Guyanese have been put on notice to prepare for bitter days ahead in Guyana, due to the alleged mismanagement, incompetence, and political hardline positions that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/Alliance For Change (AFC) Coalition Government continues to take.
This is according to former President and current General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, who claimed that the Guyanese economy is slowly shrinking; there is higher unemployment, rising income inequality, and a shrinking middle class.
“Every time we were in Government, we always had a positive attitude to the future. We will come to you and talk about our plans for the future. When I come here tonight, the only message I can bring to you is a sad message: that things are going to get significantly worse in your lives and in the lives of Guyanese, before it gets better when the PPP resumes office,” he told a recent political meeting.
Jagdeo said while the coalition Government remains in office for the next few years, because of their inept economic vision, they will continue to generate excuses as to why the Guyanese economy is floundering and why people are losing jobs, rather than tackling the fundamental problems. He said people’s lives will only change for the worse.
The former Head of State pointed to the 200 new tax measures that were introduced last year, stating that they have not yet kicked in fully, but when they do, Guyanese will feel the squeeze.
“You will see the cost of living going up, the business community will be unable to survive in the new tax environment,” he stated, noting that with constant harassment from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), these businesses will not feel driven to invest and create more jobs in the future.
“So, you would see not only deterioration in terms of cost of living going up, but less jobs being produced in the future because no one wants to invest in this country. And right now, people are losing jobs rather than them creating jobs that they (government) promised,” he further stated.
Jagdeo, a trained Economist, also highlighted that when the new policy measures taken in the sugar industry take affect this year-end, this will create more chaos in Guyana, but more particularly in communities that depend heavily on the industry for their survival.
Another key sector of the economy is mining. And Jagdeo said the two percent turnover tax which has been changed to 28 percent and imposed on small miners will also have a negative impact on their operations. “It is only when they have to file their income tax return at the end of the year that they would realise that they are liable to thousands of dollars more of taxes, and many of them will fall out of mining,” Jagdeo said he foresees.
Shifting his attention to the local forestry sector, the Opposition Leader said there is already a collapse of this sector, as people can’t find markets for their products. And equally important, he noted that construction activity has gone down to some optimal levels, largely because of the taxation policy implemented under the coalition Government.
“In retail trade, because they are taking so much money out of the economy through taxation, the Value Added Tax (VAT) alone will give them about $21 billion more this year, taking it out of people’s pockets. They are sapping the lives of economic activities in Guyana, and therefore retail trade is going down and almost every business you talk to is laying off people,” he laminated.
The Opposition Leader also termed the Government’s argument that the PPP left the economy in a decline as “baseless and far from reality”. As a matter of fact, Jagdeo said, Finance Minister Winston Jordan told the National Assembly a few months ago that the PPP did a good job at managing the economy.
“That’s the picture of Guyana; and every single day you listen to this Government, rather than addressing the economic decline, rather than saying ‘hold on a minute, we have to ensure that rice, sugar and bauxite and all the other sectors of the economy do well’, they have now latched on to a couple of excuses that they are cleaning out corruption from the economy that is why things are bad.”
He recalled than when the PPP took office in 1992, Guyana’s debt was nine and a half times the size of the local economy. It later grew, and Guyana repaid a large sum of its debt. “From the time the PPP left office, it was less than half the size of the economy, and the debt servicing in 1992, according to Carl Greenidge himself, was 153 percent of revenue of all taxes collected,” he added.
When the PPP left office in 2015, it was four percent of revenue. “So we left them a lot of money, and that is why they could have passed the three biggest budgets in our history even though they are claiming we don’t have money and we left them a bankrupt economy.”
He noted that when the PPP/C demitted office, Guyana was the fastest growing country in the region, with 10 years of continuous growth. “We left 165 billion in recurrent revenue, US$700 million in the central bank, and 40 billion dollars in the semi-autonomous agencies through these private accounts…so if as they claiming, so many persons were not paying taxes…why it is that Guyana was making rapid progress and was defying all odds?”
Jagdeo also pointed to the coalition’s previous budgets, which totalled some $700 billion in the past few years. He said, “That is not the symptom of a country that doesn’t have money. But what are they doing with the money they collect; they are spending it on themselves.”