CORRECTING what he called an “unconscionable” wrong, Vice-President Bharat Jagdeo in a video interview published on Facebook stoutly defended the announced distribution of $250,000 each to thousands of sugar workers who were severed during the tenure of the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government.
Acknowledging the APNU+AFC’s claim that public servants received 70 per cent in increased salaries between 2015 to 2020, Vice-President Jagdeo pointed out that sugar workers did not benefit from this.
“The sugar workers used to enjoy the annual production incentive,” he continued, noting that even this was also taken away from them.
The decision of the PPP/C Government is expected to benefit more than 7,000 sugar workers.
“We take our promises seriously,” the Vice-President commented, as he contrasted the work of the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government against its predecessor, the APNU/AFC.
The Vice-President, bemoaning the posture of representatives of the opposition APNU+AFC who challenged the decision on social media, reminded that some of these sugar workers have worked in the industry for 25 years, but were still not afforded their severance.
“I had promised the sugar workers that the callous way they were treated… was not grounded in economics,” Jagdeo asserted, contending that the arguments from the Coalition “has nothing to do with economics.”
Reflecting on his party’s re-entry into government after the APNU+AFC’s five-month-long attempt at stymying democracy, Vice-President Jagdeo recalled the extent of measures required to re-energise the economy and increase disposable income.
“For Guyana to prosper,” he recounted, “we had to reverse the massive amounts of taxes that APNU [and the AFC] had placed on people.”
“By the time they left office,” the Vice-President continued, “they had increased the tax burden by over $40 billion more per annum…. In the first budget, we reversed most of those taxes.”
Jagdeo acknowledged that his government’s budget planning allowed citizens “to keep $40 billion more in their pockets than APNU [and the AFC] was taking in higher taxes.”
Addressing the issue of how the government will afford this approximately $1.7 billion promise to sugar workers, the Vice-President said, “we have cut expenditure on administration significantly by billions of dollars. So, it has eliminated a lot of waste and extravagance.”
Commenting on other achievements of the PPP/C Government to date, the Vice-President said “we have returned the grant to the school kids that they [the APNU+AFC] said they couldn’t afford… [and] returned it to even more than what it was before. We’ve extended that to children going to private school.”
With the monies available to the government, the Vice-President committed to increasing the number of benefits to citizens, including increasing the education grant up to $50,000 per child per year by 2025 and doubling the current 5.5 per cent increase to the old-age pension.
“We promised 20,000 scholarships,” he continued, noting that “this year 6,000 has been given”.
“We are fulfilling our promises,” he said.