‘Today, public servants are making better wages than private sector workers’ – Parag

Minister of Public Service Sonia Parag

Minister of Public Service Sonia Parag has boasted that currently, many public servants are receiving better wages and benefits than workers in the private sector – a major turnaround from the situation only just a few years ago.

She made this point in response to comments made by Opposition Member of Parliament Coretta McDonald and former APNU+AFC parliamentarian Carl Greenidge.

The duo is quoted as calling for Guyanese workers to be better paid.

In response, Parag agreed that “it is an undeniable fact that the hardworking people of Guyana deserve better.”

“Not just better salaries, but increased and improved access to opportunities such as housing, academic advancements, etc. that will elevate their standard of living,” the Minister emphasised.

But she noted that such opportunities are being created today by the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic government.

According to the Minister, it is obvious that the emergence of the country’s thriving oil and gas sector will attract foreigners, whether companies, refugees or skilled workers. This, she said, is neither unique to Guyana nor the PPP/C administration.

“The only anomaly now is that the Dr. Irfaan Ali-led government has compiled and enacted the groundbreaking Local Content legislation which mandates the prioritisation of Guyanese workers and entities,” Minister Parag explained.

Noting that Greenidge pointed to the existence of “economic injustices” which sees foreign nationals earning more than their Guyanese counterparts, the Minister referred to local content stipulations.

“I am sure that a learned man like Mr. Greenidge would know that the PPP/C Government has specified under the Local Content law that Guyanese who possess the same skills and competencies as their foreign counterparts must be paid equally. We have made sure that doing otherwise is punishable by law.

“So, if Mr. Greenidge’s claims are factual, it is my genuine hope that he will allow good sense to prevail and report these breaches with haste, especially since it is claimed that “the incomes and lives of Guyanese who object is being threatened”,” the Minister contended.

Moreover, she responded to Greenidge’s remarks that Guyana must pay keen attention to “sustaining an equitable financial strategy that can benefit the working class.”

“I am sure that being a Former PNC Minister of Finance, Mr. Greenidge can appreciate the fact that the PPP/C Government is doing just that. Our incremental approach to salary increases is not only sustainable, but strategically balanced with the issuance of a billions of dollars’ worth of cash grants that every single Guyanese has benefitted from in one way or another,” the Minister pointed out.

In fact, she reminded that for years, there public servants had been pursuing greener pastures in the private sector.  But now, the situation is different.

“…while the APNU+AFC and its associates barefacedly continue to lament on this [migration of workers from public sector to private sector], it must be clarified that their government did nothing to rectify the situation.

“When the PPP/C assumed office, work started in this direction, and today, public servants are making better wages and salaries at certain levels than the private sector. For example, the salary of a police constable is not on par with that of a bank teller,” Minister Parag emphasised.

“So, when this government talks about improving the lives of our public servants, it is accompanied by actions and tangible results,” she added.

Moreover, the Minister expressed that now, Guyanese from all walks of life, in and out of the public sector, now have the opportunity, like never before, to prioritise and pursue various levels of academic advancement (from certificates all the way to PhDs), nurture skills, and build capacity, without having to budget their earnings for it.

“Under the 20,000 Online Scholarships Programme, we have surpassed our promises and delivered with flying colours. Even Mr. Greenidge’s colleagues who continue to criticise the government have benefited and will continue to benefit with fairness,” Parag stated.

She went on to note that Greenidge also alluded to COVID-19 and the rising cost of living, but argued that in all his portrayal of sheer “doom and gloom”, he failed to mention that Guyana is one of the few countries that managed to stay in the green during the pandemic, due to the swift, comprehensive and strategic actions of the PPP government.

“While Mr. Greenidge’s cohorts in the APNU+AFC were busy attempting to steal votes and squat in public offices, the PPP/C was devising a plan for the people; a plan that was promptly implemented when President Ali was finally sworn in on August 2, 2020,” Parag reminded.

“In addition to providing a series of tax incentives and issuing the $25,000 cash grant for every household, the PPP/C Government, Guyana was one of the few countries in the world that managed to secure sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for our people. The very vaccines that APNU+AFC Members were immunized with, but insisted that Guyanese not take, because “the Government was providing them with unsafe vaccines”,” she said.

Further, Greenidge had called for government to address remuneration disparities in the workforce and revisit the country’s labour laws.

“…apparently oblivious, or perhaps maliciously omitting the well-publicised fact that government has already embarked on such efforts,” Parag expressed in relation to that call.