APNU/AFC’s cash grant for students not guaranteed

…“feasibility” study to be conducted – coalition manifesto

Though it is campaigning on a promise to provide cash grants for schoolchildren, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition’s manifesto reveals that the initiative may not be possible after all, as a feasibility study would first have to be conducted.
An initiative first introduced by the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, the cash grant for schoolchildren was immediately cancelled by the incumbent coalition upon its assumption to office in 2015.
Now that the country is heading to the polls in March, the coalition has floated the promise to reintroduce the project. However, a close examination of its manifesto reveals that the reinstatement of the initiative is conditional.
The manifesto, released just last week, states that a feasibility study will first have to be conducted before it is decided whether the cash grant initiative can be restored. In fact, this applies to all of the promises of conditional cash transfers, including grants for single parents and the elderly.

In a radio interview recently, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo called out the Government for being duplicitous on the matter, after pondering on the fact that the same Government which once took away this grant from students has suddenly decided to restore it.
“There is a big talk about cash grants. APNU was opposed to it, then they were for it, then they opposed it and so two weeks ago, I saw that after we promised that we’d return the school cash grant which was $10,000 and then increase it to $50,000 over the next term, then suddenly he promise cash grants again,” Jagdeo explained.
He specifically touched on the clause which speaks to the feasibility study, by asserting, “To my surprise in the document they launched, they said for anybody to get any help from oil and gas money, there has to be a feasibility study whether they would reintroduce the cash grant. Now, they did not do a feasibility study when they increased the salaries of Ministers and their perks of medical care abroad and all of those things. But for our children, they now have to do a feasibility study to decide.”
Excerpts from the PPP’s manifesto launched since November last year speak to the increased grant from $10,000 to $50,000 per child every year. While the initiative had cost the PPP Administration some $1.6 billion, he said that the party was willing to invest some $8 billion per year in youths.
Unlike the coalition’s promises, Jagdeo pointed out that under a new PPP/C Administration, the cash grant initiative is guaranteed. He shared that the party had piloted this initiative even before Guyana had known about its fateful oil boon.
On that note, he condemned the coalition’s claims that it could not afford the grants by pointing to the increase in ministerial perks by billions of dollars.
“It used to cost us $1.6 billion when the PPP was there. We introduced it without oil and gas…APNU claimed they couldn’t afford it, but they increased in Government, food and Government services by $1.6 billion per year in the local budget. Ministerial local travel has increased by $1.1 billion alone. They’ve increased rental of buildings for Government by another billion.”
The ministerial perks were accompanied by an increase in salary as soon as the coalition was appointed to govern the country. Months after assuming office, Cabinet Ministers were allocated salary increases amounting to 50 per cent, which saw their monthly earnings rising to $870,000 from the $579,000 which was handed out monthly under the previous Administration.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was allocated a $2 million increase to $20,580,000 per annum, while Vice Presidents are paid just over $11.1 million per year. Members of Parliament with no specific portfolio were awarded a 20 per cent increase in salaries which reflected an uptick to $2,402,532 which moved from the previous $2,002,116.
Nevertheless, the cash grant, Jagdeo noted, can be expected with countless other plans that were drafted by the PPP/C, not only for the youths but also the elderly and wider population. Projects which will return include free water supply and subsidised electricity costs for pensioners, which were snatched away shortly after the coalition won the elections five years ago.
“We’ve said clearly we want to double old age pension. The resources must be utilised for elders. We believe this would put more disposable income into the pockets of people. It would help with the sloth in the economy… We intend to return free water. We intend to return subsidised electricity to the pensioners that they took away,” he assured.