The Alliance For Change (AFC), saying it wouldn’t take responsibility for unrest, on Wednesday called on government to pay up its electricity bills and ask for tax-forgiveness rather than impose a 26.7 percent increase in tariffs.
At the same time, a group of activists from the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) picketed outside Sidewalk Café/Ariantze Hotel where the AFC’s news conference was being held, criticizing the opposition party for the planned hike in the cost of energy.
The AFC said if government was serious about bailing out the cash-strapped power company, it should pay up GUY$6.1 billion on a pre-paid metering system and ask the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to forgive more than GUY$2.5 billion in taxes.
“They are saying that our cut of 5.2 billion is what is causing this, well please pay GPL your year’s bills because we already allocate that in the budget for them,” said AFC leader, Khemraj Ramjattan.
AFC Vice Chairman, Moses Nagamootoo labelled as “ludicrous” Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh’s accusation from the PPP’s Headquarters that the seven-seat opposition was politicizing the issue. Instead, he urged the minister to ask the tax agency for a break.
“Rather than the Minister of Finance going to Freedom House, he should have walked over to GRA and say in the interest of the nation and to ease the burden of the working people, we want you to defer or cancel any monies owed by GPL to the GRA,” said Nagamootoo.
The AFC has already promised to restore some of the GUY$5.2 billion if government could table a report on how it used GUY$6 billion
Braving heavy showers, the pro PPP protesters—several of them hiding their faces with their placards — accused the AFC of being responsible for the impending hike because that party has voted against a GUY$5.2 billion subsidy.
Ramjattan said he was in no mood to hold talks with President Ramotar about GPL’s budget cut because “we want hard concrete plans and actions.” The opposition party wants the Board, including its Chairman Winston Brassington, and the Chief Executive Officer Bharrat Dindial fired for what it says is incompetent and inefficient management of the power company.
Spokesman for the pro-PPP group Ossie Rogers, speaking from the picket-line, said the improvement of management and other issues could be addressed by the political level but his group was merely concerned that consumers would have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay more for electricity.
“I am dealing with bread and butter issues… we have to pay more on the electricity bill and we are saying the budget cut is responsible for the 26.7 percent more,” Rogers told reporters.
He dismissed a suggestion that he was side-stepping concerns about management of the GPL because of his PPP persuasion.