Opposition Leader unimpressed by Govt’s sloth in dealing with fuel crisis

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Recalling the manner in which his then government dealt with increases in fuel prices on the world market, former president Dr Bharrat Jagdeo wants a timely and effective intervention from the government on the issue.

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

With the rise in fuel prices and consequent protests, it had been announced that cabinet would deliberate on the issue.

Opposition Leader Jagdeo is however unimpressed by this approach. During a press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo recalled that this issue used to be solved over a phone call.

“Cabinet (is) to explore options of what they will do about fuel prices? Now, (former Finance Minister) Ashni Singh would call me and say, the prices have gone up and here is the room because we moved up the prices when the prices were low and we drop them when the prices are high, as a stabilizer.”

“And I said ok go ahead, as president. And I’m sure he did the same thing with [Donald] Ramotar, call him and say look at frame work. One sheet of paper… The prices have moved, that’s what you do. They now need a whole cabinet to explore this about what they do with the fuel. Is this not total incompetence?” Jagdeo questioned.

In defending the government’s caution, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had specifically alluded to considerations about Guyana’s Balance of Payment.

Moreover, he noted the opposition calls for a previously used tax formula to be employed to ease the burden of increased fuel prices on citizens. However, he said while the previous administration was able to forego taxes to maintain fuel prices in the past, the conditions now were different.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

“They say they had a formula in place where they used to reduce the excise tax so that people used to buy gas at the same price they used to buy before. I’m aware that indeed they had such a formula, but this is not only about whether government will still get the same amount of revenues that they had budgeted. It also has that external side… the side that has to do with finding the foreign currency to buy the same quantity of gas that you were consuming when the prices were low,” Jordan said in a release.

Minibus and Hire car operators have already protested the hike in fuel prices.

Some had called for the government to look into the situation urgently as they are on the breadline.

In September 2017, world market prices for fuel increased due in part to the hurricane conditions in the southern hemisphere, which resulted in GuyOil adjusting the prices in gasoline, diesel and kerosene to a higher cost.

Again, in February of this year, Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil) adjusted its prices upwards. Since then the prices have been increasing incrementally.

In addition to the concerns raised by the transportation sector, rice farmers and producers, also made calls on Government to review its tax policies on fuel with a view to ease the “burden” on the productive sector.

At a protest demonstration held last week in front of the Ministry of Finance, the Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA) reiterated its call for Government to reintroduce a sliding tax rate for rice farmers in light of the high cost of fuel and especially in light of ongoing period of land preparation.

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