The PNC parliamentary motion – sheer lunacy and hypocrisy

Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana’s Vice President, last week reiterated that Guyana’s oil and gas resources will not be squandered. Under the leadership of President Irfaan Ali and inspired by the economic vision that Bharrat Jagdeo himself has promoted since his ascension to the Presidency in 1999, Guyana’s resources will be utilised to build Guyana’s economic and social infrastructure so that every Guyanese family can live in an economically-empowered country. It is in this context that Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP have repeatedly said Guyana will not make the same mistake as countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and other oil-based economies have made.
With Guyana now ranked among the significant oil-producing countries of the world, it is determined to not transform its economy into an oil-based economy. Guyana is crafting a path where oil and gas are elements of a very diversified economy, one in which agriculture will remain the foundation. In his remarks about Trinidad last week, Bharrat Jagdeo ensured everyone knew Guyana’s development trajectory includes utilising early income from oil to build our social and economic infrastructure to support a diversified economy to bring prosperity for every Guyanese. With the global downturn today, countries that have had oil-based economies for more than 50 years, and as many as a hundred years, and ignored or neglected other areas of their economies are today facing severe economic difficulties. Trinidad is just one of those countries. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was simply making the point that Guyana has learnt these lessons well.
It is in this context, that the PNC’s latest scam exposes their desperation. Their lunacy continues unabated. Their obsession with crazy mathematics knows no bounds. They continue their invention of crazy, wacky mathematics. In a motion they have introduced in Parliament, in the name of MP Annette Ferguson, the PNC is demanding that the Irfaan Ali-led PPP Government provides a $200,000 cash transfer every quarter to every Guyanese above the age of 18. This is the same PNC which led the Government of Guyana between 2015 and 2020 during which time they took away from people the $10,000 per child school grant; removed the water and electricity subsidies for pensioners; introduced VAT on water, electricity, food and medicines and introduced about 200 new or increased taxes. This is the same PNC that took away jobs from more than 7000 sugar workers and caused more than 37,000 people to lose their jobs and introduced more than 100 per cent increases in agriculture land lease rates.
While in Government, they were the “takeaway” people; now in opposition, they want to be the “giving” people. We can only rejoice in this ideological transformation because now the PNC can join the PPP Government which has always sought ways and means to give more to people. The only problem is that the PNC is demanding the Government give to people what we do not have. Their obsession with weird mathematics is just mind-numbing. There is nothing ideologically and philosophically wrong wanting to give cash transfers to people from oil revenues. But giving cash transfers that exceed oil revenue is not possible and is reckless.
The Guyanese people, like people everywhere on this earth, need relief from the global escalating cost of living. Responsible leaders anticipated the fallout from a number of global events that have been around for some time, including the three-year-old COVID-19 crisis. In Guyana’s case, a number of Government interventions addressed the problem of cost-of-living rise and have provided various individual and population-wide relief interventions since August 2020 when President Irfaan Ali was sworn into Government. Last year alone (2021), the PPP Government granted more than $20 billion in cash transfers. But to the President’s and the PPP’s credit, they anticipated that further, additional interventions will be necessary in 2022 and, in fact, budgeted $5 billion in Budget 2022 for this purpose, in addition to the almost $20 billion in Budget 2022 in direct cash-transfer programmes that are part of the regular statutory support that the Government provides in entitlement programmes.
The PNC, of which Aubrey Norton was a part, had a chance and as the crisis began in March 2020 were too busy trying to rig an election and for five months ignored focusing any attention on the crisis that was emerging. Their madness knows no bounds. Now, they have submitted a parliamentary motion demanding that the Government provides every adult Guyanese with $200,000 per quarter per year, using the oil money. In case anyone has not done the math, at approximately 600,000 adults above age 18, that comes up to about US$2.4 billion for 2022. The oil money generated in 2022 will not be able to support this cash grant proposed by the PNC. But they just throw things in the air, never considering the feasibility of what they propose, because they never are serious about these things.
Just in case anyone is in doubt, I support another cash transfer like we did in 2020 and in 2021. But it has to be realistic. Guyana between 2019 and end of 2021 accumulated US$608 million. It is expected that in 2022, Guyana’s oil income will increase, but in 2022, it is unlikely, it will reach US$2.4 billion. Thus, a motion is introduced that has no basis in reality. It is based on the PNC’s reckless habit of wild spending without ensuring that the country is developed. The PNC have gone in stark lunacy-mode again.