The minute Guyanese first heard the news that Guyana struck liquid gold, a few Guyanese have been licking their tongues, smacking their lips, rubbing their palms, rolling their eyes, and have started to dream about becoming overnight millionaires, without having to raise a finger, move a foot, or rub their heads anymore; and not pondering how to make ends meet with the honest earnings from their blood, sweat and tears!
This illusion took shape in the form of exploiting the imagined opportunity of staying at home and receiving free money from the Government, without the burdened effort of physically working for a living. Yes, the thought of receiving the suggested $1,000,000 annually per household is more than what low-income Guyanese are taking home. This desirous gift, wanting a boon dropped in the lap of the minimal minority, would resolve all their burdens and financial problems!
This policy may qualify the economic theory of Direct Cash Transfer from the Oil and Gas revenue as a potential contributor towards the possibility of reducing (eliminating?) poverty. Mind you, no one is quantifying the basis of direct cash transfer on “condition”, but are rather evading the topic by not even mentioning about it being “conditional.”
It’s interesting to note the comments offered by those who are not supporters of the PPP/C party. Wading through the muddy field back in 2019 during the “Sanctimonious Granger” dictatorship, the Elder lent his ear to listen to the uncanny music made by the disturbing bugle trumpeting the distorting sound of distant dissonance, while trying to synchronise with the accompanying drummers, each beating a different rhythm. He had expressed the view that “any increase of State revenues, whether it be from oil, gold, or whatever, those additional resources should concentrate on seven specific areas”.
Incidentally, none of them stipulated direct cash transfer.
While he admired the likes of Dr. Clive Thomas, Dr. David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis, he admonished them and sounded a warning (alarming?) in 2019 by advocating that the question of “cash transfer” is mired in interpretation. He even illustrated a valid lesson he learnt of “not spoiling people who are unwilling to help themselves.” The senior citizen, as a teacher and preacher, advised Guyanese to turn to the Bible for guidance. “There is instructive stories to the sower – Jesus tells us to choose the kind of soil that we would like to sow our faith on.”
Former President Granger proudly advocated the practice of “teaching a man to fish, instead of giving him a fish.” At a New York town hall meeting back in 2019, the media reported former Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Karen Cummings as saying, “President Granger is not in support of giving handouts, but tying revenue from oil and gas to developmental policies and programmes, such as free education.” Back in August 2018, one of the local news agencies quoted former Finance Minister Winston Jordan as using this maxim to convey his perception of direct cash transfer, “Teach a man to fish, and he can feed himself for a lifetime. Give him one every other day, he will remain dependent.”
Again, in 2018, former AFC member, attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes, warned a large gathering at Friendship Primary School that cash transfers could be used by politicians to manipulate voters. The media also quoted him saying, “My fear is that if we start to talk about giving people cash, we are opening the doors to politicians to say ‘I will give you more cash than the next one’, and you end up with a ridiculous election campaign of people being irresponsible about development, because it becomes a competition about who can give more.” He added, “I welcome that discussion, but I think we need to drag it to data, otherwise we are going to be dazzled by the fantastic promises that are going to come from the political pulpit unrelated to reality and economic sustainability, and that is a dangerous place.”
Some studies done internationally by different research institutes in a number of countries reveal adverse outcomes from direct cash transfers: reduced labour market participation; reduced economic activity; lack of insurance or savings; increased risky health behaviours, such as drinking, smoking and drug abuse, gambling, domestic upheavals, complacency, growth stagnation, etc. The distribution system may incur, exhibit, and encourage diversion, theft and corruption.
The Government’s take is that cash transfers already exist in a number of areas: cash grants to every child in the sum of $40,000 annually; $33,000 to pensioners; $16,000 for Public Assistance; $600,000 for dialysis patients; $100,000 for disability persons, etc. Also, in cash and kind, the Government is rolling out housing subsidies, free cement, low interest rates with the banks, GOAL scholarships, free fertilizer for farmers, compensation for displaced sugar workers, fisher-folks, flood relief, COVID-19 relief, etc.
Hinterland and riverine households enjoy special grants. Linden folks enjoy subsidised electricity. Pensioners enjoy free water.
The PPP/C Government wants to empower Guyanese not only from the already mentioned media, but more specifically by creating innumerable job opportunities, building houses, giving them accessible education, providing free health services in each village, etc.
The 2023 record-breaking $781.9 billion Budget expansively, extensively and exhaustively covers all the mammoth projects to be implemented this year so as to bring relief measures, reduce the cost of living, and provide and protect the man in the street.
According to Dr. Tara Singh, former UG senior lecturer, “These programmes make a person feel useful to society. Let’s be clear! If anyone is considered useless, no one would want to associate with him/her. We empower people with jobs, housing, education, a safe environment, social amenities and psychological comfort. These tools build self-esteem to restore confidence in people, and not necessarily handouts.
“The PPP/C Government has been spending massive sums in these areas in the short while of their governance. This is more than what the former administration did in their five years of prolonged agony to the Guyanese people. President Ali does not want to develop an entitlement society.
The Government has clearly stated that it is not averse to cash grants, like in cases of flood, medical facilitation etc., but not as a national policy. In order for Guyanese to believe, identify, and build confidence in themselves, the values just cited are the channels to make them resourceful. This Government is providing all the infrastructure to motivate Guyanese to get up, not lie down, work and earn so that they can eat, drink, be merry and be productive to society.
Like the labour man said, “When you pull out the oil, it finish. Is not like, bora, ochro and callaloo that you can plant back.”