BUDGET 2021 aligns with manifesto promises, country’s readiness for HMIC standards

With BUDGET 2021, President Irfaan Ali’s Government has formulated a budget that, long and short, is fully aligned with the PPP’s Election 2020 Manifesto and the goal of shifting living standards to equate to a high middle-income country (HMIC). It is, first and foremost, a pro-poor budget, designed to provide support for poor and working-class families. But BUDGET 2021 affirms the Irfaan Ali-led PPP Government’s determination to move Guyana forward as a High Middle-Income Country (HMIC). BUDGET 2021, like the Election 2020 Manifesto, sets the stage for a transition, so that living standards are upgraded and the physical look of our country is positively changed forever. BUDGET 2021 seeks to accomplish these goals in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic; the need for a resurgence of the traditional economy, which took a beating in the last five years; and a growing debt problem. These are enormous challenges, but BUDGET 2021 proved the PPP Government is ready for the challenge.
BUDGET 2021 confirms that, with the addition of OIL and GAS in a diversified economy, Guyana is now consolidating its HMIC status. BUDGET 2021 sets the stage for the vast majority of Guyanese to have living standards that equate to an HMIC status. We must ensure every citizen is provided with support to live decently, with dignity, outside of the prison of poverty. Our Government must also ensure that Guyana’s infrastructure equates with its HMIC status. With a growth rate of more than 43% in 2020, and a projected growth rate of greater than 20% in 2021; with a rebounding non-OIL economy, a robust domestic and foreign investment profile, OIL and GAS is fulfilling its expectation.
After Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, read BUDGET 2021, no objective Guyanese nor any of our international stakeholders can feel disappointment. The consensus of all stakeholders is that BUDGET 2021 delivered – it is pro-poor, pro-small business, pro-investment. BUDGET 2021 sets about addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and the need to create jobs. These things have a direct impact on the way Guyanese families live. But BUDGET 2021 also, in a dramatic way, addressed the enormous infrastructure needs of the country. By heavy investment in the network of roads and bridges across the country; in housing, drainage and irrigation; and in schools and health care facilities, not only has BUDGET 2021 begun the physical transformation, but is aiding and abetting the transformation of living standards of Guyanese everywhere in the country.
For sure, BUDGET 2021 alone will not achieve the transformation. However, Budget 2021 sets the tone for BUDGETS 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The major goal of any budget must be provisions to support the most vulnerable citizens. BUDGET 2021 is a compendium of support for the poor, for the working class, for those who work hard but still need some support to improve their lives. Our children must be an imperative. In that regard, the cash grant of $15,000 per child in school is a family support, not only supporting children, but the almost $3B that will be spent by families in community businesses will also be a catalyst for the village economy. Those same almost 200,000 children will benefit from another $5,000 each in school supplies vouchers, which will see another $1B infused in the local economy.
Similarly, every pensioner, more than 60,000 of them, will now benefit from an almost $5,000 per month increase in old-age pension, moving from $20,500 to $25,000. This means that our senior citizens will see more than $18B in their pockets, which will end up being spent in the local village economies. Almost 15,000 citizens on Social Assistance Grants would benefit from an increase from $9,000 per month to $12,000 per month. This means that these vulnerable populations will infuse another $2B into their local economies.
Besides direct cash grants or entitlements that citizens will receive (more than $50B in 2021), there are other disposable incomes that citizens will have in their pockets to spend, because they will no longer have to pay out of their pockets. About 30,000 Guyanese senior citizens will benefit from water tariff subsidies. Moreover, every household and business will benefit from a 5% reduction in water tariffs. This will keep about $5B in people’s pockets. People will pay 14% less for use of their phones and for internet. Farmers who had to pay more for land rents and lease payments will save from those increases, because those charges are now reversed in BUDGET 2021, saving farmers more than $2B in 2021. Several billion dollars will remain with people. All such money will be spent in markets; at local grocery shops; with taxi drivers, tailors and seamstresses etc.
Budget 2021 clearly has people at the centre. It is truly a people’s budget. With its focus on creating jobs; setting the stage for the creation of 50,000 jobs by 2025; with the focus on 50,000 new homes by 2025; with a focus on people’s health, and on education and training for the youth; with a transformative infrastructure agenda, BUDGET 2021 really met people’s expectation and set the path for transforming Guyana.