or a Minister within a Ministry will be paid $8,346,492 per annum.

The Attorney General will receive the same amount of money that the Chancellor does and the Speaker of the National Assembly is slated to benefit from $10,39,124 every year (the same salary which a Cabinet Minister will be paid).

 In addition to the increased salary for Prime Minister Nagamootoo of $1.7 million monthly, an increase of over $200,000 each month, he will be drawing   vacation benefits and perks totalling more than another $500,000.

 Additionally, every other member of the National Assembly is to be paid $2,402,532 each year.

Guyana Times further understands that the three other Vice Presidents positions, which did not exist under the PPP/C Administration, Sydney Allicock, Carl Greenidge, and Khemraj Ramjattan will earn some $1.13 million, double the $579,000 which they would have earned as Ministers. In addition, the vacations and other benefits are also $500,000.

 The Cabinet Ministers, who are the 15 senior Ministers in Government, will now benefit from $1 million – an increase of over $400,000 or 74 per cent each month.

It must be noted that the 12 Ministers within the Ministries (Junior Ministers) will each earn $700,000 monthly and like their senior Ministers will be entitled to the $500,000  in benefits.

In addition to their huge salaries, all 27 Ministers will each be receiving a duty allowance, an entertainment allowance, $45,000 housing allowance, chauffeur allowance of over $100,000 and annual vacation allowance of $420,000.

Non-ABC diplomats believes election was rigged

Dear Editor,

This is in regards to Ralph Ramkarran’s column on “How the PPP lost the West … “ascribing it to, “leadership arrogance”. Several diplomats who I spoke with recently were puzzled with the behaviour of elements in the PPP leadership with regards to its attitude towards the diplomats of the ABC (America, Britain, Canada) countries before the election campaign. The diplomats of the non-ABC countries believe the animosity between the PPP and the ABC countries contributed significantly to the party’s defeat as Ramkarran hinted in his column.

But the non-ABC diplomats were also of the view that the May 11 General Election was rigged to remove the incumbent PPP/C from office (because of its attitude towards the ABCs). The non-ABC diplomats feel the Ambassadors of the US, UK and Canada, perhaps with the blessings of the Government of their home countries condoned, if not also facilitated, the rigging. They claim that the US Charge (acting Ambassador), wanted the PPP out of office; undemocratic means were used to achieve the goal perhaps at the instruction and connivance of his Government.

The non-ABC diplomats feel the American Charge convinced and led the representatives of the other two developed countries (Britain and Canada) to topple the PPP/c from office through “rigging” that they are convinced took place through sophisticated means. The Ambassadors of the BC countries simply went along with the US goal of removing the PPP/C from office. The non-ABC diplomats say the head of the Embassies of the three ABC countries colluded and worked in cahoots to find (creative) ways to produce the desired result (an opposition victory). They claim bribery and coercion were used at the right steps in the electoral process to produce the desired result. They feel without the rigging, the PPP/c would have won a majority of seats.

Asked why they or their Embassies (Representatives) or the governments of their countries did not condemn the foreign or American or ABC involvement in influencing the electoral process or the rigged outcome of the elections, the non-ABC diplomats said their countries strictly adhere to a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country. They did not want to violate internationally accepted diplomatic norms, customs and practices by getting involved in or making comments about Guyana’s elections which is an internal matter of a sovereign nation.

They note that a country’s election is a delicate and sovereign matter and another country should not interfere in or manipulate the electoral process to produce a desired result. They say it is a violation of the Vienna Convention. They claim elections in Guyana since the restoration of democracy in 1992 has not been rigged. Thus, there is no need for foreign intervention (as say in 1992 prior to which elections were rigged by the PNC) although they support foreign observer missions to oversee a fair process. They believe that Guyana would be the only country where foreign governments facilitated the rigging of an election to remove the incumbent from office.

Asked why they felt the election was rigged or what evidence exists to substantiate their claims of rigging, they pointed to fake Statements of Polls (SOPs) and the refusal of Gecom to recount the ballots, arguing that these were enough evidence to support the theory of rigging. They also point to the US Charge’s unwillingness, backed by the reps of UK and Canada, to support a PPP/C request for a recount of ballots even after fake SOPs were uncovered. They said if the ABC countries and Gecom officials had nothing to hide “why they oppose a recount of ballots”. They also point to a statement made by Gecom Chair, Dr Steve Surujbally, that a recount would be undertaken in one region and quickly reversed course changing his mind after the Ambassadors of the ABC countries opposed the recount. They say the ABC Ambassadors were dictating the course of action of Gecom officials.

They also point to former President Jimmy Carter’s sudden departure of Guyana on the eve of the election. The diplomats believe that Carter got “wind of the plan to rig the election”, or perhaps was informed about it by Embassy officials, and he decided he did not want to be a part of the “monkey business” (as the diplomats describe the rigging) to condone it. The diplomats said Carter felt it necessary to fly off so he could not be accused of giving his blessing to a rigged election. It was noted that while Carter complained of being unwell and flew off in a private jet, he went straight to work when he landed in Atlanta.

The diplomats are of the view that a foreign government and or its Embassy that represents it in another country does not endorse candidates or parties in foreign elections and as such should not have influenced the outcome of the election in Guyana as it did last May. The Embassies of the ABC countries should have encouraged and facilitated a free and fair election, not its outcome.

The non-ABC diplomats feel what took place in Guyana’s election by the ABC diplomats was clear interference in the internal political affairs of a sovereign nation. That was “unacceptable”, say the non-ABC diplomats. They were stunned by the behaviour of the US Charge Bryan Hunt in particular, noting it was a deliberate intervention in the conduct of the election of another sovereign nation especially when he instructed Gecom Chair to declare the results even when ballots were not certified and the outcome not clear. One non-ABC diplomat in particular said: “It was astounding and disgraceful that Gecom officials allowed this to happen undermining the body’s independence. They (some Gecom officials) seem to lack self-respect. Their behaviour was reprehensible. They should resign to save face”.

The non-ABC diplomats feel, at a minimum, Gecom should have ordered a recount and it should have been supported by the ABC countries.

Many Guyanese I spoke with believe that had the Embassies or governments of the influential BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and Venezuela had countered the ABC intervention in the conduct of the election and demanded a free and fair election, rigging would have been avoided. They also believe that had the non-ABC countries jointly issued a statement calling for a recount of ballots, it would have been done. Because they chose to be silent and to pursue a course of non-interference in accordance with diplomatic norms, the Embassies of the ABC countries dictated the outcome of the election in Guyana.

The PPP should take heed of Ramkarran’s analysis and mend relations with the Western powers.

 

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

Letter to the Editor: Grassroots being trampled with gov’t salary increases

October 9, 2015 9:19 am Category: latest news, Opinion A+ / A-

Dear Editor,

President Granger and his government promised “a better life for all Guyanese.” Is this really true? According to Minister Harmon, in an article in Stabroek News on October 7th, “we have to pay people well if we want them to perform.” If this is what he believes, how come poor people/ordinary citizens are forced to accept low salaries/wages?

People have been working as public servants for years but got very meagre increases in salaries and wages. This government is in office for merely five months but already they are giving themselves huge increases.

We found Mr Harmon’s statement that his cabinet has “quality” people as his justification for their voluptuous salaries insulting to the rest of us (we use the word ‘voluptuous’ deliberately.) We ordinary citizens are responsible for the government being in office. If it wasn’t for us, the presumably ‘no quality’ people, the “quality” people would not have been in the positions they now hold. When they wanted our votes they were not so high and mighty, but now the Minister of State has the gall to say he has no apologies to make about them getting that increase. Well, he should apologise to the people who put them all in office, since they are forcing us to live on starvation wages.

Minister Harmon further justifies his government’s position as it relates to the increase, that they have to be paid well so that they wouldn’t ‘thief’ like the former officials. It would seem that Mr Harmon and his cabinet members lack integrity. We find his justification very disturbing.

If they can’t survive on over $500,000 per month why do they expect other people to live on $6,500, $17,000 and $50,000 per month? These categories of people don’t get duty free concessions and all the other perks the government officials are entitled to.

If they were earning more in their other jobs, why didn’t they stick to those jobs and give others a chance to fill the government positions? We never asked them to sacrifice their high-paying jobs at the expense of us, the grassroots, being trampled upon. Yes, this is what we feel, trampled upon. This just goes to show where their true interest is. They are not sufficiently better than the ones they replaced.

 

Yours faithfully, Joy Marcus Halima Khan Wintress White  Joycelyn Bacchus For Red Thread

Elderly woman brutally raped, sodomised and murdered by relative

October 9, 2015 | By | Filed Under News 
Dead: Vida Britton

Dead: Vida Britton

The village of Hopetown, West Coast Berbice, is in shock following the brutal raping, and strangling of one of their senior citizens. The suspect is believed to be one of the woman’s own relatives. The elderly woman, Vida Britton, 78, of Hopetown, was believed to be attacked by her great nephew around 03:00hrs on Monday. She would usually sleep with her eight-year-old granddaughter and another relative. Her great-nephew who is said to be a deportee and a heavy dope smoker, would from time to time sleep by the elderly woman. He would usually watch over the family’s cows in the backlands. On the night in question the deranged man visited and asked who was at home. When told that it was the elderly woman and her granddaughter alone he decided to stay over. On Monday morning the little girl awoke and reportedly saw her relative standing naked over her grandmother. The child, before she could call out, the man covered her mouth and told her to be quiet. He then picked up the elderly woman and replaced her on the bed and fixed her neatly before leaving the premises.  As soon as he was out of sight the child used the opportunity to scream for help, alerting other relatives. As relatives rushed over they subsequently realized that the woman was dead.   The matter was however only reported to the police the following afternoon. After being informed of what occurred, the police went in search of the culprit. After committing the act, the drug addict reportedly returned to the back lands, oblivious of what he had allegedly done earlier. He was arrested and taken into custody. Even with his arrest, investigators and relatives were unaware of the brutality of the woman’s death until Dr. Nehaul Singh conducted the Post Mortem examination at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. That was when it was discovered that the elderly woman died from asphyxiation due to manual strangulation and suffocation. It also revealed that the woman was raped and sodomised.

Outrage grows over salary increase

…TIGI boss and Gaskin denounce “excessive”, “premature” raises

The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Administration continues to come under fire for

President of TIGI Calvin Bernard

President of TIGI Calvin Bernard

its decision to increase its Ministers’ salaries by a whopping 50 per cent.  Several independent commentators have added their assessment that the raise is way too “excessive” given the fact that public servants were given a miniscule five per cent increase. During last week Minister of State Joseph Harmon confirmed and vigorously defended his Government’s decision to raise the salaries of Ministers, Junior Ministers, including three Vice Presidents. Since then, an increasing number of key stakeholders in society have indicated their disappointment and even outrage in the Coalition Administration.

TIGI Speaking with Guyana Times on Saturday, President of the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI) Calvin Bernard has also condemned the move by Government, saying it is too soon for a raise and more so such a “very excessive” one. According to Bernard, the issue goes back to early August when the salary increases was first published by this newspaper and Government’s reaction was to merely say they were just “considering it” and were looking at setting up some structure for salary scales. He noted that the impression given by the Administration was that it was not to be implemented anytime soon. He was referring to a statement by Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman who signalled strongly that the projected salary increase would be rescinded. The TIGI President noted that while in opposition, both the APNU and AFC were quick to point out that the salaries of the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration was too high. “This increase, like the modification at the level of ministries, was not part of the party manifesto for the elections so it begs the question:

Ramon Gaskin 

Ramon Gaskin

how did it become such a priority? The way in which they were done suggest that there was hope that they would go unnoticed. One of the first things we learned from the new Government was that the treasury was near broke when they took office. If we are near broke how do we afford these increases? We should therefore be given a clear explanation on how they will be funded,” Bernard demanded. Moreover, he went on to outline that meagre salaries paid to public servants are “shameful” and is likely to drives some towards corrupting the systems, not necessarily as greed but to earn a little extra in order to survive. The TIGI President opined that the general public service has received no increases that are of real consequence in giving them a decent living and allowing them to stop corrupt activities. “The corruption in the public service is felt directly by the ordinary man who must choose between: going before the court to waste time because the Officers never show up to give witness; and paying the officer a ‘small piece’ or buying them a ‘Chiney’ fried rice; or choose between enduring long lines to access basic services because those who give the persons at the desk/counter a ‘small piece’ have to be served before, and just simply paying the ‘small piece’ for faster service,” Bernard highlighted. One of the justifications given by Minister Harmon for the increases was that it would prevent Ministers from “thiefing” like those under the PPP/C regime, however the TIGI President explained that Ministers never steal for need but for greed. “No matter what you pay a greedy thief, they will still steal. Better to make sure you got no thieves in the system. Additionally, the theft at the high level is indirectly felt by the ordinary man. Minister Harmon says that the ministers deserve the increases, but how could they objectively determine this when they have not been evaluated,” Bernard added.

Gaskin On the other hand, political commentator Ramon Gaskin is also of the view that the salary increase Government has given themselves is way too excessive when compared with the meagre five per cent hike given to Public Servants. Gaskin pointed out that in addition to a salary, Ministers also get a host of other benefits that would rack up to over a million dollars per month each. He mentioned duty free on vehicles, electricity subventions, insurance, free travel allowance, among others. “When you add all of these benefits up, the cost for them is way too much along with their salaries,” he stated. Furthermore he stated, there are too many Ministers in this Government – 27 of them: “It is a lot of money and the country cannot afford to pay such a huge increase to so many Ministers.” Gaskin further opined that it is too early in the game for anybody to get any increases. He noted that before an increase can be given, a certain amount of time needs to pass and an evaluation undertaken. This, he noted, should be done by an independent Committee and not by Cabinet. “It’s like you are setting and giving yourself a salary… You need an independent committee of professional persons to determine this… Ministers should be paid properly but should not be allowed to set their salaries themselves,” Gaskin underlined.

Repercussions will be felt at local Govt polls – Dr Jeffrey

Mega salary increases

By Kristen Macklingam

 

In light of the recent move by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC)

Former Foreign Trade and Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey

Former Foreign Trade and Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey

Government to award itself  a whopping 50 per cent salary increase shortly after  giving public servants a miserly five per cent increase, the Administration will now have to deal with the repercussions of such a decision. According to former Foreign Trade and Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, there will be major repercussions at the upcoming local Government polls. “Of course, there is no question about it. They (the Government officials) are disillusioning people,” Dr Jeffrey said on Sunday during an interview with Guyana Times. He said that APNU/AFC supporters obviously feel disenfranchised by the move, and the coalition would feel the consequences of it. “While these people (the APNU/AFC supporters) may not vote for the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), they certainly wouldn’t go to the polls…This would stay in the public’s mind until the next national elections also. So there is no question about this,” Dr Jeffrey posited. He stated that the stigma of this act would go down in the history of the APNU/AFC coalition, and as such, there would be major ramifications that the Administration would have to address for its future in office. “It is not going to go away…certainly they (Government) only won by a small majority in the last General Elections. People, particularly those who are at the poorest levels, might just decide not to go to the polls…the enthusiasm that they (Government) generated during the last elections, they would be unable to do that the next time,” he stated. When Guyana Times published some months ago facts of the proposed salary increases for Government officials, the public responded negatively, which prompted the Administration to deny the reports. However, they later went ahead and increased their salaries. The increase was publicised by Guyana Times, after it was published in the official gazette on September 25 without the public being notified.

 

Unfortunate Responding to questions about the manner in which the increase was done, Dr Jeffrey stated that such a move cannot be “morally justified”. “It was unfortunate definitely, the Government was told not to implement salary increases by the people of this country, when they tried at the previous occasion, and I think that it is unfortunate that they did not take heed of that.” He added that Ministers and senior Government officials have always been paid “relatively well in comparison to the ordinary public servants”. Dr Jeffrey added that it was ironic that it was the very same Government who were the ones that were always complaining about the high salaries of Ministers in the previous Administration. “Fat living and all of that, they complained about… it makes no sense politically, it makes no sense. The justification itself was waffled, I mean when you listen to it, it has no content. The literature does not bear out any notion that by paying people that kind of money it means that they wouldn’t be corrupt,” Dr Jeffrey added. Even as the public was outraged over the move by Government to increase its Ministers’ salaries by 50 per cent, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon defended the Cabinet’s decision calling the increase “justified”. Minister Harmon on Tuesday said that the Government had to pay itself well if it wanted itself to perform well. “I am not going to say that I make any apologies whatsoever for Ministers getting increase in salaries, they deserve it,” he told the media at a recent press conference. The Minister’s statement sent shockwaves throughout the country given the fact that the new Government and its Ministers have only been in office just under four months. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who vehemently protested the extravagant lifestyle of the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Ministers, and had condemned the super salaries paid to its Government officials, will now receive a salary of over $20, 580, 000 annually. The three other Vice Presidents (Khemraj Ramjattan, Carl Greenidge and Sydney Allicock) who will now pocket $11, 135, 064 annually will altogether cost the public purse $33, 405, 192 per annum. The Senior Ministers in Government namely Cathy Hughes, Joseph Harmon, Ronald Bulkan, Noel Holder, Amna Ally, Winston Felix, Rupert Roopnaraine, Raphael Trotman, Dr George Norton, David Patterson, Dominic Gaskin, Volda Lawrence and Winston Jordan will each cost the public purse over $10, 439, 124 per annum. Altogether, they will rack up a bill of $135,708, 612 annually. In addition, the Junior Ministers namely Jaipaul Sharma, Simona Broomes, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, Annette Ferguson, Nicolette Henry, Karen Cummings and Keith Scott will pocket $8,346,492 annually. Altogether the public purse will be charged $58,425, 444 per annum for these recently-appointed Ministers.

Chris Ram urges reversal of salary increases for Ministers, MPs

October 14, 2015 1:24 pm Category: latest news A+ / A-

Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram

Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram is urging that the Government of Guyana reverse its decision to implement salary increase for Ministers, and Members of Parliament.

Read Ram’s full post below:

After less than five months in office, members of the Granger Cabinet have decided to award themselves salary increases of 50%. The increases take effect from July 1, so that the increase of 50% was after less than six weeks the Ministers had been on the job. When the press approached him some months earlier, Governance Minister Mr. Raphael Trotman had said there would be no astronomical increases. But is it not astronomical when compared with what Cabinet approved in the Finance Minister’s Budget for government employees and pensioners?

In that Budget, the minimum salary in the public service was increased from $42,703 per month to $50,000 per month, or 17.1%. But there was a catch: unlike every other year in the past thirty years, the increase was for half the year only. The effective increase then, for the people at the bottom of the scale, for 2015 over 2014, is 8.5%. For public servants receiving a salary of $100,000, the increase was 10%, or 5% over a full year, and for those receiving $200,000 and $500,000 the effective annual increase was 3.75% and 3.0% respectively. There was an additional increase of $5,000 per month for persons above the minimum wage. Note that for public servants the higher salaries attracted lower percentages and lower salaries attracted higher percentages. Cabinet clearly did not think that principle applied to them. The APNU+AFC’s 100 days commitment was “Significant salary increases for government workers, including nurses, teachers in primary, secondary and tertiary education; security personnel; and civil servants on the traditional payroll.”

And how about pensioners? Ram & McRae’s Budget Focus 2015 had noted that 2015 pension increases were subject to no retroactivity. And while the Finance Minister announced a $3,875 increase in the monthly pension from September 1, 2015, the Budget withdrew the monthly subsidy of $2,500 and $990 for GPL and GWI previously enjoyed by pensioners. Net increase: $385 per month but payable from September 1, an increase in 2015 of less than 1%! The APNU +AFC’s 100 days commitment was “Significant increase in Old Age Pensions”.

It seems however, that no percentage, however egregious, can truly reflect the palpable outrage felt by citizens over the increase awarded to themselves by a Cabinet in office after less than half a year. This is not about bad optics, bad timing or bad politics as some are suggesting without any regard for the finances of the country. Unless the Government can transform the 2015 projected $50,000 million deficit into a surplus, pay its public servants a living wage, and afford its pensioners some dignity, the increase will be as bad next year as it is now.

The unprecedented increase has been justified on some unusual grounds: this is about wage-led growth; that Cabinet is made up of quality persons; the beneficiaries were earning more in their private practice; they deserve the increase; or the increase will stop them from thieving. The merit of each of these is not only arguable, it is dubious.

The question for me is if the financial situation which confronted Cabinet when it took office was worse than they thought, and which therefore prevented them from honouring commitments they made to voters, how come they can meet commitments they did not make? That is not the integrity and transparency which many thought would be the principles on which an APNU+AFC Government would operate.

I remain open to persuasion and therefore invite my professional colleagues in the Cabinet to make public their tax returns to show the kind of income which they now demand, because, as they claim, that is what they used to earn. And if that is indeed the case, why did they not tell us about their plan? And is there no element of public service to their work? And can they confirm that they have all shut shop and have given up their private businesses?

Many commentators and bloggers argue that the increase is really about income maximisation, and that what was involved was the use of creative counting to achieve the desired result. So take the salary of the Attorney General which in turn is the salary of the Chancellor. Now, because the Chancellor gets a tax-free salary, the thinking is that the AG’s salary should be treated as net. And since the AG cannot earn more than the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s net salary has to be higher than the AG’s, followed by VP’s, followed by Ministers and MP’s. One has to ask, why stop there?

But the base is clearly wrong. Only three persons are statutorily permitted a tax-free salary: the President, the Chancellor and the Chief Justice. Anything else is illegal and even Cabinet cannot make it so. I respectfully recommend that they read the Income Tax Act and the Financial Administration and Audit Act.

 

As the Ministers make their case for entitlement, they must not ignore the range of benefits which they receive at taxpayers’ expense: 24-hour security; all expenses paid vehicle and chauffeur; tax-free gratuity for their chauffeur; free electricity; free telephone; housing or housing allowance for Senior Ministers and the Attorney General, even when they live in their own homes; entertainment allowance when everyone knows the Ministers are the ones to be entertained; free crossing on toll bridges; no airport tax; generous leave and leave benefits; access to valuable medical benefits; and perhaps as valuable as all the other allowances put together, the right to duty exemption on a vehicle every three years.

Oh, and these are not all. MP’s are paid an additional $20,000 per month for being a member of a Parliamentary Sessional Committee; an additional $25,000 per month as a Chairman or Deputy Chairman (sic) of such a Committee; and an allowance of $15,000 per month as a representative of a Geographic Constituency. Conservatively, these are easily worth another million per month.

Oh, and I forgot. Members of Parliament earn a pension after four years while the average person has to work and contribute to the NIS for fifteen years!

Is there a way out? I think so. But Cabinet needs to admit that they have made a giant misstep. It is not too late to reverse the decision and have the National Assembly appoint an independent Compensation Committee to look into the question of compensation for Ministers, MP’s and other political appointees. Indeed, this should be a permanent arrangement which prevents what is a clear conflict of interest for Cabinet members.

The terms of reference of such a Committee should not be difficult to establish: not too high to make it a coveted job and not too low to deter suitable persons; comparability with jobs in the public sector; ability to pay (they tell public servants that all the time); and evaluating the compensation package in its entirety, including all perks. To the extent that there is any comparability with other countries, regard must be paid to the economic and other conditions of those countries.

Government pays off $40M Guyana Stores’ taxes

Glenn Lall

Glenn Lall

…City Hall writes off $M in past due interest

– as public servants struggle for salaries

 

The Government-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has paid over some $40 million in taxes to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, on behalf of the Guyana Stores Limited owned primarily by Glenn Lall, publisher of the Kaieteur News and his best friend Tony Yassin of New York. This is against the background of Government claiming there are no monies to raise salaries of public servants, teachers, police and nurses.

Tony Yassin

Tony Yassin

Officials within the Georgetown Mayor and City Council’s Treasury department and at the NICIL headquarters confirmed on Thursday that indeed NICIL paid up millions in past due taxes settling part of the huge amount owed to the city for the several properties it owns. Those officials denied only acknowledged $168M paid, without conceding that an additional $40M was paid on behalf of Guyana Stores.

“Included in that amount were payments for Guyana Stores Limited”, another source at City Hall explained. It was not immediately clear why the government would direct NICIL to make the multimillion dollar payment to the city council on behalf of the private company which it currently has several court actions against for hundreds of millions outstanding monies owed to the government. Glenn Lall and Tony Yassin, now Directors of Guyana Stores, owes US$2 million of the US$6 million the property was sold for back in 2000 by the Government via NICIL. Past due interest on the outstanding balance would amount almost to another US$2 million. The matter is sub judice as the Government owned corporation move to the courts to recover its monies. In the meantime, the profits of the company are collected by the two owners.

Mayor Hamilton Green

Mayor Hamilton Green

The present Government had criticised the past PPP Administration of using NICIL as a “slush fund” and it appears that this is what the new Ministry of Finance, under which NICIL falls, has now utilised the monies deposited in the putatively autonomous body.

Calls by this newspaper to the mobile phone of the newly appointed NICIL Chairman Maurice Odle went unanswered over the last two days, after he had promised to return a call. Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had originally been appointed to this position, but after protests stepped down.

Mayor Hamilton Green confirmed to the Guyana Times on Tuesday that the payment by NICIL was received but he could not divulge the particulars. Both the wife of the Mayor and Glenn Lall had been hauled before the courts for unpaid taxes to the City.

Town Clerk Royston King could not be reached at his office nor via his mobile to clarify details of the payments either despite the fact that this newspaper made several checks at his office.

Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green

Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green

However, when contacted on Tuesday, Deputy Mayor and Member of the Amnesty Committee Patricia Chase-Green confirmed that the Council was in receipt of the said payments, explaining that it was not unusual for a lump sum payment to be made by NICIL as it occurred several times over the years.

She said that NICIL still has outstanding amounts to be cleared but could not give any specific numbers at the moment.

Chase-Green also confirmed that the NICIL would also have benefited from a write off the total accumulated interest on the properties concerned which could amount of several million over any given period.

She could not say immediately when questioned by Guyana Times, what was the amount written off as interest – which would be monies the city is foregoing as part of the amnesty arrangement.

Guyana Stores Limited [GSL)

Guyana Stores Limited (GSL)

Asked what properties were covered in what she claimed to be a $168 million payment from NICIL and for a possible break-down, Chase-Green would not provide the details. She however denied that payments were made by NICIL on behalf of Guyana Stores Limited and were part and parcel of the $168 million payments made when questioned by this newspaper.

At the time the Government has paid off the $40 million of taxes owned by a private company, it has been enmeshed in a controversy where public servants, the police, nurses and teachers have complained bitterly that while the government claims they have no money to give them their promised salary increases, they were able to find money to give themselves 50% pay increases.

Government had also vowed to return the millions in NICIL’s accounts to the Consolidated Funds, from where they could have been used to pay the increase salaries for Government servants. With NICIL funds depleted through the paying off of debts of private companies such as Guyana Stores these increased look increasingly uncertain in the future.

Analysts have questioned the reason why the government would open itself to further criticisms of ignoring its support base by favours bestowing such huge benefits to the controversial Glenn Lall.

Originally Posted by asj:
, many many Indo Guyanese voted for a change, that is they vote for a Political Party that would stop all

A scant 5% of Indians voted for "change".  The vast majority, including many who supported the AFC in 2011, voted for Jagdeo, even as he screamed the most vulgar racism, and castigated Moses for calling himself a Guyanese.

 

Please don't use the Indian vote to claim that most Indians want an end to ethnic domination.

Originally Posted by asj:

Repercussions will be felt at local Govt polls – Dr Jeffrey

Mega salary increases

 

Dr Jeffrey is almost literally saying the same as what this post is saying:

Every rational person knows that the massive PNC turn out in May will be very obvious in their absence when ever LGE is held, unless APNU/AFC change their attitudes.

 

APNU/AFC are pure incompetents, who lack a coherent strategy, and are totally unable to engage in the most basic communication with the public.  The arrogance that they display is astounding.

 

I can see a need for some rationalization of the junior vs. senior ministers, if it is indeed true that they got paid the same. I fail to see why Granger and Nagamootoo needed a pay increase. 

 

A US$100k salary, plus perks is good enough, considering that Guyana remains the CARICOM nation with some of the lowest wages, with only Haiti being worse.

 

THIS is why our best teachers and nurses flee, and why the cops are so corrupt.

 

 

Originally Posted by asj:

 

Analysts have questioned the reason why the government would open itself to further criticisms of ignoring its support base by favours bestowing such huge benefits to the controversial Glenn Lall.

Linden is already restive, as are the majority black junior and mid level civil servants who subsist on a pauper's pay, forcing many to engage in petty corruption, moon light in other jobs, or beg overseas relatives for help.

 

It gets even WORSE in parts of the private sector. 

Political misdirection

In the playbook of modern political strategists, the tactic of “misdirection” – to deflect the populace from missteps (or worse) of political leaders – looms very large. The present unfurling of “Pradoville 2” as front page dramatic headlines in the State and Government-friendly media is a classic case of misdirection – in this case, away from the obscene 50 per cent pay hike awarded to itself by the Executive, while grudgingly conceding a five per cent for Government’s salaried poor – which is threatening to cripple the Government.

Misdirection is the paradigmatic stock in trade of the magician or (more familiar to us in Guyana) the three-card hustler. Their premises are that the eyes of the spectator ( the “mark&rdquo will look where their eyes are looking; they will use a sweeping movement to cover the motion they want to hide and finally, to keep you occupied with wisecracks and patter to direct your attention away from what they want to conceal.

So right now, the Government’s entire strategy is to make sure Guyanese not think about the miserly salary raise they received versus the millions they are directing into the Executive’s pockets. They know people will follow what the media puts out and therefore they want to ensure the media has something else to focus on – something “juicy and salacious” – to grab the attention of the citizen (the “mark&rdquo.

Guide the media away from their sins towards another with another broad and dramatic movement is the rule. In this instance, the outrageous claims about the President and several Ministers became blazing headlines on the state Chronicle and also the Government aligned Kaieteur and Stabroek News. This is the patter, which must be spewed incessantly and emphatically. We can expect for the next few weeks, for the “Pradoville Affair” to be expanded and embellished. Most of the patter will be fabricated: for instance a President cannot be jailed for acts done while occupying the presidency, the movement of the National Communications Network tower could not have cost more than $10 million, the land was swampland that has to be filled in; the market value cannot be compared to developed properties, etc. But the point is to keep the “mark” occupies, away from the real action – the unforgivable and unjustifiable salary hikes that has infuriated the Government’s supporters.

One tactic of the three card hustler would be to make the “mark” fearful: here, if he is not careful, the People’s Progressive Party will get back into office. Even if they are doubtful of the claim, fear will get them into line. The hustler Government will make broad sweeping generalisations – “Jagdeo, former Ministers face criminal charges!,” blared the KN. They will conceal the real information about what they are hiding by dragging in red herrings. What does the Chronicle’s claim that the past three Presidents’ salaries are $6.3 million prove? The present President now has a higher salary than each of them and three times his salary over $7 million.

Even if the Government was not as close to the three aforementioned newspapers, the fact that all media has to attend their media briefings means that their story will be spun: this newspaper had to carry the story because it covers “all the news” – even if manufactured. The manufactured story does not have to be true – merely plausible because of a few true facts. For instance it is true that the named individuals bought house lots at Pradoville 2. But so did many others who are not named. We can expect, as we said before, for the story to be kept going – until the citizens forget the salary increase. The hustler knows that the people at the three-card hustler’s table generally suspend their beliefs – and even if initially skeptical of the spiel, will gradually go along if there is no alternative unmasking of the truth.

Which for both the hustlers at cards and in politics, is to part the people from their money and get it into their pockets.

“Govt nauseatingly arrogant” – Ramsammy

Government salary increases…

… uncaring “misstep”  – Rashleigh Jackson

Two former Government Ministers under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and People’s National Congress (PNC) Administrations have berated the current A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Administration for its decision to massively increase the pay of its Ministers after just being in office for four months.

Former Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy voicing his concern over the APNU/AFC decision to raise the Ministers salaries said:  ‘If one thing has become clear to everyone, including diehard supporters of APNU/AFC, it is that APNU/AFC is nauseatingly arrogant.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson

Former Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Former Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Their arrogance knows no limit and it is suffocating the development of our country. It brings back bad memories of the People’s National Congress (PNC) in Government between 1964 and 1992.”

These actions by the Administration who are only six months in office have been seen by critics as a certain abuse of power and betrayal of its supporters.

Ramsammy posited: “The recent salary increase for Cabinet members and the huge salary for advisors, together with the benefits associated with these jobs, including large pensions, is an example of the limitless arrogance of APNU/AFC.

“APNU/AFC is led by people who made themselves righteous by denouncing the salaries and benefits of Cabinet Members of the PPP/C Government. Others vowed that if people put them in Government, they will cut the salaries”.

On the campaign trail APNU/AFC accused the PPP/C of wanting to live “Cadillac lifestyles in a donkey cart economy” yet on entry to office they have been portrayed to be living the most lavish lifestyles.

Prime Minister Mosses Nagamootoo is ensuring that for the next five years he will be enjoying quite a sybaritic lifestyle.

When only four month in office a $22 million customized luxury Land Cruiser was added to his existing fleet of 22 vehicles, that was just the tip of an iceberg of extravagant expenditures in his personal life. Thus far Nagamootoo has cashed in on hefty amounts for the repairs to the bridge and road to his private residence, repairs to the official Prime Minister’s residence and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Former Minister Ramsammy further stated: “They have given themselves astronomical pay increases and they have not yet completed six months in office.

Nevermind the unbelievable salaries of the President, Prime Minister, Attorney General, the Vice-Presidents and senior ministers, even more insulting to our people are the salaries of the Junior Ministers who will earn more than the President of Venezuela, the Prime Minister of India and many other heads of state around the world”.

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman has recently been reported as saying “trust us” on the issue of the megasalary increases for Ministers as he confirmed it was a Cabinet decision. Minister of State Joseph Harmon was the first to say that the Government has no apologies for the salary increases even though public servants were given 5% for half of the year.

The two-time Minister of Heath added that “in the midst of a public outcry about the astronomical pay increases they have given themselves and in the process begin a public raping of the treasury, the Finance Minister has unambiguously chastised those of us who have publicly objected that the increases they have filled their pockets with by declaring that the increases are irreversible – there will be no change and we need to consider ourselves fortunate that they did not take the even larger increase” .

“I want one of them in APNU/AFC to provide just one iota of evidence that they told people that should they win they will increase the very salaries and benefits they described then as a burden on the nation, unreasonably high and among the highest in the world.

I dare any of them to give me an indication that they did tell people that one of the reasons they wanted to become the Government and one of their priorities will be to increase their salaries” he added.

In a multitude of public meetings, rallies, in innumerable TV and radio talk-shows, and newspaper articles that said they will on day 1 in Government increase public servants’ salaries by 20%. Yet six months later their loyal supporters are left to face the brunt.

A recent interview conducted by Guyana Times with several persons in the city, showed that the economy is suffering and some linked it to starting after the May 11 polls. Even supporters of the current Administration are outraged, saying that is far too soon for such an increase and that they have forsaken the public servants while they become “fat cats”.

“The truth is that APNU/AFC has no care for the families who need the $10,000 per child for school; for the elderly whose old age pension is a life-line; for the Amerindian youth who want to make a decent living; for the professionals who want to serve. They have no care for those who suffer from escalating crime and they could not care less that the economy is plummeting like a spaceship on its way back to earth” Ramsammy concluded.

Jackson’s Take Meanwhile, Former Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson is begging the question as to whether ministers will now be able to afford to pay their utility bills given the increase in their remuneration packages.

During the Budget presentation in August, it was announced that subsidies for pensioners’ utility services would be withdrawn. In his explanation for this move by the David Granger-led Administration, Finance Minister Winston Jordon stated that 42,397 beneficiaries of Old Age Pension will now equally benefit from a monthly pension of $17,000, which is a 30% increase on the previous amount of $13,125.

He had also stated that discriminatory practices must end, and further explained that, at the time, only 30% of pensioners benefit from the electricity subsidy, since it requires either proof of ownership of property or registered tenancy of property, and in the provision of the subsidy for water services, only 62 per cent of registered pensioners benefitted, with more than 16,000 pensioners excluded.

Former Minister Rashleigh Jackson, in an editorial letter in another section of the media stated: “Now that Ministers have increased their salaries, will they now be in a position to pay their electricity bills? They did after all withdraw the electricity subsidy from pensioners when the latter were ‘rewarded’ with a ‘raise’, notwithstanding this recent step (the salary increase) or is it a misstep?”

This recent move by Government has left many outraged as the salaries of its Cabinet members has been increased by over $266, 119, 248 even in the face of widespread condemnation and concern by the public and other stakeholders.

Former Ministers, members of the Opposition and the general public have all taken to various outlets to voice their concerns.

NGOs slam Govt on self-serving salary increase

Protesters take to the streets to air their displeasure over Government’s super salary increase [iNews Photo)

Protesters take to the streets to air their displeasure over Government’s super salary increase (iNews Photo)

– Red Thread says “we can no longer trust them”

 

By Jillica Pinder

 

The A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government on Thursday continued to face domestic pressure from key stakeholders for it to withdraw a decision to increase the salaries of its Ministers by more than 50 per cent as several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) hit the streets of Georgetown in protest.

The Organisations picketed the Ministry of the Presidency in an effort to vent their objection to the mega increases that were given to Government Ministers who have only been in office for less than five months. They have since asked the Government to “reel and come and again”.

The protesters congregated in front of the building on Vlissengen Road, Georgetown to voice their distrust of the new Administration, stating that the move to increase salaries did not have the citizens of Guyana in mind.

 

Betrayed by Government

Social activist Nicole Cole told Guyana Times that she was of the view that Guyanese were betrayed by the new Administration. She recalled clearly that on August 5, 2015, Governance Minister Raphael Trotman held a press conference to announce that the new Administration was not considering salary increases for Ministers, after a rumour of such had emerged.

She noted that weeks after that televised forum, the Minister backpedalled on his word, describing it as unethical and a betrayal. Cole further stated that the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had the temerity to tell the public in arrogance and pomposity that he has no apologies to make.

“This very Government, when in the Opposition decried fat cats, little did the people know that they [the Government] were preparing themselves to be the fattest cats,” the frustrated activist added.

She also stated that the Government’s withdrawal of subsidies from pensioners for $4000 extra was “rubbish” as the subsidies had better assisted Guyana’s elderly.

In expressing further distrust of the David Granger-led Administration, Cole said, “The Minister of State claimed, why must he work for over $500,000 a month? Why must we accept a measly five per cent? That cannot work and we have no apologies in telling you we don’t trust you anymore. It is the Minister of Governance who came on television and lied to us and told us that they were not considering the increase, but then went behind our backs and did it secretly. We cannot trust them… They have broken the trust… Shame on them!”

She also believes that the Government’s policy is of pure self-interest, as it only sought better for itself so soon after being in office.

 

Pensioners and public servants

Also part of the gathering, head of the NGO Red Thread Guyana, Karen De Souza, stated that Government’s first priority should have been ensuring the public servants and pensioners were well taken care of before the already highly paid ministers.

She added also that the Government’s justification was utter nonsense and as such, unacceptable.

“It is not right that pensioners and public servants have to pay for water bills and electricity bills out of the pittance of the measly income and the Government of Guyana that’s already making so much more than everyone, chooses to double their already high salaries, even though they have the benefit of having an allowance for their utility bills. It is not right and the justifications that have so far been offered are not acceptable,” De Souza stated.

The Red Thread head stated that the undertaking made by the Government in its campaign was to work for a good life for all Guyanese. “All means them and us and it isn’t supposed to start with them, since we are more in need and deserving of it, and since we put them there,” she added. She claimed that the Government should have started where the need was greater, as its move seemed rather selfish.

De Souza stated that as Guyanese, they are refusing to accept the argument that the Government has to “harmonise” with other salaries, as harmonisation can take place at any time. She reiterated that the Government’s responsibility must be to ensure the well-being of the public servants and that is all.

 

Paid not to steal

Another member, Vidyaratha Kissoon is of the view that the Government’s arrogance in responding to the situation is intolerable.

He shared that the justification of them having to be paid such a high amount to reduce corruption within a Government is also ludicrous and horrifying. He added that while citizens may not always agree with the persons in office, he was sure that the thought had not crossed the minds of Guyanese that the Government would steal from the taxpayers. Kissoon added that such a high increase in such a short space of time is making the Guyanese population uneasy.

“This is basically telling Guyanese, in order for we [Government] not to thief, we have to get more money, which is not right,” Kissoon shared.

He further added that what was also clear was that the Government was not backing down on its decision, as every time a Minister spoke, they reinforced the “crazy position that the salary increases are ok, and that we must hold on for something else”.

The protesters clearly stated that they no longer had any trust in the current Administration, as this was not the change they were hoping for. (jpinder@guyanatimesgy.com)

Regent St businessmen share public servants’ outrage

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall

Guyana Stores tax bailout….

 

… demand back-taxes relief like Glenn Lall’s

 

 

BY MICHAEL YOUNGE

 

Several businessmen who own small- and medium-scale stores along the Regent Street, Georgetown business district are demanding that the Government level the playing field and provide adequate or similar assistance to them in line with what was offered to the privately owned Guyana Stores Limited which benefited from a massive multimillion-dollar tax relief concession during the past week.

The businessmen made the demands after Guyana Times broke the news that the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited, (NICIL) a State-owned company, paid over $40 million in back taxes owed to the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown on behalf of the Guyana Stores Limited which is privately owned by Businessman Tony Yassin and embattled Kaieteur News owner Glenn Lall.

The payments were made in secret to the City Council and were lumped together with other payments owed by the Government for several of NICIL’s properties in the city. Some $200 million was handed into the City Council’s coffers, with $40 million directed to cover the debt owed by the Guyana Stores Limited.

When contacted on Tuesday, however, Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green denied that monies were paid by Government on behalf of Guyana Stores Limited but confirmed that the interest owed by the company was written off.

She could not give accurate figures as to how much money the cash-strapped Council had foregone, but this had to be in the mega millions, since the Guyana Stores property is one of the most significant in the city.

It is not clear whether the same discretion was exercised when the Government paid monies on behalf of Guyana Stores Limited.

It was also not immediately clear why the Government would direct NICIL to make the multimillion-dollar payment to the City Council on behalf of the private company, which it currently has several court actions against for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Glenn Lall and Tony Yassin, now Directors of Guyana Stores, owe US$2 million of the US$6 million the property was sold for back in 2000 by the Government via NICIL. Past due interest on the outstanding balance would amount almost to another US$2 million. The matter is sub judice as the Government owned corporation moves to the courts to recover its monies. In the meantime, the profits of the company are collected and pocketed by the two owners.

The present Government had criticised the past People’s Progressive Party Administration of using NICIL as a “slush fund” and it appears that this is what the new Finance Ministry – under which NICIL falls – has now utilised the monies deposited in the putatively autonomous body for.

 

Businessmen shocked

As the news spread in the business community, several businessmen contacted Guyana Times on Monday and expressed their shock over the move by Government, while decrying the unfairness of the decision to pay the back taxes and other debt owed by the private company.

“I want to know if the new Government would be so kind and considerate to pay my back taxes and to assist me in settling my account as I am similarly not in a position to do so, given the financials of my business. If they can do it for Guyana Stores Limited and Glenn Lall, I am sure they can do it for the more decent, law abiding and honest businessmen,” the owner of a fabric store related.

Speaking under anonymity, another businessman said that the move to pay the back taxes of Guyana Stores was suspicious and discriminatory as the Government did not offer other small and emerging businesses the same facility.

“I want help too. What is special about Glenn Lall and Tony Yassin. These men run (sic) that business into the floor after squeezing its profits dry and now this new Government bail them out. I want the Government come and do the same for me. I vote for them,” another irate businessman of a popular shoe enterprise related.

Others said the fact that Government could engage in such a barefaced act at a time when the economy was bad was both shocking and strange.

“As soon as I read the article, I know is truth. Them men close and I know they use to help out Glenn Lall with a lot of things long before they get into power. Now they got to reward he because of all he did fuh them on the campaign trail. Well I vote for them and I demanding the same treatment and help”, a downtown grocer related.

Others called for the payment of millions of dollars in taxpayers monies on behalf of a private company to be thoroughly investigated and action taken against all those who are involved.

“Things hard and is not now… before the election… and it got worst after… I have noticed a trend where the [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU and [Alliance For Change] AFC always defending Lall and Yassin and it look like the two manage to get the Government to help them again with the Guyana Stores back taxes… I don’t see nothing wrong if you helping businesses, once ya helping everybody because I willing to accept”, the owner of an electronics store reported.

The Government’s relationship with Glenn Lall apparently started way before its ascent to office. The two ruling parties while in Opposition had defended Lall when he was embroiled in several scandals.

Top figures in the parties had represented Lall when he was at the centre of the tax evasion scandal involving the importation of two Luxury SUVs which saw the public coffers loosing over $100 million in taxes.

Lall also received representation and assistance from top officials in the parties when action was taken against him two years ago by the Town Clerk for defaulting on the payments of millions of dollars in property taxes for the operations of two businesses he owns in the city.

At this point of time, when the Government has paid off the $40 million of taxes owed by Guyana Stores – a private company – it has been enmeshed in a bitter controversy where public servants, Police, nurses and teachers have complained bitterly that while the Government claims they have no money to give them their promised salary increases, they were able to find money to give themselves 50 per cent pay increases.

Government had also vowed to return the millions in NICIL’s accounts to the Consolidated Fund, from where they could have been used to pay the increase salaries for Government servants. With NICIL’s funds depleted through the paying off of debts of private companies, such as Guyana Stores, these increases look increasingly uncertain in the future.

Analysts have questioned the reason why the Government would open itself to further criticisms of ignoring its support base by favours, bestowing such huge benefits to the controversial Glenn Lall.

On May 11th PPP lost the Elections,

AFC & APNU cut their ass.....

 

Now we are finding out....

The Former PPP President & 5 Ministers

Plus Luncheon and other Top PPP officials

will be charged in the Pradoville Scandal.....

 

 PAGE 01

How will this help

PPP chances

at any future election ...

 

 

This is not what we voted for

Editor

First, even though it’s your right to vote for whichever party you choose, one must weigh all the factors in making that decision. For example, did the previous PPP/C deliver generally all the programmes in bringing better standard of living, improvements to education, housing, health care, transportation, tourism, mining, rice & sugar industries, small, medium and large businesses support. Many Guyanese became millionaires in those 23 years; the landscape of Guyana was transformed from poverty to a developing nation. Yet all those greedy, short-sighted, narrow-minded and self-serving Indo-Guyanese and others that voted for APNU/AFC should not cry now because PPP/C was not good enough. An example, the people of Iraq are crying now because they had a better life under Saddam. This what happens when humankind thinks the grass is greener over the hill. “What you vote for you get, the palm stick in you you-know-what’. You can redeem yourselves by voting these arrogant, shameless, forked-tongue, self-serving APNU/AFC ABCs out of office by supporting a recount of May 2015 Elections. To all the Public Servants 2.5% increases is pittance compared to 50% plus increase for the de facto regime. Join the opposition and all like-minded groups in refusing to accept this abominable barefaced action. Using the border issue to increase, enlarge and expand the army is a front to prepare the Army for rigging all future elections. Increased Crimes, youth unemployment, economic decline, narco trafficking, rice and sugar industries troubles, dwindling foreign/private investments are the many needed priorities, not  spending $billions on the Army. The de facto regime peddling that they were making more money in the private sector then serving your country and its citizens is not where you belong. Resign forthwith and run after the big bucks.

Govt hogs mega oil profits

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

… stifles economic growth with high fuel prices

 

The Mid-Year economic report just released by the Government confirmed that it has been raking in mega revenues from lower world oil prices by not passing the savings on to consumers and businesses as has been the norm in other countries.

The Government has rather chosen to increase the duties collected by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on the commodity as well as allow the State-owned Guyoil Company to make windfall profits.

The Mid-Year report stated that while overall “Customs and trade tax collections remained stable at $5.9 billion, in the first half of 2015… Excise tax collections totalled $15.2 billion, an increase of $2.9 billion. This resulted from a $3.2 billion increase from petroleum products.” The report continued, “Increases in petroleum products were due to increase in excise tax rates applicable on imports of gasoline and diesel oil in 2015 when compared to the rates applicable in 2014. During the period January to June 2014, the excise tax rates applicable on gasoline and diesel oil were 20 per cent and 15 per cent respectively as compared to 50 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively, from January 20 to June 31, 2015.”

What this means in essence is that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration had more than doubled the taxes on gasoline (20 per cent to 50 per cent) and increased by almost than 100 per cent the taxes on diesel (25 per cent to 45 per cent). The new A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration has since continued that policy although since the change in government the economy has flattened out and badly needs stimuli from all quarters to get it moving upwards.

Cheaper fuel would allow businesses, especially manufacturing concerns, to improve their cash flow positively and be in a position to ride out the incipient recession. The rice industry also uses large quantities of fuel and the lower prices would have meant the difference between the losses presently being felt greater than profits.

Many businesses bypass the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and generate their own electricity, and lower fuel prices would have had a direct buoyant effect. GPL bought most of its fuel from Suriname at the world market cheap prices, and it also was allowed to make huge profits, since its rates were approved by the Public Utilities Commission two years ago when fuel was more than two-and a half times costlier.

All of these pressures have helped to dampen business activity in comparison to our competing economies even in the region.

To add salt to the fuel ‘wound’, the Mid-Year report also revealed that Guyoil, which was formed specifically to induce competition in the consumer petroleum market by selling gasoline at the cheapest possible prices also refused to pass on savings at the gas pump and raked in record amounts.

The report stated, “Public enterprises recorded a surplus of $4 billion, in the first half of 2015, compared to a deficit of $2.5 billion recorded for the same period in 2014. This is mainly on account of improved performance by Guyana Oil Company Ltd. (Guyoil) which realised an overall surplus of $1.7 billion for the period under review compared to a deficit of $0.9 million reported in first half 2014. The main contributory factor to the improved performance by Guyoil was the reduced cost of fuel. While there was a 16.7 per cent decrease in the sale of fuel products, this was compensated by a $5.3 billion reduction in the payment to creditors as a result of a significant decrease in the acquisition costs of fuel in the first half of 2015.”

What this means is although less fuel was imported, Guyoil made a profit of $1.7billion as opposed to a loss of $0.9billion in the comparable half year of 2014. This means that Guyoil took in $2.6 billion that could have ended up in the pockets of Guyanese car and bus owners. This would have been pumped into the economy in consumer spending, creating a virtuous cycle as a stimulus for other business activities.

The present Government, as did the PPP/C Government, has made a perfunctory gesture to reduce gasoline prices but nowhere near what is justified to get the economy going, according to economists.

Was President Granger out-numbered in a decision not to increase Ministers’ salaries?

October 19, 2015 | By | Filed Under Letters 

Dear Editor, I have read with dismay the latest happenings in Guyana. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones on the street via traffic accidents and to those who have lost loved ones via armed robberies. In the midst of all this I read of a fifty percent increase in the salaries for Ministers. Social media carries a range of comments and most are not in favour of this grand pay hike. There is something very wrong about it and the members of the coalition must know. In fact, I think from the very beginning they knew it was wrong, as, according to one news source, they “published it quietly in the Official Gazette.” My opinion is that President Granger may have been out-numbered in his decision not to increase the salaries by such a hefty sum. I believe that his decision not to move to the presidential residence in the early stages of his presidency tells much about his character. I don’t believe that his decision to move to the presidential building centered on the urgent repairs the building needed but that he really enjoyed living as he did. I saw a picture of him on News source online a few days after the coalition’s victory, he had driven himself to church. When one is comfortable, they often times reject the lure of even greener pastures. The President must know, by the voices of the people, the outcry of many, that this increase is not needed now. It is not fitting to have such a hefty increase, in comparison to the average Guyanese (50 percent versus five percent), at this time in Guyana. When robberies and road accidents have decreased significantly perhaps the populace will be forgiving. For now, ministers can certainly manage with a five -10 percent salary increase. Ayanna Isaacs

URP Objects to Government’s salary increase

October 18, 2015 | By | Filed Under Letters 

Dear Editor, The URP has remained silent over the last five months as it gives the new AFC coalition government a chance to rule during its honeymoon period. But the coalition seems hell bent on abusing ours and public silence to its policies and actions leading to this public rebuke of several policies. The government disappoints on several fronts: large cabinet, square pegs in round holes, appointments of Ministers and other personnel, the budget, handling of rice prices and farmers, firing of thousands of workers on account of ethnic and political affiliation, racial discrimination in appointments, arrogance on the part of several ministers, and the latest salary increase of Ministers. The latter comes after the government called for wage sacrifices and the public was told the treasury is almost empty with public servants and pensioners being given only a 5% increase. It is also noted that people are surviving under very harsh social and economic conditions with this government cancelling $10K voucher for children for uniform and books that has been a rite of passage over the last several years. It is incredible that the government has almost doubled their salaries a mere four months after coming into office. It is even more galling that Ministers are criticizing those who oppose the hefty salary increase with the government justifying it as a move to curb corruption among Ministers. As other have commented, this cabinet is characterized by self- interest and nepotism. It is built around friends and family for self-enrichment. APNU-AFC is practicing exactly that which it criticized its predecessor. This is the exact opposite of the meaning of good governance which is about service to humanity and not of serving self. A government should be more prudent about its actions and treatment of citizens. This government has done the same things that it criticized the PPP breaking its promise never to do them. It promised, for example, to guarantee rice farmers some $9,000 a bag for paddy. Today farmers are getting between $850 and $1500 a bag and some paddy have been refused by millers. Rice producers and other farmers are operating at a loss – a violation of the commitment given by APNU-AFC. On every policy undertaking, there is little, if any, consultation with stakeholders. The government basically does what it wants because it is in charge”. The government’s policy announcements are underscored by sheer arrogance and excesses, worse than what existed under its predecessor. People, including those who voted for this regime, feel a strong sense of betrayal. It gives an impression that the government officials are not genuine about public service commitment.  Public service and or serving as a Minister should be seen as acts of and commitment to nation and not as acts for self-enrichment or a career. It really should be a call to purpose and not chasing after money. Ministers want massive personal gains while the people whose lives politicians pledge to improve cannot boast of any significant betterment. Love for our country cannot be expressed through self-gains. The URP objects to this ministerial salary increase and other policies found wanting.  Our party calls on the government to pursue policies that will benefit everyone and not hurt anyone. We urge the government to reverse course on the salary and on its discriminatory policies and put the nation’s interest above self and party interests.  Vishnu Bandhu President URP

Region 2 RDC unanimously rejects increase for Ministers: Seems like the entire country is agains't this scandalous situation by the PNC/AFC

 

Region 2 RDC unanimously rejects increase for Ministers

Councillors of the Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Regional Democratic Council (RDC) from both the People’s

Region Two Chairman Devanand Ramdatt [right) and Regional Vice Chairman and Juliet Nandranie Coonjah

Region Two Chairman Devanand Ramdatt (right) and Regional Vice Chairman and Juliet Nandranie Coonjah

Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) have unanimously rejected the salary increases for Government Ministers. At the statutory meeting for the month of October, the issue was raised by Regional Vice Chairman Nandranie Coonjah and discussed by the Council. Coonjah, during her address to the Council, said that it was disappointing that the Government saw it fit to increase the salaries when rice farmers across the country, particularly those in Region Two, have been calling for help. Region Two Chairman Devanand Ramdatt in his address to the RDC said that the disrespect shown to farmers by the Government was worrying. Ramdatt said such disrespect came at a time when rice, coconut and other crop farmers and the business sector in the region are struggling to survive. According to Ramdatt, the new Government is yet to deliver on its “immediate” promises and the increase in salaries for Ministers is a” pure example of insult to citizens”. Following the presentation, the Council moved a vote and unanimously rejected the salary increases, calling on President David Granger to reverse the decision. Amid the massive public outcry, President Granger sought to defend and justify the decision to have hefty salary increases for Ministers. According to the Head of State, the salary increases will eventually translate to good governance. State Minister Joseph Harmon had stated that the salary increase decision was made to ensure Ministers and Government officials are paid an attractive salary so as to discourage them from being corrupt. Minister Harmon defended Cabinet’s decision to increase its own pay by millions of dollars, declaring it “justified”. The Minister’s statement sent shockwaves throughout the country, given the fact that Government and its Ministers have only been in office for four months. Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams had stated that the process of increasing the salaries was ‘transparent’. Governance Minister Raphael Trotman had asked Guyanese to trust the Government and to understand that the decision by Cabinet to increase its own salaries was justified. In the Official Gazette published on September 25, it was revealed a Cabinet Minister would be given a hefty sum of $10,439,124 annually. It is further detailed that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo would be benefiting from in excess of $20 million per annum, while the other Vice Presidents would each receive $11,135,064.

SLIPPAGE IN THE ECONOMY IS TROUBLING

October 21, 2015 | By | Filed Under Editorial
 

There is more bad news on the horizon for Guyana. Apart from the 50 percent salary increase which has created a fuss among the people, the country is faced with several other issues that need the immediate attention of the government before they become unsolvable. Guyana’s GDP has shrunk from 3.6 percent in June to 0.7 percent in September, a slippage of 2.9 percent, tourism is down by a whopping 28 percent, and manufacturing and sales have been steadily declining during the past six months. The fact that Venezuela has officially ended its Petro-Caribe agreement with Guyana means higher prices for gasoline at the pumps for consumers and lower prices for rice farmers. All this is taking place while the sugar industry is in the doldrums and the outlook for gold and bauxite remains dismal. It seems that Guyana is sinking and the captain has abandoned ship. A government that started off on the wrong foot will likely end-up the same way. The country is in panic mode and the people are worried about what the future holds for them. It has become a do or die situation for them who have suffered immensely under the PPP and have voted for change. The real question remains, how the government can get the economic growth at a higher rate on a sustainable basis that translates into jobs and a higher standard of living for the lower working class. However, a modestly high rate of economic growth is not in the near future, and it can only be achieved with increased production of sugar and bauxite, higher prices for rice and gold, and the expansion of cash crops farming and poultry rearing. Skilled and qualified persons are needed from the diaspora to help in the process. Without a sound sustainable and human development plan, the economy would not grow and jobs would not be created but crime will increase. It will take more than promises, press releases and public statements to rejuvenate the economy and create jobs. The fact that the government has appointed mostly elders to senior government positions means that it has abandoned the youths who make up more than 60 percent of the electorate and who are the future leaders of the country. That aside, the government must be applauded for the outstanding work by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ease the fears of the people in light of Venezuela’s threat to annex Essequibo. The Ministry of Finance must also be applauded for its forensic auditing of various government departments which has exposed several corrupt practices that took place under the previous administration. Likewise, commendations must be bestowed on the State Asset Recovery Unit which has retrieved a number public assets, allegedly stolen by the opposition. Its CEO, Mr. Aubrey Retemyer and his team have done and continue to do an excellent job. But it is not clear whether those involved in corrupt practices or found with stolen state assets will be prosecuted. So far, there is only one known case. However, these achievements do not change the fact that comprehensive policy measures are required to prevent further slippage of the economy. Stabilizing the economy is necessary but not a sufficient condition for producing a higher GDP growth rate. Economic growth that is accompanied by the creation of jobs requires increased output from existing productive structures or the building of new ones. Both processes require local and direct foreign investment. They should not be funded by more government borrowing, given the current fiscal situation of the country. The government has to promote Guyana as a safe country for overseas investment in North America, Europe and Asia, where most foreign investors are located. If good economic sense does not prevail, then the chances of retaining political office are slim. However, the APNU+AFC government would have a better chance of winning the next general election if the economy improves and jobs are created. But the display of arrogance and aloofness would likely result in political defeat.

The country is faced with several other issues that need the immediate attention of the government before they become unsolvable. Guyana’s GDP has shrunk from 3.6 percent in June to 0.7 percent in September, a slippage of 2.9 percent, tourism is down by a whopping 28 percent, and manufacturing and sales have been steadily declining during the past six months. The fact that Venezuela has officially ended its Petro-Caribe agreement with Guyana means higher prices for gasoline at the pumps for consumers and lower prices for rice farmers. All this is taking place while the sugar industry is in the doldrums and the outlook for gold and bauxite remains dismal. It seems that Guyana is sinking and the captain has abandoned ship.

Guyanese are hurting because Govt mishandling country

Dear Editor,

With reference to the letter written in Stabroek News by Craig Sylvester captioned: “Increase in salaries of senior gov’t officials is exactly what is needed”, it is my view that his position is highly biased in favour of Government and raised several important issues: Firstly, Mr Craig needs to understand that Guyanese cannot approve of any salary increase that does not make sense. Our expenditures cannot exceed our incomes. Our economy has plummeted under this Government and on top of this, to ask us to shoulder a fat salary increase to pamper Ministers is just heartless.

To even ask for a raise under these harsh economic times is simply lacking conscience. If we were to approve of a salary increase, it means that we will be willing to sacrifice our own welfare and that of our country for the benefit of our Ministers. Who in their right mind would agree with this? During harsh economic times, we need to conserve and reserve scarce dollars for healthcare and education, along with basic needs.

A healthy and educated Nation will correct our economy by growing it and generating revenues. If we pour money into Ministers pockets it will be similar to pouring money into a rat’s hole. We can only entertain a reasonable pay raise and not a bloated one if and when our economy becomes healthy. Government knows its actions will hurt our country, yet it is forcing its way with a hefty pay raise.

Secondly, Sylvester needs to understand that the APNU/AFC Government is heavily involved in political patronage – corruption. Therefore, to argue that a salary increase will thwart corruption is just a dishonest argument to get us to accept it. Political supporters of the APNU/AFC political party are hired for key positions including Ministers even when they lack relevant expertise and experience – rendering them ineffective.

 

Obviously, our Ministers cannot serve our country but are highly rewarded so as to remain loyal to the APNU/AFC political parties. In my view, political patronage is the key element destroying our country. Government is openly taking care of its own welfare by whacking our country and the result is that we do not get to live a full life. Our country is buckling and reeling from pains due to Government’s actions. We need to immediately stop this abuse.

Thirdly, Sylvester discussed that our country needs to move away from obsolete ideas and embrace new ones – which are all good. So, Mr Sylvester, then why did the APNU/AFC Government not move away from political patronage – corruption? This is something Government needs to move away from, so as to allow our country to breathe.

What is holding Government from doing the right thing? This Government deliberately embraces corruption because it is a means to keep its supporters happy. Government and its supporters are scratching each other’s backs at the expense of our country.

Through corruption, Government has also unjustly given out National Awards to its political supporters, leaving many baffled by its actions. The APNU/AFC is stuck in its old corrupt tracks and needs to be replaced, which I am sure Sylvester will have no trouble with. Mr. Sylvester rightly thinks that we should get rid of the obsolete.

We need fresh blood in politics to move our country forward and we need to get rid of the deeply entrenched. This Government must go. It has falsely campaigned on a promise of change. Where is the change? We were duped by its rhetoric. Our country will never move forward under this Government and its corrupt governing style.

Fourthly, why is Craig comparing salaries with other countries when the economic standings, finances and qualifications for jobs vary from country to country? Salary scales are uniquely set up in relation to multiple economic parameters and finances unique to each country along with educational requirements.

Our Ministers are overcompensated as it is. Some of them bring little to no qualifications or experience to the job.

In closing, we are hurting because Government is mishandling our country. We know how cruel and brutal life can be in this country, particularly for the unconnected poor – because of corruption.

Government is brutal and its actions are cutting short lives. With this, I urge Government to show compassion and respect irrespective of who we are. Why a fat salary increase is out of question at this time.

Government needs to use its own private funds to reward its political supporters instead of bleeding our country. It needs to put the welfare of its people before its own, particularly the most vulnerable – women.

Until we eliminate corruption within Government and focus on the welfare of our citizens, our country will continue to erode.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Cecil Dilipkumar

Sugar workers shut down entire industry

The Wales Sugar Factory

The Wales Sugar Factory

…strike for wage increases

 

BY KRISTEN MACKLINGAM

 

Thousands of workers from across the sugar belt officially downed tools on Sunday morning to push for higher wages from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) with hopes that this latest action would result in their favour.

After announcing last week that all the sugar estates had exceeded their targets, GuySuCo would have been caught unawares by this industrial action. Operations at all sugar factories were adversely affected and will cause GuySuCo to lose millions of dollars as a consequence of the workers’ decision to strike for a three-day period.

Guyana Times understands the workers have ‘retaliated’ after the sugar corporation failed to meet with representatives of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) to discuss an increase in wages for sugar workers.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder

A source close to the union told this newspaper on Sunday that GuySuCo is “avoiding” a meeting with GAWU to have dialogue about proposed increases in the wages for sugar workers who are unionised.

“The sugar corporation is avoiding any meeting with GAWU on proposals for the year 2015. Earlier when we had talked to them about it, they told us to wait until the sugar Commission of Inquiry (COI), which was on-going, to be concluded before they would have discussions with GAWU on the matter. However, the COI has been completed. GuySuCo is still not inviting the Union to engage in the talks,” the source stated.

Guyana Times was told that while the COI report is merely a documentation of recommendations and the final decisions are yet to be made, wage increases for sugar workers were not part of the Commission’s mandate.

“Wages is a substantive matter. The COI report is merely recommendations but the gist of the matter from the workers side is that they want wage increases,” the source informed.

This newspaper was told that workers begun their strike action on Sunday morning.

According to the source, the workers turned up on Saturday and worked until midnight. However, no one turned up for the Sunday morning shift.

“Cane harvesters did not go to work today (Sunday) except maybe a few who were not aware of the strike. It is a virtual stand-still,” this publication was further told.

According to the source, if GuySuCo does not meet the demands of its sugar workers, this may result in a prolonged period of strike action and protests until there is an amicable solution.

It must be reminded that over the past few years, before the month of October or during the first week of October, the sugar corporation would have already indicated a pay hike for its workers.

However, it is almost the beginning of November and GuySuCo has failed to do so for 2015. Given the existing dry weather the sugar industry is losing valuable time for harvesting and the strike action will have a domino effect on production.

Canes which have already been harvested but are yet to be processed will spoil and therefore the sugar corporation will lose millions daily as the strike continues.

However, GuySuCo in a press release on Sunday expressed its disappointment with GAWU’s decision to call on its members to proceed on strike action across the country.

“Their actions have affected all field and factory operations, breaking the prevailing production momentum. The Union is demanding that the corporation commence wages, salaries and fringes benefits negotiations for 2015. The corporation and the Union had a preliminary meeting on September 16, where the corporation informed the Union and the representatives from the various estates that it was unable to commence discussion before the Commission of Inquiry has submit its findings and recommendations,” the sugar entity said.

According to GuySuCo it had subsequently advised the leadership of the GAWU (as recently as Friday October 23, 2015), that it would not be able to commence discussion of the Union’s proposal until the COI report has been considered by the Government and advise is given to the corporation on the way forward.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder told Guyana Times on Sunday that it is public knowledge that GuySuCo is operating at major losses and cannot afford wage increases at the moment.

As it relates to workers taking strike action because they believe the COI report does not allow for wage increases, the Agriculture Minister explained that the official inquiry’s findings have to be considered and any conclusion drawn before this is done is premature.

“Before they (findings and recommendations) are considered, because the conditions under which the COI was set up was that they are supposed to submit to the Government by a certain time the initial recommendations , Government is supposed to consider those and send them back to the Commission for any elaboration needed and then a final report would be given. We are now at the situation between the initial submission and the final report. In any event, it would be remiss of Government to get involved in any industrial activity between or anything going on with unions at this stage,” said the Agriculture Minister.

He posited that if the Government were to intervene at this point without perusing and deliberating on the results of the COI then it would “make no sense” having a sugar COI.

“You have to rate their findings, you have to look at their findings, and assess them and then if we accept their findings then we have to go along with that. So I would like to think that what the workers are doing is politically motivated. GuySuCo has been doing very well over the last few weeks, meeting its targets and the management we have put have obviously been working and the workers have been responding. I suspect that the opposition does not like this and I suspect that they might be creating these situations for a strike, an unnecessary strike,” he posited.

According to Minister Holder, persons are very aware of the fact that Government can get involved, as it has done before the COI’s report was completed, such as in the case where the Administration assisted GuySuCo with some finances.

“They know that Government can get involved in helping them to have increases and in loss making situations prior to the findings of the COI. As a matter of fact on the COI is a GAWU economist, and obviously GAWU might know what the findings of the COI are because they had someone on it. So we will not get involved as a Government, to get involved in a situation that is being considered based on the findings of a COI which itself has not been accepted. GuySuCo’s future has financial implications for the country and for agriculture,” he added.

Meanwhile, reports are that GuySuCo is effectively ‘bankrupt’ with its total debt amounting to billions of dollars. For a number of years, the Sugar Corporation has been operating at a loss and has only survived because of the previous Administration’s massive subventions.

Guyana Times understands that at present the Sugar Corporation is being smothered under its current debt and the current cost of production is over US40 cents per pound while world market prices are a third of that.

This means the revenue that GuySuCo receives is not enough to cover its operating costs, thus resulting in the Corporation suffering huge losses annually.

It was also recently disclosed that the company is running on debt financing.

In this regard, there are also overdrafts by institutions from which GuySuCo borrows, but has not been able to repay; hence, it is not considered a ‘sustainable’ situation and the company can be declared “technically” bankrupt.

The APNU/AFC coalition Government in July had established the COI into the operations of GuySuCo.

Among the issues raised included the impact of the industry over the next few years, particularly with the current world price of US11.3 cents per pound of sugar and the current European Union price in the region of US15 cents.(kristenm@guyanatimesgy.com)

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