Some 94 per cent of Guyanese respondents in a popular opinion poll expressed that the rising cost of living is one of the most serious problems facing the nation.
Following the change in political administration last year, 95 per cent of respondents observed a major decline in their purchasing power which they noted is seriously hurting their quality of life.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration has been severely criticised for its implementation of anti-poor policies and introduction of unnecessary taxes and fees, which will place great financial burdens on the working class.
The parliamentary Opposition condemned the Government’s justification of these decisions, explaining that it was backward to raise revenue collection by taking more money out of the population’s pockets.
While the previous Administration had its fair share of criticism, the opinion poll shows that a majority of Guyanese feel they are worse off today than under People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) rule.
The opinion survey was conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA), spearheaded by well-known pollster Dr Vishnu Bisram.
The stratified random sample survey comprised 710 registered voters to reflect the demographic composition of the population. The findings are analysed at a 95 per cent significance level with a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.
According to the poll, people expressed limited confidence in the coalition Government’s ability to manage the economy (bring in investment, create jobs, promote growth, etc).
Asked if they approve of Government’s handling of the economy, 34 per cent said “yes”, while some 55 per cent said “no”. An overwhelming majority (92 per cent) said that unemployment was a serious concern, pointing out that too many people have been out of work since the change in government.
They claim that it was very difficult for the unemployed as well as the youth, fresh out of high school or tertiary institutions, to find meaningful work to provide for themselves or their families.
The general population and the business community describe the existence of a very sluggish economy that has contracted significantly since the coalition came into office.
Businesses and the self-employed (vendors, barbers, cosmetologists, taxi drivers, cleaners, etc) say revenues and/or incomes have declined between 35 per cent and 55 per cent.
Some say they lost their jobs because of a slowing economy or because of political and racial victimisation.
Many businesses claim that revenues were not enough to cover costs of operations saying that they were forced to lay off staff.
Rice and other farmers as well as some agro industrialists complain that prices cannot compensate for cost of production and that they were retrenching workers as well as cutting back on farming or their business enterprise.
Many say that the present situation reminds them of the 1980s when they could barely survive.
Asked about their current economic status relative to the preceding PPP/C period of governance, two per cent of the respondents say they are “better off” today than under the PPP regime, with five per cent saying that their economic status is “about the same” as under the PPP.
Over three quarters (77 per cent), however, say that they are worse off.
However, even though they feel they are worse off under the APNU/AFC, traditional PNC supporters say they are sticking with the government.
Some of them suggest that the PNC-led Government needs more time to turn around the economy.