By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Faciliites) Bill 2015 was on Thursday, July 09 passed by the APNU+AFC Parliamentarians in the absence of the People’s Progressive Party Opposition.
This is now the second piece of legislation passed by the government in the absence of the PPP/C. The Bill slashes several benefits for Guyana’s former Presidents – Samuel Hinds, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar.
The Bill limits expenses incurred for utilities such as telephone, water and electricity to $25,000 each month. It also states that “services of personal and household staff, including a gardener, provided that the total number of such staff shall not exceed three persons, including any member of the staff who may be on earned vacation or sick leave.”
Further, the Former Presidents are subject to a financial limit of $200,000 per annum to cover medical expenses; however the reimbursement is only given if the said medical treatment is not available at local public health institutions.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who presented the Bill to the National Assembly stated that “we have a situation where a former President is enjoying a tax free pension equivalent to 7/8 of the salary of a sitting President.”
He pointed out that although the United States has a better economy than Guyana, the pension pales in comparison to the pension and benefits to the Former Presidents of the US.
He noted too that the Former President of the USA is paid a taxable pension; while under the previous legislation, the pension was not taxable.
He described the previous piece of legislation as “scandalous and vulgar,” as he made his presentation in the National Assembly.
“I don’t believe that taxpayers should be footing the bill for all these benefits when he is gainfully employed in economic activity,” Jordan stated.
Jordan also noted that former president Bharrat Jagdeo recently requested two first class tickets to the cost of some $7 million. The three former Presidents currently enjoy a pension of $1.4 million.
It should be noted that while the Bill does not make any changes to this, it places several caps on benefits enjoyed.