Cash transfers…

…or handouts?

There’s a spirited debate roiling the political arena – and “arena” it is! – on whether some of the anticipated oil revenues should be passed directly to some (or all) citizens of Guyana. From where your Eyewitness is sitting, the debate boils down to whether we should call the idea “cash transfer” or “handout”. Interestingly, however, none of the combatants are calling their schemes, “handouts”!
But if you were to look at the comments, most folks who are opposed to the scheme raise the supposedly deleterious effects of giving “handouts” to poor people. If you just give “them” free money, you’re removing their incentive to seek employment and increasing the incentive to indulge in more “wine, women and song”!! A rather bleak assessment of the poor, isn’t it?
A lot of it is influenced by the reports and movies on what’s been dubbed the “welfare” culture that has developed in the US with their “cash and kind” programme to their poor. Most of the recipients seem to have become trapped in a dependency syndrome that ensures their poverty becomes inter-generational. While they might be able to get the basic necessities of life, they don’t get to imbibe the salutary values that a working life evidently imparts!!
In Guyana, Clive Thomas and the WPA – independently and not on behalf of their APNU/AFC coalition – were first off the block in suggesting that each family gets US$5000/GY$1 million annually. This was a variant of an idea that has created quite a buzz in the economic world – a Universal Basic Income (UBI). Reacting to criticisms that some poor people are falling through the safety nets that’s now pretty standard in most countries, the UBI would allow folks in need to pay for what they need – be it food or medicine or whatever. Part of the “whatever” may be booze or smokes, but it’s their choice.
Initially, the PNC saw the suggestion as a “handout” and Granger snootily announced he’d rather “teach the poor to fish that hand out fishes”. Never mind they may be structural reasons for some folks being unable to fish. He’s since announced he’s now “considering” it. The PPP, which had tried various forms of transfers to the poor in a directed fashion (school uniforms etc), said they didn’t see it as “handouts” and weren’t opposed. But Guyana couldn’t hang its hat where its hand couldn’t reach!!
They pointed out the WPA’s suggestion was unworkable since it assumed oil production at 1.5m bpd when all we’ll be getting initially is 1/10 of that!! They proposed a targeted approach to cover identified needy demographics out of a fixed percentage of the income flow.
Good thing there’s one adult in the (political) room!!

…or skill transfers?
The Opposition Leader just revealed that GECOM, through the CEO of its Secretariat – the inimitable ex-GDF Major Keith Lowenfield, who has a knack for being “unavailable” at key moments – has nixed an offer from the UN for help in its IT department. Now we need an investigation into this matter ASAP and call upon the “Iron lady” to launch this. It seems this offer was on the table since last year, but Lowenfield presented only a “media monitoring” offer!!
Now what kind of assistance is needed in GECOM when their Secretariat hasn’t even been able to continuously update the NRR, as it is mandated to do? Or to discern if there’s hanky-panky going on with the lists?? Such as ensuring the data in their several lists are valid and cross-referenced? Or to deliver a quick but accurate result after ballots are cast? Especially when the numbers between the two top contenders might once again be razor thin?
Are media monitors going to deal with those concerns? Bring back the UN IT offer!!

…and free education
In the season of giving away the store for votes, the PNC has once again promised “free education at UG”—  while criticising the PPP for introducing fees.
Wasn’t it the PNC that accepted IMF conditionalities that insisted UG pay its way?