Last Updated on Saturday, 10 November 2018, 23:08 by Denis Chabrol
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan Saturday night accused the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) of paying annual one-month bonus salaries to members of the Disciplined Services to bribe them into taking action against opponents of the their administration.
“You know why they were trying to buy off our people in the military and in the police. They were trying to suppress us so that when they call on them they will go,” Jordan told about 400 persons A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) final public meeting for the 2018 Local Government Elections.
Jordan, a former Budget Director at the Ministry of Finance during the PPP’s tenure, said the then administration had only paid a bonus to a certain section of public workers while discriminating against hard-working nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers and other public servants who work in the ministries.
Addressing the public meeting at the Stabroek Market Square, he expected police, soldiers and prison guards who did not get to vote on November 2, 2018 to vote solidly for the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) at Local Government Elections (LGE) scheduled for next week Monday, November 12, 2018.
“I believe that members of the Disciplined Services, who have voted solidly in the past for PNC cum APNU will do so again on Monday for those who did not get to vote. Let them come out in their numbers and prove those people wrong. Imagine, those people are saying you didn’t vote because you didn’t get bonus. Can you believe this? They are saying the Disciplined Services members did not vote because they didn’t get bonus. Now, I would like all the Disciplined Services people to come flat out and say that is so,” said Jordan in his first public political meeting. The PNCR’s support base is largely Guyanese of African descent who also make up the bulk of the police, military, prison service and fire service.
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira has said the 39.7 percent turnout among the 7,917 police, soldiers and prison guards was a result of the failure of the David Granger-led administration to pay the one month bonus, equivalent to one month’s salary, at Christmas for the past three years.
However, Jordan argued that government preferred not to discriminate between different categories of government employees and so in 2015 and 2016 all of them had received a bonus. That was not a one-month salary but was GYD$50,000 in 2015 and GYD$25,000 in 2016.
“When we came in (office in 2015), we said: listen, if we have something to share , we will share it with everybody, no discrimination,” he said.
No bonus was granted in 2017, the Finance Minister said, because government had to GYD$12 billion to bail out the ailing state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation during its first week in office in May 2015 , GY$11 billion in 2016 and GY$10 billion in 2017. He noted that then Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Raj Persaud had been receiving a US$30,000 salary plus “tremendous” allowances in 2015.
“This government that had just come in and promised that we would give you an extraordinary increase in salary was left with misery of a sugar industry to deal with,” he said. Admitting that “we continue to take blows because we weren’t able to pay the extra salary increase and so on,” the Finance Minister appealed to the attendees to be patient. “I am telling you, comrades, watch with us one more day, one more hour. We are for you, we are for you. We have got little setbacks but we have not forgotten you. We have not forgotten that it’s you who put us here,” he said.
Another huge financial constraint, he pointed to, was the fact that government had to fork out GY$5.6 billion to pay rice farmers for paddy and rice shipments that had been left stranded on wharves after Venezuela scrapped the PetroCaribe oil concessionary agreement. He said Venezuela had taken that decision at the height of a renewed border spat after ExxonMobil had announced the discovery of oil in commercial quantities offshore Guyana. The Finance Minister said after Venezuela had “arbitrarily pulled out” of PetroCaribe, Guyana had to find huge sums of foreign currency to purchase its oil supplies from Trinidad and Tobago’s state oil company, Petrotrin.
The Finance Minister said government was still repaying about US$200 million for the construction of the Skeldon Sugar Factory.
Saturday night’s APNU’s LGE campaign meeting at the Stabroek Market Square was the largest since it has been campaigning at that location. Before the meeting began at 6:25 PM, loud music was being played interspersed with the deejay appealing to persons to buy five beers for GYD$1,000. The Stabroek Market square was branded with banners advertising a number of alcoholic and other beverages. “Come pun d tarmac and listen wah ah go on in yuh community; five beers one thousand,” the deejay said.
Again, APNU speakers avoided key campaign issues and concerns by the citizenry. They include alleged corruption and mismanagement by City Hall as has been stated at a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the municipality’s administration, removal of vendors without Council’s approval, the virtual collapse of the Stabroek Market wharf and periodic indebtedness to private garbage collection companies.
City Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green and Deputy Mayor, Akeem Peter were among several councillors/candidates but neither of the two of them addressed the meeting.