The statement from the Leader of the Opposition regarding the 6.5 per cent salary increase demonstrates that the Opposition is suffering from amnesia, is hypocritical, and is trying to insult the intelligence of Guyanese by scoring cheap political points.
Only a few years ago, the PNC, which was the most dominant party in the APNU/AFC Government, had the opportunity to prove it was genuinely interested in improving the well-being of public servants and vulnerable groups. The PNC did not only squander this opportunity but, as a partner in the APNU/AFC Government, deliberately pursued initiatives that severely harmed the well-being of public servants and pensioners.
Some of the initiatives that have permanently lacerated the memory of every Guyanese, especially public servants, and would be easily remembered, include the decision by the APNU/AFC to force public servants to move to the permanent establishment rather than remain on contract where they benefitted from contract gratuity. This single initiative reduced the emoluments of public servants on contracts by 22.5 per cent and robbed them of the opportunity to utilise their gratuity to acquire assets, including land, which has inter-generational implications. More importantly, the 22.5 per cent reduction in these public servants’ emoluments was significantly more than the absolute and relative salary increases they received under the APNU/AFC Government.
The public servants on the public establishment also suffered from the salary increases granted by the APNU/AFC Government. In 2015, the APNU/AFC Government offered an across-the-board increase of 5 per cent to all public servants and members of the Disciplined Services. However, the salary increases between 2016 and 2019 varied across salary bands. It is important to note that many public servants on the higher salary bands received salary increases equivalent to six per cent and below. Apart from creating anomalies, the manner in which the APNU/AFC Government granted the salary increases penalised the senior public servants for being on the higher salary bands. Indeed, many of these public servants received salary increases that ranged from 5 per cent to 0.5 per cent.
The PNC, now presenting itself as a champion of public servants, also denied the members of the Disciplined Services the one-month bonus they were accustomed to receiving under the PPP/C Government. By restoring this bonus, the PPP/C Government increased the disposable income of the members of the Disciplined Services by $1.2 billion in 2021 and $1.4 billion in 2022. The bonus payment in 2023 will place $1.6 billion into the pockets of the ranks and officers of our Disciplined Services and could hardly be described as ‘pitiful.’
Editor, the facts regarding the treatment of the pensioners by the APNU/AFC Government are well-known. However, it appears the Opposition Leader needs to be made aware of these facts. As a responsible Guyanese, it is therefore important for me to remind the Leader of the Opposition that the APNU/AFC Government failed to deliver on its promise to double the Old Age Pension and make it equivalent to the minimum wage if elected in 2015. The Leader of the Opposition is probably unaware that the APNU/AFC Government, whose party was a key member, removed the electricity and water subsidies and compounded the problem by introducing a Value-Added Tax (VAT) on water and electricity. The PPP/C Government has restored these subsidies and is fulfilling its promise to increase the Old Age Pension. The PPP/C Government has also provided pensioners with one-off cash grants and boosted their disposable income by billions. In 2022, the pensioners were given a cash grant that enhanced their disposable income by $1.8 billion. This year’s cash grant will place an equivalent amount into the pockets of our pensioners.
Editor, development cannot be viewed as a one-track process as reflected in salary increases alone. It is A necessary condition for keeping pace with inflationary pressures, but certainly not sufficient. It remains an important element in the wide array of essential things that the PPP Government is rolling out to benefit its public servants and the workforce directly. The GOAL scholarships that target thousands of public servants as part of the Government’s programme of rapidly building capacity in the workforce, as well as this Government’s massive housing drive, which again targets ordinary Guyanese and, indeed, young professionals in the public sector, are all programmes that significantly contribute to raising the level of welfare of thousands of public servants.
Based on the policies and programmes of the PPP/C Government, it is clear that the party is conscious that there is no political gain from impoverishing any segment of our society. I am sure it is for this reason that the PPP/C Government has been pursuing policies and programmes that improve the well-being of our citizens, including public servants and pensioners.
I wish to encourage the Leader of the Opposition to carefully review the press statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, which outlines some of the programmes and policies implemented by the PPP/C Government since it returned to office in 2020. By doing so, the Leader of the Opposition can make a more informed pronouncement regarding the 6.5 per cent across-the-board salary increase announced by the Minister of Finance.