Another People’s Progressive Party (PPP) presidential candidate hopeful, Charles Ramson Jr. Wednesday morning openly disagreed with his party’s frontbencher, Anil Nandlall’s belief that cash transfers of oil revenues to the poor will culture parasites.
“Regrettably, I therefore have to say I disagree entirely with the statement by Anil Nandlall about cash transfers creating parasites and his statement is his personal one and does not represent the position of the People’s Progressive Party,” said Ramson who has openly stated that he is interested in leading the PPP into the 2020 general elections. He said Nandlall was not speaking for the PPP.
For his part, Nandlall believes that direct cash transfers will stifle personal initiative and the private sector. Instead, he says the funds should instead be used to fund education, value-added production of agriculture and wood products and the development of renewable energy.
Nandlall, Dr. Frank Anthony, Irfan Ali, Gail Teixeira, and Dr. Vindhya Persaud are also names being floated as possible contenders from which the 35-member Central Committee will have to pick.
Ramson, a former PPP back-bencher until he resigned to pursue a British-funded Masters Desgree in Oil and Gas, said if conditional cash transfers are provided to the very poor and needy, government would have to set up a system to ensure they are using the monies for the intended purposes instead of squandering it.
Noting that the PPP’s official position on conditional cash transfers is not yet known, Ramson said he was aware that other senior PPP members were supportive of handing out some oil revenues to the economically deprived so that they could improve their conditions. “I know where I stand on the subject and I support Conditional Cash Transfers made directly to people through the proceeds generated from a well-run Sovereign Wealth Fund. I also know that there are other leaders in the PPP who share a similar view,” he said.
Ramson said sustainable cash transfers could be drawn on the interest gained from a well-run Sovereign Wealth Fund. Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has said government hoped to present its Green Paper on the Sovereign Wealth Fund to the National Assembly before the House goes into its annual two-month recess later this month.
The PPP member, in making out a case for conditional cash transfers, indicated that it holds the partial key to provide support to the most vulnerable. Guyana needs to transform and so does our society which means our people especially the most vulnerable need support. Guyana has major structural disadvantages which severely limit our opportunity for high income jobs and production of high value goods. What happens in turn is that other countries which are richer will continue to pull away from us because their fundamentals for high value goods and high income jobs are already extant,” he said.
In a stinging criticism of Nandlall, Ramson said the PPP/C had already executed conditional cash transfers with the GY$10,000 school cash grant and a number of other direct means of support and it did not create parasites.
“So I find it unfortunate, insensitive, and irresponsible to turn around and say it is now a bad idea. These kinds of initiatives brings more people into the social safety net which is part of the duty and obligation of a responsible government. The PPP has always been a pro-poor and pro-growth party and direct conditional cash transfers can be an effective tool for aiding the poor,” he said.
Ever since Distinguished Economics Professor Clive Thomas last Sunday publicly suggested that there be direct cash payments to poor households to facilitate increased access to education and health, there has been a growing debate on the subject. Already United States-based Economics Professor, Tarron Khemraj and Financial Analyst Sasenarine Singh have supported the idea, with some additional emphases and conditions.
However, University of Guyana Economist Dr. Thomas Singh and Economics Professor at the Central Bank of Venezuela, Carlos Mendoza Potella oppose the idea. Mendoza Potella said there was absolutely no reason to give away free money as that would create parasites. He recommended that government instead uses the funds to provide free health and education as well as invest in food production, housing, water and electricity. Dr. Singh said the very poor was unlikely to spend the cash on improving education because that would be a future benefit and would be more inclined to spend it on other things. He suggested that a pilot programme should be launched to determine if cash transfers should be done on a large scale.
In response to Mendoza Potella, Ramson said free social services would still be “free money because it comes at a cost” and it assumes that huge amounts of liquid cash would be transferred to persons.
Guyana, Ramson said, already in effect has cash transfers from remittances and that boost the country consumption figures in its Gross Domestic Product calculation. In addition, he said Alaska and Alberta already benefit from conditional cash transfers from their respective Sovereign Wealth Fund so maybe you can ask them whether they are parasites.