It is impossible to live on $35,000 minimum wage

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Dear Editor

We believe that each and every person in Guyana has the right to a decent standard of living. We do not mean bare survival. We mean a life with dignity. We believe that it is impossible to live with dignity on the minimum wage of $35,000. The Members of Parliament say different, so we would like them to prove it.

The basic salary each month for an MP is $158,898, plus duty free concessions and travel allowances. Ministers get a basic salary of $552,334, duty free concessions and a chauffeur allowance of $96,820. We are asking all the members of Parliament to give up their current salaries, allowances and exemptions for 6 months and live on $35,000 a month.

They must not obtain money from any other source as that would be cheating. So for example they must not take any loans, incur any debt or accept any gifts in lieu of money. MPs who are earning money from other sources must not use that money to live on during the 6 months.

At the end of the 6 months we would like our MPs to publish their expenditure showing how they have managed to live a decent life on $35,000 per month.  We would like to see how they are able to pay for books, food, housing, school fees, electricity, water, gas, transportation etc. If they are unable to do this, then we request the following:

  1. An immediate doubling of the minimum wage to $70,000
  2. An immediate increase in the tax free allowance from $50,000 per month to $80,000 so that all working Guyanese benefit from the increase.
  3. An immediate reduction in the rate of VAT from 16% to 10% so that all Guyanese including the business sector benefit from lower prices.

Article 15 of our Constitution states that “the goal of economic development includes the objective of laying the material basis for the greatest possible satisfaction of the people’s growing material, cultural and intellectual requirements.”

Economic development in our country is unjust, inequitable and contrary to our Constitutional principles.  Let all of us, wealthy and poor Guyanese, unite for justice. Guyana is rich in natural resources. Let us share our national patrimony in a more equitable way so that each of us can live in peace, dignity and freedom.

Yours sincerely,

Ms. Melinda Janki – Justice Institute Guyana

Mrs. Ronella Hill-Wharton – Justice Institute Guyana

Bishop Francis Alleyne, OSB – Roman Catholic Bishop in Guyana

Rev. Moses Prashad – Calvary Evangelical Luther Church

Rev. Keith Haley – Guyana Congregational Union

Mr. Joel Simpson – Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Ms. Wintress White – Red Thread

Mr. Stanly Phillips, – Youths for Guyana

Quincy McEwan – Guyana Trans United

Ms. Esther Robinson – Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples

Ms. Jaqueline Lamazon – 1763 Monument Organisation

Dimitri Nicholson – Youth Challenge Guyana

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