President Dr Irfaan Ali today called for union officials to represent workers with impartiality and without political agendas.
He made these statements while explaining in great detail, on a special live broadcast on Facebook, about the many positive steps his Government has taken in not only reversing some of the crushing taxes on Guyanese but in implementing a number of cash-grant initiatives.
The President also explained that the Government’s across-the-board seven per cent increase for public servants is just one of many measures taken to cushion the impact of a rise in the cost of living, stemming from the effects of the pandemic and global supply issues.
“As you know the seven per cent comes with a number of other benefits that the Government would have rolled out in the past year to enhance livelihood, to secure livelihood and to ensure that our population has the capacity to withstand the many global challenges that we are facing as a nation.”
He said that those who are critical of the increase are political operatives who are driven by an agenda in the hope of scoring cheap political points.
“When you have people who are driven by a particular agenda, then they try to distort the facts, they try to distort the truth, and they try to manipulate information…what I’ve seen since the announcement of this increase, however, is a consorted attempt to distract our people from the destruction the APNU/AFC caused in our economy and more importantly to distract them from the positive agenda that the Government is pursuing.”
He also made a comparison of the net benefits over the years to show how effective his Government has been since returning to office.
The President said that the drive to enhance the overall welfare of Guyanese was done despite assuming office in a Covid-19 climate with the economy in shambles and the production sector underperforming or totally out of production in some cases.
“My dear Guyanese, our focus is on strengthening your disposable income, our focus is giving back more to you, giving to your families, enhancing your welfare, improving your livelihood, making homeownership easier, building a strong, healthy, highly-educated society with scholarships for you.”
He said that this is in contrast to his predecessors, who inherited a buoyant economy.
The President also reminded the nation that the APNU/AFC Government gave themselves a 50% increase in salary, while they did not meet their promises to public servants.
“They would want you to forget that. Now they so love the public servants. Now they so love the workers and the union members. Where were their voices and activism then? It was dead; it was dead because it suited their narrative. It was dead because they have an agenda, and you cannot represent workers if you do so with an agenda.”
The Head of State emphasised on the improvements that his Government has made to the lives of Guyanese, including public sector workers.
He spoke of the $25,000 Covid-19 cash grant, the re-introduction of the school grant (including for private schools), and the removal of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on water and electricity, which have amounted to a large net saving for Guyanese.
He also stated that his Government has reversed the ban on vehicles older than eight years old, which helped numerous public sector workers purchase vehicles.
Homeownership was also enhanced by the current administration, according to the President.
“They (APNU/AFC) made homeownership more expensive by cutting mortgage interest relief by half. This injustice was only corrected in the first months when the PPP/C returned to Government. Those two measures alone negated all the increases the APNU/AFC would have provided.”
Along with highlighting the other measures that his Government had to reverse or in some instances improve, President Ali analysed the current climate at the international level.
He said that the United Kingdom imposed a wage freeze since 2020 even though they were hit with relatively high inflation. He noted that workers in the UK will not see wage increases until 2022. He also stated that the average wage growth in the Euro Area and the European Union were 2.1 and 2.4 per cent, respectively.
In the CARICOM region, many nations were also forced to make drastic decisions.
“Some countries did not have an increase since 2015, some saw their last increase in 2018, one or two had increases, and the maximum increase any would have had is 4 per cent, and some implemented wage freeze and limitation of hiring.”
The President noted that “in a comprehensive way, I would say we have outdone most, if not the entire globe”.
At home, he appealed to the union to take off their political hat and to put on a hat of fairness.
“I say to all those in the public service and all the workers in this country, do not be distracted; our country is moving positively from strength-to-strength every day and your Government, your President, would ensure that all of you, all of us, are part of the strengthening, deepening, widening of democracy, freedom, prosperity and the ability to live a life that is full here in Guyana.”