Poll shows strong support for flood relief & agriculture

Dear Editor,
There is strong support for flood relief and greater investment in agriculture and infrastructure, and assistance to farmers and enforcement of local content laws in the oil industry, according to the findings of an opinion poll conducted in the latter half of July by this writer.
The poll also finds complaints about rising cost of living, soaring crime (particularly boldly committed ‘choke-and-rob’), and stagnant wages that are not keeping up with rising prices. Concerns have also been expressed about joblessness, race relations, the recalcitrant behaviour of the Opposition, and political instability, among other perceived problems.
However, Government has been praised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding, public works and infrastructure, local development, housing, education, social security, oil and gas, and public information, among other departments. In general, a majority of the public praise the Government for “trying” to address the challenges it faces, noting it has performed better than the preceding Granger Administration.
The poll interviewed 750 respondents (41% Indians, 30% Africans, 18% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, and 1% other ethnic categories) reflecting the demographics of the population.
Asked if Government should roll out another round of economic stimulus or pandemic assistance for low-income families, 82% said yes, with only 8% opposing and 10% not offering an opinion. Many respondents caution that Government should not create a dependency syndrome in overreaches to help the poor.
Many respondents feel Government should focus on raising salaries and creating jobs, saying workers need livable wages rather than handouts. They note that salary is not keeping pace with inflation, and they complain that costs for basic goods are going up almost every week.
Respondents also call on Government to help create jobs to address the swell of unemployed from COVID and work termination during the coalition period of governance. On this note, they express support for the reopening of sugar estates of GuySuCo. However, they caution that only a small fraction of former terminated workers has been rehired. Former GuySuCo workers say they are still waiting to be hired. The poll finds that those rehired at the reopened estates are very pleased at getting on a payroll, resulting in smiling faces.
Asked if Government should help farmers and households affected by flood, almost everyone answered positively. Asked if Government should invest more in agriculture, 74% of all respondents said yes, with 18% saying no, and 8% not offering an opinion.
The public feels Government should not rely on oil and gas for growth, but diversification of the economy.
On ministerial performance, asked whom they would rate as the most outstanding Minister, Anil Nandlall leads the list for his legal acumen and parliamentary presentations. Nandlall has an approval rating of 74% and disapproval of 19%, with 7% not offering a view on his performance.
All of the Ministers are praised for their performance and outreaches, and it is felt that they are doing a better job than their predecessors.
On the Opposition side, Jermaine Figueira (new PAC Chair) and Ganesh Mahipaul stand out as the most outstanding MPs. The Opposition is critiqued (criticised) for ‘opposing for opposing sake’, and not offering workable solutions to problems.
Asked if GECOM should terminate staff charged for attempted election rigging, 59% said yes, with 31% saying no and 10% saying ‘not sure’. Many feel that those involved in rigging should have been long gone, terminated immediately after the declaration of the results last year August.
Asked if they think the country is moving in the right direction, 48% said yes, with 43% saying no and 9% not sure.
Respondents were also queried about the oil and gas contracts. Just half the population is au fait or paying attention to “oil”. The unemployed and lower and middle classes are more worried about eking out a living and daily survival, rather than focusing on oil and gas matters and how much revenue is being received. Of those familiar with the oil contract, almost all of them agree the benefits are lopsided in favour of the oil companies, and that Guyana’s royalty and profit sharing are low. They feel the contract should be honoured, and renegotiated if possible. They are not supportive of unilateral violations of the agreement, but they are of the view that the oil companies must honour local content laws to benefit Guyanese.
Respondents praise Minister Vickram Bharrat for his performance at the Natural Resources Ministry and for addressing the challenges of the emerging oil and gas industry.

Yours truly,
Dr Vishnu Bisram