Lawmakers of the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday dodged questions about the quantitative purchasing power of the minimum salary being paid to public servants.
Party General Secretary, Clement Rohee and Manzoor Nadir lauded government for increases in salaries and general improvement in the quality of life by Guyanese since 1992. “Today as a result of sustained increases in wages and salaries and benefits coupled with the enabling financial environment created, workers are in possession of much more disposal income to utilize for their families’ development and the free acquisition of assets,” said Nadir.
The PPP castigated trade unions and a small segment of workers for agitating for a higher than five percent increase in salaries for 2013. “The action is clearly to facilitate political allegiances and to foster related agendas for political gratification as demonstrated in their public utterances which are replete with vilification of development projects and projects designed to further enhance the life of workers and their families,” added Nadir.
Rohee downplayed calls by sections of the public for higher salaries, saying their voices were small and politically-driven. “There are some members of the public who are politically motivated who are crying out for political reasons that salaries and wages that some sections are receiving is not enough but to say that this is a national cry across the country, I would question that,” said the General Secretary.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) says the majority of public servants earn between the minimum salary of GUY$39,540 and GUY$72,823 before income tax and National Insurance deductions. Earnings after the first GUY$50,000 are taxable.
Nadir, who holds a Masters in Economics, said the average public servant earns way in excess of the minimum wage but he deflected questions on how much was that compared to basic expenses. “The average public servant what they make would be very sufficient to put the basics on the table and, as our statement said, enable them to acquire some of the material goods every family want- ordinary people,” he said.
Following is an estimated monthly budget of basic necessities for a single mother of one primary school child.
|Kerosene (not cooking gas)||2,500|
|Electricity (assumes no washing machine, microwave or toaster)||5,000|
|Transportation (for mother only on Kitty/Campbelville route)||1,200|
Rohee urged critics of government’s wages and salaries to not only consider what the Treasury could afford but also the fact that government has been “investing heavily” inj housing, water, free school uniforms, education and public health.
“All those things government is investing heavily in to help to offset what a wage and a salary would have had to buy if all of these things were privatised or were in private hands so we cannot look only at wages and salaries in isolation,” Among the PPP’s much vaunted successes is its housing programme that it says has resulted in 130,000 persons owning their own homes. Looking outside the public service, Nadir credited government’s training of out of school youth in skills so that they could earn more than a living wage. He referred to the more 900 trained heavy duty equipment operators, many of whom earn several times more than the minimum wage on the coast and in the interior
The former PPPC-led government minister recalled that while the 2009 Arbitration had awarded public servants a 33 percent increase, the real value of all wages and salaries was eroded by 18 percent due to the devaluation of the Guyana dollar.
NB: This list does not include costs for Internet, sports/leisure, school supplies and other educational material or transportation for the child to go to school.