Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh on Tuesday assured that there will be a transparent and accountable process in the distribution of the new measures announced by President Dr Irfaan Ali which will see some $2.6 billion in support being given to the vulnerable groups of the Guyanese society.
The measures include a one-off $25,000 cash grant for persons with disabilities and on public assistance as well as for pensioners and one month’s free electricity for households utilising not more than 75kwh.
The cash grant for persons with disabilities and recipients of public assistance is projected to benefit some 25,000 persons while the cash grant for pensioners will target 65,000 persons. The one-month free electricity is estimated to benefit some 40,000 households.
According to the Finance Minister, there are multiple layers of scrutiny to ensure the intended beneficiaries get what they are entitled to receive.
“What we have to do and what we have always done is put in place a mechanism that is robust, that will withstand scrutiny, that is auditable…we’ve done this with multiple initiatives. We’ve done this with the COVID-19 cash grant…we’re doing it right now with the “Because We Care” cash grant,” Dr Singh said during an interview with a social media commentator.
“As we have always done, we ensure that we put in place a mechanism that delivers this support in the most timely and efficient manner to beneficiaries but maintains the necessary safeguards to ensure the integrity of the programme,” he added.
The Finance Minister said the Government’s intention is to have these measures rolled out immediately.
In the case of the cash grants for pensioners and public assistance recipients, he explained that these persons will be able to collect their monies through the same process by which they collect their pensions and public assistance.
This publication made efforts to clarify from the Minister about the exact processes and timelines by which the intended beneficiaries can access these new measures. However, up to press time, the information requested was not forthcoming.
But during his interview, the Finance Minister indicated that the measures will be delivered as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister explained that these cash transfers are part of Government’s aim to provide additional support to the most vulnerable groups in society while also stimulating economic activities which will contribute to growth in all sectors.
He explained that when direct cash transfers are provided for various groups such as to parents of school-aged children, pensioners or public assistance beneficiaries, these citizens in turn use their cash grants in the markets, supermarkets and shops.
“They buy some goods with it (basic necessities), they go to the shops, they go to the service providers, and it then multiplies itself over in the economy. The person in the market gets more sales, they then (with such sales) go to the wholesaler and they buy more. The wholesaler then goes to the manufacturer and he or she buys more, and more economic activity is stimulated,” the Minister noted.
He also contrasted his Government’s approach to improving the lives of citizens to that delivered by the former APNU/AFC Administration.
“We have delivered in one year far more than they delivered in five years. Consider that what we have done is 1. Reduce taxes on the things that matter the most to people and 2. Deliver support to people at a level that cumulatively, over the five-year period that the APNU/AFC were in Government, did not deliver,” the Finance Minister said.
As to how the various cash grants and other measures will be sustainable on a long-term basis, the Finance Minister explained that the interventions may seem like an immediate cost to the treasury but that these measures will in fact stimulate more economic activities, provide a boost to various sectors and even create more jobs.
“When you reduce taxes and reduce the cost of doing business, or when you deliver support to households, that money doesn’t vanish into thin air, it stimulates economic activity. So, by reducing the cost of construction – you stimulate home construction activity, by reducing the cost of mining activities or the cost of agriculture, by removing taxes on heavy equipment, you stimulate economic activity. So, while there may be an immediate or short-term fiscal cost, the real impact is in the stimulation of economic activity that then generates jobs that then generates incomes,” Minister Singh posited.