Former Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge has confirmed that the Guyana government does not favour direct cash transfers into the hands of ordinary Guyanese on the grounds that it will encourage unemployment, a position that was roundly rejected by Chairman of the Buxton First of August Movement (FAM-Buxton), Professor David Hinds.
“I don’t know that one can give a definitive answer to it but it is felt in the government that the consequences of that negative impact are consequences that maybe [sic] are not prepared to take on at this stage. It isn’t that’s something to be ruled out forever but consideration is influenced by that fear,” he said.
Greenidge, an economist, made known government’s position one year after Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive member, Distinguished Economics Professor Clive Thomas had tabled the controversial proposal at the FAM-Buxton. “I’m afraid I can’t offer you that solution which Clive was privileged to offer,” he said
The former Finance Minister said government was wary about cash disbursements directly to Guyanese could result in them becoming dependent on the state.
“The economists speak about the price of labour for the price of labour. How will those who are working feel about those who are not working getting a grant and whether you”ll find…that they might as well stay home if that sort of money is being shared. ‘Let me stay home and collect it’,” said Greenidge.
However, Professor Hinds rebutted Greenidge, arguing that it is government that has to plan to ensure that ordinary people benefit from some of the oil revenues while the state uses the remainder for other things. “We have to give them some hope that there is something in this for them…They want money, they want cash in hand. It is the responsibility of the government to find work for them,” said Hinds, an outspoken critic of the coalition of which the WPA is a member.
But, the strongest rebuttal came from WPA Executive Member, Tacuma Ogunseye who slammed Greenidge’s position from the floor of the well-attended forum at the Friendship Primary School, East Coast Demerara.
Noting that Afro-Guyanese do not own 10 percent of the country’s economy, he rhetorically questioned whether they were really not interested in having a greater stake.
He challenged Greenidge’s logic that cash-transfers might be an incentive not to work. “We so stupid that we don’t want to own it and you’re going to tell me if we give people cash transfers…You want to tell me that all employed persons, because their households getting cash transfers, let us say one time per year on the 31st of October, he or she won’t work for the whole year just to wait until that cash transfer to come to eat? Nonsense!”
Ogunseye called on the authorities to “stop playing games with the poor”. He warned that the governing coalition risked being back in the opposition if at least five percent of the unemployed do not vote.
He acknowledged that at least one or two percent would not be employed.
Professor Thomas has said each poor Guyanese household should get US$5,000 annually and that money could be linked to set targets for moving children from work into school and improving nutrition.