Economic advisor to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Peter Ramsaroop is warning that the Guyana economy is currently in no position to withstand the imminent financial hardships that will undoubtedly face Guyanese with the advent of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
This is in addition to the financial ramifications of effectively having the country at a standstill as a result of the delayed elections now compounded by the global pandemic.
The stark warning was given during an exclusive interview with this publication recently and he suggested, “…when you have that lack of planning and economic meltdown as we have seen over the last five years, and given the rapid threat and decline of our economy, every citizen, business and next Government will struggle to cope with both the economic shock and economic contraction.”
He used the occasion to remind also that three months into the year, the country is still without a budget for the year.
The last budget, he reminded, was presented over a year ago and noted also that at the end of each year, monies not expended for that fiscal year are supposed to be returned to the Consolidated Fund.
Weighing in on the current crisis facing Guyana both from the elections impasse and the COVID-19 entrance into Guyana, he said: “over the last five years the APNU/AFC (A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change) Administration took away all our safety nets in downsizing and spending out our reserves in the Bank of Guyana and in addition, our gold reserves.”
“Given we have no 2020 budget, tax revenues will be impacted, trade has come to a halt, exports and imports at a standstill, money will become scarce in our nation.” he lamented.
He noted too that the extended hiatus of business as a result of the elections impasse coupled with COVID-19 will no doubt plunge the country in a financial crisis—a crisis that will require leadership.
As such, he called on the Guyana Elections Commission to urgently set about declaring the lawful results of the 2020 elections and to have “Dr Irfaan Ali who we strongly believe is the President-elect outline a task force to develop plans to manage the threats.”
The financial analyst told INews that given the lack of available financial resources treating with COVID-19, while seeking to resuscitate an economy that is in shambles, will require all hands on deck, including the Private Sector and the international community.
According to Ramsaroop, “the shock at our system and Guyana underlying structure is not set up to withstand the downslide given every major sector, from sugar, rice, gold, agriculture and others have been ignored by the Granger Government over the last five years.”
He urged the Private Sector that everyone should be “working alongside a new Government to look at reshaping our economy for the future.”
According to Ramsaroop, “while stimulus packages such as the reversal of the 200 taxes will make a positive impact to our citizens, looking at long term sustainable industries such as plantation agriculture as outlined in the PPP/C manifesto will be the key to sustain future threats.”
The PPP advisor reminded that trade “is a major component of our economy and this has come to a standstill, and with our purchasing power severely impacted, the need for new thinking is evident.”
He has since also called for an immediate spending targeting the containment and treatment of the disease while pointing out that this needs to be tied to the completion of the March 2 election and the swearing-in of a new President.