Cease all grants of citizenship to foreigners until stringent and clear criteria agreed
Recently, public attention has been drawn to the critical discussion of the means by which we can ensure that the benefits of gas and oil be directed to Guyanese. There has been talk of a Local Content Policy, which envisages that contract and employment opportunities in the oil and gas sector are given to Guyanese in preference to foreigners. A New and United Guyana has expressed the view that a clear-cut means of ensuring Guyanese preference is by introducing a tax system which exempts Guyanese individuals and businesses from taxes which are payable under the current structure, while requiring foreign companies to pay taxes and foreign workers to purchase annual work permits to live and work in our country.
We anticipate that the windfall from oil and gas, which is part of Guyana’s patrimony, will realise extraordinary benefits for Guyanese. In the near future, Guyanese workers should not have to pay income tax. Companies owned solely by Guyanese shareholders should not have to pay corporation tax. But the many foreigners who have come here to work and will continue to come to work in the sector, the experts and expats who are recruited by Exxon, Tullow and others, should of course continue to pay income and other taxes. Foreign companies should of course continue to pay taxes on their profits.
Guyanese students should be able to attend university free of cost, and should be able to qualify for government-sponsored scholarships and grants for study abroad where the University of Guyana does not meet needs. Public primary and secondary schools should be world-class with modern facilities and world-class teachers paid salaries which are the envy of the Caribbean. But foreigners should pay to attend our universities and schools, and should not enjoy easy access to scholarships and grants.
The sick and elderly in Guyana should have free and world-class health care provided in modern institutions by Guyanese doctors who have benefitted from the free education and easy scholarship system, and can provide health care second to none in the world. State pensions for all Guyanese who have reached the age of retirement should enable them to live in dignity and comfort in their later years. But foreigners who come to Guyana to access our health care should pay a fair cost for their treatment. Those foreigners should not receive a State pension. Guyana is for Guyanese. Our patrimony is for us.
Whatever the means of ensuring Guyanese benefit from their patrimony, the underlying principle remains: Guyana is for Guyanese, and Guyanese must benefit. The luxuries of free education, free health, commercial opportunities and prosperity are now possible with the advent of oil and gas.
Recently, your newspaper reported information received from Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix that nearly 1,000 individuals have been granted citizenship in Guyana since 2015. One thousand! More recently, your newspaper reported that approximately 100 applications for citizenship are made to that ministry daily!
What is the point of any discussion on local content or preferential tax treatment or access to health and education for Guyanese, if foreigners can simply apply to the ministry, sign a piece of paper, and become Guyanese? What is the government’s policy on the granting of citizenship to foreigners?
Equally alarming, our patrimony, the benefit which we rightfully expect to enjoy from our newfound wealth, is in danger of being dissipated to foreigners by the grant of citizenship to hundreds and possibly thousands of foreigners who apply to the ministry and sign a piece of paper. They will immediately be entitled to share in our healthcare, our education, our tax benefits and our pensions. Our patrimony.
A New and United Guyana is calling on the government to cease all grants of citizenship to foreigners unless and until stringent and clear criteria for citizenship are made available for public examination and discussion. Guyana is for Guyanese, and Guyanese must benefit from gas and oil.
Timothy M. Jonas