The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has once again expressed concerns that the COVID-19 Task Force – which comprises of caretaker ministers – is not functioning as expected.
This is the second time the Commission would have expressed these concerns, noting that the Task Force must be restructured “to reflect a truly national task force, inclusive of all major stakeholders, social, business, religious and political, from a wide cross section of the country”.
Just last month, Country Representative of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) Dr William Adu-Krow lamented that Guyana’s COVID-19 situation is heavily influenced by politics.
See full statement from the PSC:
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) is gravely concerned that the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) appointed to “coordinate and oversee the measures being taken by various front-line agencies and to give these agencies, especially our health workers, the support they need”, is not functioning in several key areas as would be expected.
The PSC wishes to emphasize our disappointment in the manner in which the government has approached the management of the COVID-19 crisis which daily threatens the lives and economic welfare of all citizens and businesses of Guyana.
The PSC wishes to reiterate, as we stated since March 31, 2020, that the NCTF must be restructured to reflect a truly national task force, inclusive of all major stakeholders, social, business, religious and political, from a wide cross section of the country. The Task Force must include and embrace health professionals, private sector business support organizations, sectorial bodies, NGOs, and an economic committee to address the impacts on the economy and to implement a recovery plan.
The Private Sector Commission, from the beginning, has supported the mandatory use of masks, the practice of effective social distancing, and the need for sufficient COVID-19 tests to be conducted.
Further, the PSC has submitted several comprehensive recommendations for economic measures to relieve the financial impact on the country and, in particular, economic measures to cushion the impact on small businesses and vulnerable individual citizens. These measures include tax relief, emergency funding, deferment of payment for public utility services, and rescheduling of loans and mortgages.
In the current political environment, coupled to the COVID-19 health crisis, our economy is now fighting to stay afloat. Businesses are shutting down; employees have been laid off in some cases and citizens are without much needed economic relief. Guyana is likely to experience its worse economic recession over the last two or three decades. Tremendous uncertainty lies ahead for the remainder of 2020.
Concurrently, Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Gobind Ganga in the online edition of the Caribbean Economic Forum 2020, highlighted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s projected non-oil growth, previously pegged at some five percent, has been revised to negative five to seven percent.
The PSC strongly believes that there is a dire need for additional extensive testing to be conducted, much better management of public information, adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment and sufficient contact tracing to be implemented and followed up.
There must be national coordination in the management of this health crisis.
The PSC continues to do its part by frequently being engaged with the Civil Defence Commission and other key stakeholders. In addition, the PSC and its member organizations have all contributed to several outreaches across Guyana, focused on economic relief to all citizens, including a hamper distribution exercise, donation of PPE’s to various hospitals, etc. Further, we are in the process of providing economic assistance to the indigenous communities, most recently at Santa Rosa in the form of food supplies and PPEs.
The Private Sector Commission will continue to advocate on behalf of the best interest of all stakeholders, and urge that the government convene a truly National Task Force, a Task Force which includes the country’s most qualified health professionals and all of the private hospitals.
It is essential, too, that an Economic Committee is established within the Task Force which is represented from the private sector, NGOs and the major political parties to plan and implement a National Economic Recovery Programme.