Govt says will ensure “transparent and rapid” disbursement of $4.5B assistance to households

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The Government has said it will seek to ensure that the $4.5 Billion promised to citizens as part of a direct assistance to communities is disbursed in a “transparent and rapid manner”.

According to Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Head of State Irfaan Ali made the promise to bring immediate relief to families and efforts are being made to ensure that it is fulfilled soon.

“Right now we are looking at how the money could be disbursed in a transparent way and how it could reach the people who actually need the help,” Jagdeo said during a media engagement on Friday afternoon.

He added: “There are large numbers of people out there who need assistance from the Government of Guyana, through either help for food to feed their families or some cash assistance.”

Jagdeo posited that the major issue before government now is whether it could use money from the treasury or it would have to raise the sum in the interim before there is a budget through borrowing, and once the budget is passed to repay that loan.

He expressed that the previous administration did not offer anything of substance as direct assistance to families, but rather chose to spend millions of US dollars on the Ocean View hospital project which is marred in controversy and still cannot be utilised at the moment to treat or accommodate COVID-19 patients.

During his inauguration speech, President Dr Ali had announced that “we have commenced work on securing immediately an initial sum of $4.5 billion as emergency response to help at the household level”.

Meanwhile, Jagdeo expressed that when the new government assumed political office, it found “shocking details” of the previous administration’s mismanagement in relation to the country’s response to the pandemic.

“Frankly speaking, it was shocking about the state or disorganisation and the lack of a clear strategy to address an existential issue for Guyana”.

“There was no appropriate structure apart from the procurement and material deficit, there wasn’t the appropriate structure to address the pandemic,” Jagdeo detailed.

He said that efforts are being made to engage the international community to acquire the needed resources.

He explained that the Prime Minister and Minister of Health are working along with the international organisations and are putting in place a technical structure to deal with both the medial response as well as the socio-economic response.

“So the efforts at the ministry has been enormous in terms of getting more materials. More capability to test as well as the testing kits,” Jagdeo added.

The former David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration had initially established a COVID-19 Task Force comprising solely of ministerial representatives and political appointees to deal with the pandemic.

Civil society organisations, including the members of the Private Sector, had called for the Task Force to be more inclusive – to no avail.