Below is a statement by the The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG):
FITUG having examined the 2017 Budget has come to the conclusion that the Government has fallen woefully short of its promise of “Delivering the Good Life to All Guyanese”.
Several provisions in the 2017 Budget will only serve to engender even greater hardships on our already overburdened working-class, indeed all working-people.
The imposition of VAT [Valued Added Tax] on electricity and water; the reduction in the number of VAT exempted and zero-rated items which will affect medical supplies and services and treatments, among others; the introduction of an environmental tax; the increases in the costs of passports; the introduction of fees for TIN certificates; the massive increases in the costs for a number of licenses, fees and penalties; the increase in the departure tax, as well as other increases are some of the new pressures that the 2017 Budget has brought on to be borne by the workers, pensioners, and other ordinary Guyanese come January, 2017.
The latest burdens to be added comes just a few months after the Government increased about one hundred and forty (140) taxes, some as high as 1,200 per cent. Worst yet is that more are still to come such as the introduction of parking meters and the rumoured increases of rates and taxes, land lease fees and the Demerara Harbour Bridge tolls.
The Budgetary “cushions” through the marginal reduction of VAT or the income tax adjustments or the paltry pension increase will more than be consumed by the already approved and now proposed changes, most of which have been and again will be passed on to the consumer. In short, Budget 2017 puts the masses of Guyanese at a severe disadvantage and will certainly worsen the already bad social conditions in the country.
FITUG also found the Budget to be sorely lacking. There are hardly any specific details or policies to address the current and rising unemployment situation. We recall that the Minister in his inaugural Budget address, in 2015, speaking to youth unemployment, then estimated at about 40 per cent by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Then pointing out that unemployment was fuelling:- “crime and drugs; poverty; and reduced life expectancy”. With this in mind we are most perturbed, given the large numbers who have since swelled the ranks of the unemployed, that very little, if not scant, attention has been paid to such a crucial issue especially given the severe consequences that the Minister drew to attention in his earlier address.
Moreover, the Federation was also dismayed to learn that the Budget did not address, in a positive way, the plight of the sugar workers. For two (2) years now, thousands of workers and their families are being forced to contend with no pay increases.
That aside the workers are faced with other assaults on their rights and benefits. In the face of such denials, it is damning that large sums are being found to fund super-salaried Government officials and the top echelons of the sugar industry and, possibly, soon a former high office holder.
Budget 2017 with its draconian measures can be rightly seen as an anti-working class Budget. It will further undo many of the positive gains made in the past years and serve to push many ordinary Guyanese into an impoverished state.
The FITUG urges to Granger Administration to re-look, with a view to rescind, the many measures which will be severe blows on, and badly hurt the people especially, the poor and working-people of our country.