Govt considering menu of measures to bring further relief over rising cost of living – President Ali
− says scale of floods enormous; assistance to be announced soon
With increasing global prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cost of living around the world has skyrocketed but the Guyana Government is currently looking at a menu of measures to bring relief its citizens.
This is according to President Dr Irfaan Ali, who related that while Government has no control over the rising global prices, his Administration has already implemented a series of relief measures through the removal of burdensome taxes to benefit Guyanese.
However, he noted that the fallout from the global pandemic has now been compounded by unprecedented floods that have affected all 10 administrative regions across Guyana, destroying not only homes and infrastructures but also impacting a great quantum of the country’s productive capacity, especially in the agricultural sector and food production.
As such, the Head of State said consideration is being given to additional measures to further cushion the increasing cost of living. However, he posited that this will be dependent on fiscal availability.
“We are considering a menu of measures to further assist Guyanese. This, of course, is contingent on revenue flows; this is contingent on the position of the economy and at this stage, the assessment is being completed. But I want to assure the Guyanese people that once the fiscal space is found then we will have no hesitation to bring more help to the Guyanese people,” the President noted.
President Ali further stated that in addition to the tax reliefs, his Government has also helped on the social side with initiatives such as the reintroduction of the “Because We Care” programme under which each child in the public education system will benefit from a $19,000 cash grant.
“There are a lot of parents now asking for this to be extended to those who’re going to private schools. So, an assessment is being done on that and the cost on that,” he noted.
Asked when these measures would be rolled out, the Head of State said, “I would not have to confine myself to a timeframe but what I can say to you is that an assessment is being done and once that space is found, we will definitely be bringing more benefits.”
Moreover, President Ali pointed out that there are demands being made from the various sectors in the country.
In fact, he disclosed that Government has already assisted the local poultry sector and despite global increases of grains, they worked together to maintain stability of prices in the local market.
To this end, President Ali said Government is looking at the requests being made by all the sectors.
“When you’re managing national resources and managing for all the sectors, we have to take all the competing factors into consideration and come up with the best possible menu of measures for the country,” he explained.
Nevertheless, in response to a question from Guyana Times, the Guyanese leader disclosed to reporters that the flood assessment is almost completed.
Between May and June, heavy rains have resulted in widespread flooding across the country, affecting some 30,000 householders. The devastation includes submerged buildings and vehicles with adverse effects on crops, livestock and health.
It has been noted that the rainfall experienced in May alone was recorded as the second highest level of rainfall across the country in the last 40 years. The situation had led President Ali to formally declare the flooding a national disaster.
While the water has significantly receded, flood victims are now grappling with the impacts. Preliminary assessments were carried out by several State agencies to ascertain the extent of the destruction caused by the floods.
Additionally, a team from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) was here last month to conduct a Detailed Damage Sector Assessment and is expected to submit its report soon.
President Ali said preliminary findings from these two reports show the scale of the floods, which not only affected Guyana but neighbouring Suriname and Brazil as well.
“I think the scale of the floods has been enormous in terms of damage to crops to livelihood to households. I think just the magnitude and scale of just the economic loss and the financial loss has been enormous and that you will see glaring in the report,” he posited.
Meanwhile, Government is also now trying to get a socio-economic impact assessment done.
“We’re trying to get ECLAC (the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) to give us some final help… Before we get to the close of this week, I will have the full position with me,” the President said adding that announcements will subsequently be made regarding financial assistance.
Last month, Government received approval from the National Assembly for $10 billion in supplementary funding for the provision of flood relief interventions, including repairs to infrastructure and supporting recovery in the productive and household sectors.
According to the Head of State, a lot of roadways were damaged by the floods, especially in the hinterland regions. He revealed that even the mining sector, which was also heavily impacted by the floods, is complaining about the damages to infrastructure not just from the floods but also by overweight trucks.
He noted that Government will have to look at implementing weight guidelines and regulations. In addition, drainage is another critical area that Government will also have to look at in order to enhance the output capacity.
The Head of State pointed out that Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) was severely spared from the floods due to the Hope Canal.
“What that has shown us is that there is now critical need for many more of these canals on the coastland and that is what communities themselves are calling for – the Farmers’ Associations and so on… So, a big part of moving forward, and you will see this in the next budget, is for us to come up with the right vehicle, to come up with the right plan in creating those opportunities for better drainage, for protection in the future also,” President Ali stated.