…tells diaspora country will not progress under coalition
With Guyana expecting to reap massive wealth from its oil-rich ocean floor, former President and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes that the governing A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition does not have the vision to manage the country through the economic transformation it is about to experience.
In fact, he told the Guyanese diaspora in New York over the weekend that the Government’s economic philosophy is debilitating for Guyana and the country would not progress as long as it was in power.
Jagdeo, who is also the General Secretary of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), was at the time speaking at a fundraising luncheon, where he noted that everyone, including the coalition’s supporters, knew that it has been mismanaging the country and economy.
“You don’t even need to convince anyone, because they’ve seen a series of disastrous decisions taken on the economic side that will harm Guyana not just now but way into the future,” he stated.
He pointed out that since going into office in 2015, the coalition has been spending enormously.
According to the Opposition Leader, the APNU/AFC has spent over $1.1 trillion while increasing tax collection by some $88 billion during its four and half years in office. He noted when the PPP left office after 23 years in 2014, the total tax collection in Guyana was $135 billion and now it was pegged at nearly $230 billion.
“[That’s] nearly 70 per cent increase in overall taxation that has sucked all of this money out of the system. That is why you have such tightness – a slowdown in retail trade and every other sector because disposable income is now with Government, they took it in taxes,” he stressed.
In addition to the increased spending and increased taxes, Jagdeo said the coalition has also increased borrowing, racking up close to $900 million in debt over the past four-plus years. This surge in external debt, he noted, will leave Guyana in a state it was in the early 90s, whereby all of the country’s money will go back into repaying these debts.
The former Head of State recalled when the PPP took office in 1992, the external debt was some 900 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that is, nine times the size of the economy at the time. He added that they had to use 153 per cent of the country’s revenue to service debt.
According to Jagdeo, by the time the PPP left office, it was using four to five per cent of revenue to service external debt, which was US$1.1 billion in total. Guyana’s economy at that time was pegged at US$4 billion, he added.
The Opposition Leader went on to outline that they would not have mind the surge in spending had it improved the welfare of the populace.
“So [they] increase spending, but if you increase spending and improve welfare – so you get better education, etc – then it’s fine. But education is deteriorating, the hospitals are getting shortage of drugs, so more spending and the services are deteriorating… They’ve taken away all the ‘grow poor’ policies we’ve had. They removed the subsidies – free water for pensioners, remove the grant from the schoolkids, etc. So, no improvement in welfare although they spent $1.1 trillion,” he contended.
On the other hand, Jagdeo further pointed out that every single sector in the economy was in trouble. Mining, forestry, rice, sugar, retail trade and construction are all on the decline, he added. Without oil and the investments associated with that budding sector, which he said are the only thing happening now, Guyana would be in a serious bind.
“So, you spend $1.1 trillion, you increased tax by $88 billion, you borrow another $900 million and there is practically nothing to show for it. The economy is practically flat-lining and people are losing welfare,” he asserted.
Against this backdrop, the Opposition Leader posited that the PPP did not have to do much to make a case because the country already knew that the governing coalition could not manage the economy. He added it also lacked a vision or plans to pitch to Guyanese on the 2020 campaign trail.
“They’ve broken every single promise to the sugar workers, rice farmers, university students, pensioners, Amerindians, miners, to people in the forestry sector. Every single group has seen a deterioration in the conditions that they were operating in… Their policies have been decimating to many sectors so they can’t go back and make new promises to these people,” the Opposition Leader stated.
As such, Jagdeo asserted that it was crucial that the PPP win the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections so that it could take back the country and resume the growth path it had in place when it left office less than five years ago.