Free fertilizer for farmers, cash-grants for hinterland households, removal of VAT on more items – Ali announces

(INEWS)President Dr Irfaan Ali on Monday afternoon announced several groundbreaking measures aimed at improving the lives of citizens.

Cash Grant

The first initiative will see the distribution of a one-off $25,000 cash grant to every household in the riverine and hinterland communities of the country. This measure will see some $800M being pumped into the economy and will cushion the impacts of the rising cost of living.

Free Fertilizer

The second measure will see the government purchasing $1B worth of fertilizer for free distribution to farmers across the country. This is expected to reduce the expenses of farmers and result in cheaper prices at the markets for food.

“This initiative will significantly reduce input cost and help ensure scaled up production and adequate supply of output which is critical to maintaining price stability,” President Ali explained.

These two measures, he noted, will be financed by the $5B allocated in Budget 2022 for the purpose of easing the impact of rising cost of living of locals.

Housing

The third measure will see government setting up a special unit to help landowners of both private and government owned lots build their houses. President Ali said the unit will support applicants with the process of applying to banks for financing and with the initial phase of construction by releasing the necessary resources.

President Ali explained that, “one issues that has been brought to our attention during our consultations with communities across the county is the fact that many households who now have house lot encounter huge challenges managing the process of contracting their homes. That, of course, is perfectly understandable because managing construction of a house is not a trivial task, considering that most of these families have no prior experience in home construction.”

As such, he said in order to help Guyanese families, a special unit will be established.
“Persons who have a house lot and wish to receive government help to construct a home on that lot may register their interest with a unit that will be establishing soon for this purpose. At the time of registration, the applicant will also select preference from three standard predesigned models at the cost of $7M, $9M, and $12M depending on the applicant’s income level,” the Head of State said.

“Government will support the applicant through the process of applying for bank financing to meet the cost of constructing the home, would also look at helping in the initial phase of construction by the releasing of resources to expedite the construction process and help in bringing the banks, the home owners together so that you can own your own home,” he added.

President Ali said that the government will also help to undertake the construction of the home on behalf of the applicant and deliver to the applicant a complete home in accordance with the option selected.

This measure, he highlighted, “will help to drastically accelerate the capacity of Guyanese families to own and occupy their own home and house lots they have already owned or they have been allocated but on which they are currently having difficulties managing the complex process of home ownership and also having access to the financing.”

VAT removal

The other measure will see the removal of VAT on additional construction materials until the market stabilises. These are sheetrock and concrete boards.

“As you know we have already removed VAT on a wide range of basic construction materials. Most recently we removed VAT on cement to reduce the cost of this critical input in home construction. We are now proposing to extend the removal of VAT to sheetrock and concrete board until the market stabilises…this measure, I expect to cost a $100 million annually, but will provide critical additional relief to persons constructing their homes, in keeping with our strong commitment to make home ownership affordable to every single Guyanese family.”

Previous Measures

President Ali reminded that these measures are in additional to a wide range of initiatives already announced by his government to address the rising cost of living and to bring relief to all citizens as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and then the war between Russia and Ukraine.

In the case of crude oil, the Guyanese Head of State explained that in April 2020 the world market price stood at US$20 a barrel, then at US$44 in August 2022.

“Today, it is US$114 per barrel,” he revealed.

With regards to fertilizer, he said world market prices increased by 80% in 2021 and have already risen by a further 30% this year.

These global events, he acknowledged, has significantly impacted the lives of citizens of Guyana.

President Ali reminded too that the country also had to battle with the consequences of the unusually high rainfall in 2021 that led to widespread flooding which destroyed millions of dollars in fruits, vegetables, cattle, farming lands, and the homes of many citizens.

In light of these events, the President pointed out that government has always been providing assistance to Guyanese.

“My government has deployed the widest range of policy instruments to safeguard the wellbeing of the Guyanese people and to cushion the impact of the very harsh external pressures currently being faced.”

“We’ve implemented measures to ease cost of living. These measures included the removal of VAT on electricity, household necessities, educational and medical supplies, cellular phones and most basic construction materials.”

“…capping the cost of freight at pre-pandemic levels for purposes of determining import taxes and the complete removal of the 50% excise tax on fuel, bringing it down to zero…we have implemented measures to increase disposable income including the distribution $7.5 billion worth of Covid-19 cash grants, provision of $7.8 billion of flood relief support to those most severely affected by the 2021 floods, increasing the income tax threshold from $65,000 to $75,000, releasing $1.3 billion to those who pay income tax, increasing the monthly old age pension form $20,500 to $28,000….increasing monthly public assistance payment from $9,000 to $14,000, increasing transfers to this vulnerable group by $950 million dollars.”

He also remined that the government has since restored and increased the cash grants given to school children which now stand at $25,000 per child while also increasing the uniform grants from $4,000 to $5,000 per child. He noted too that the government has provided cash grants of $250,000 to severed sugar workers, resulting in a total transfer of $1.3 billion in total to them.

Future Measures

Meanwhile, President Ali said his government will continue consultations and will in the future make more announcements aimed at bringing further relief to the public.
“So, our government is continuing this exercise of consulting to see the best possible measures that can be brought on stream to support those groups,” the President said, referring to vulnerable sections of society.

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