Visits to the Mahaica, Annandale and Mon Repos municipal markets, on the East Coast of Demerara, on Saturday by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and other Members of Parliament, unearthed a number of problems being experienced by market vendors and residents of those communities.
The team, which also included Opposition Members of Parliament Irfaan Ali and Anil Nandlall, heard the concerns expressed by market vendors. A prevailing concern from stallholders of these East Coast markets was a decline in sales.
Speaking after the outreach, Jagdeo expressed the need for a more relaxed Value Added Tax (VAT) policy. He stated that what the current policy did was leave more and more people and by extension the economy, deprived of money.
“That’s the uniform concern expressed everywhere that I’ve gone. I was at Leonora, Mahaica, Annandale and Mon Repos; but I’ve also visited markets in Mabaruma and different parts of Berbice.”
“And this is precisely what we’re arguing, that if the Government takes so much money out of the system, it sucks all of these resources from people’s pockets through increased taxes. Take VAT, we believe they have collected net $21 billion more than people paid on VAT last year. That comes from people’s pockets.”
According to Jagdeo, this reduces demand for goods and services on a nationwide scale. The economist explained that this reflected in the reduced sales in the market, shops, the taxi drivers plying their trade and other enterprises.
“The fishermen, the meat and vegetable sellers, the farmers, it affects the whole country. Even the stores in the city, you can see this. So the Government needs to focus more on stimulating economic activities.”
Jagdeo urged that should the economy and consumer spending be stimulated, problems being experienced with unemployment and the exchange rate will be eradicated.
“Cause if they do that, then the economy will expand. There will be more jobs and we will also have more foreign currency so that we can keep the exchange rate stable.”
Jagdeo also lamented that despite bringing these things to the Government’s attention, there seems to be a casual attitude on the part of officials to the matter.
“We have pointed out these things ad nauseam to the Government, but they seem unconcerned. It’s affecting all Guyanese, the sloth in the economy. So I will continue going out and reaching out to people and talking to them.”
“And I wish more of them (Government) will come to the markets and go to people and listen to the concerns (of) ordinary people, of every political persuasion, race and religion in this country.
Other issues which were raised by market vendors included the prohibitive cost for fertiliser to grow crops. In addition, some highlighted that enterprising individuals who do not pay rent to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) would come and steal their sales.
During his visit to Annandale Market, sugar workers also used the opportunity to picket against the transfer of workers from LBI to Enmore. The workers have been protesting the merger, which they have insisted will be devastating to those who have to travel.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has staunchly been in the workers’ corner. GAWU President Komal Chand had called on the Sugar Corporation to allow the much-needed dialogue that could see a remedy to the situation.
He said the Union will have to consider some “anomalies” between the rates workers at LBI received and that which they are being offered should they have to go to Enmore. Chand added that the situation is more than unfair since persons will be travelling from varying distances to get to Enmore, while the monies have been significantly slashed.
The visits to the markets along the East Coast of Demerara follow one which the Opposition Leader carried out on March 25, at the Leonora Market on the West Coast of Demerara.
At that outreach, Jagdeo also ascertained from both market vendors and customers about the problems that they are experiencing.