(The following is an opinion piece written by former President Donald Ramotar)
For some time now, maybe since the 1960s, social scientists have concluded that the most important factor for development is human capital. In other words, a country’s people are its greatest asset/resource.
Experience around the world has proven that this is very true.
Some of the most developed countries in the world have little or no natural resources. No oil, no gold, no diamond, etc., yet they have little poverty and growing economies.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world, which has experienced great achievements despite the fact that it has little or no natural resources.
On the other hand, there are countries where you can find an abundance of natural resources. Yet, the vast majority of the people are extremely poor, suffering from numerous social problems. Some of these countries can be found right here in South America and in Africa.
Clearly, therefore, there is a direct link between development and people. This is an established fact.
Now it is seen as an axiom.
During the PPP/C’s time in office, a lot of resources were put towards developing our human resources. An examination of the budgets of the PPP/C administration will show that education and health were priorities.
Scholarships for young people studying abroad were increased tremendously. The University of Guyana, which was established by an earlier PPP government, had experienced a big increase in admission.
At the primary level, we had reached universal primary education. Students leaving primary schools were almost all accepted at secondary schools. We were on the threshold of universal secondary education.
This was a far cry from what it was in 1992, when just near 30% of children leaving primary school went on to attend secondary school.
The same success story could be found in the progress of health services.
The PPP/C government started open-heart surgeries; we established a Cancer Ward and a Burns Ward. New or totally renovated hospitals wee constructed in every region.
Every nook and cranny in the country had improved health services. Under the PPP/C’s watch, malaria was liquidated, HIV/AIDS cases fell dramatically and the people’s life expectancy increased greatly.
Those achievements coincided with the steady growth and development of Guyana. Our country moved from being a Heavily Indebted Poor Income Country to achieve the status of an Upper Middle Income Development Country. This is according to reports from international financial agencies such as the IDB, World Bank, IMF, etc.
Our country’s experience has once again demonstrated the link mentioned above.
The APNU regime seems hell-bent in reversing these gains.
It is unbelievable that this regime has now moved to curtail access of people to these most vital services.
The increase of the fees for students at the University of Guyana by five percent and now adding VAT on these higher fees is a giant step backward.
The charging of VAT on school fees for children at private schools is also a massive reversal.
These taxes follow the removal of zero-rated items on all educational materials instituted by the PPP/C government.
Moreover, the regime has done the same in relation to health. Fourteen percent on drugs and fees at private hospitals will be extremely onerous on the working people.
The regime seems to be laboring under the assumption that if a person visits a doctor privately or send their children to a private school, then they fall into the ‘rich’ category.
That is not so.
Many people can barely afford to meet their everyday expenses. However, they cannot afford the risk of not educating their children.
Some working people visit doctors privately to save time. Many are hustling a living and see that time is important for them to earn. Therefore, their visits to private institutions are mainly to save time.
The APNU has added these new taxes while the economy is stagnant; no new jobs are being created.
In fact, it is clear that we have had a net loss of jobs since this regime took power less than two years ago.
Barama has had to let go of more than seven hundred workers.
Many Chinese companies have come under a lot of pressure from this regime and as a result, had to shred staff.
This was not surprising since even before the elections, the APNU took some strong anti-Chinese positions. It even appears that many of the robberies on Chinese nationals resulted from the signals that emanated from the APNU.
As a result, many companies contracted, resulting in loss of jobs.
This additional pressure has also arrived at a time when the APNU government has removed essential food items from the zero-rated list that the PPP/C administration had previously implemented. That, of course, has caused items to go up by at least fourteen percent.
This is a far cry from what the regime was saying before they grabbed power.
Then they promised everything, including VAT on food items.
However, these actions show that they have absolutely no concern for the hardships that people are forced to endure every day.
They seem unconcerned about the progress of this country.
All that the new taxes are geared for is to prop-up the high living style of members of this regime.
This is a parasitic group of people who are literally ‘sucking the blood out of’ the productive sector of the Guyanese society.
This is a bureaucratic, capitalist elite. They are clearly using the state apparatus to enrich themselves.
The imposition of new taxes on education and health is undoubtedly anti-developmental, and will certainly result in the waste of our human resources.