Working People’s Alliance co-leader, Economics Professor, Clive Thomas has labelled as “ignars” those in government who have rebuffed his proposed transfer of 10 percent after-tax oil revenues to households.
Professor Thomas has proposed that by 2025 when Guyana’s oil production soars to about 1 million to 2.5 million barrels per day, each household should get US$5,000 every year.
Guyana has about 210,000 households.
He describes as “ignars”, those persons who do not know anything about cash transfer schemes which have been hailed by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. He says the naysayers include those who lack information or understanding, are prejudiced or have received fake news, sections of the media, as well as elites and opinion leaders.
“The third type that we have to be particularly guarded against is what I call the “ignar”- the people who don’t know but believe they know. They never admit they don’t know. They have never read a piece of literature on cash transfers and they would come and pontificate to you and tell you they know what it is… that it is a handout, it is this, it is that, despite all this evidence and those are a particularly difficult group to deal with because very often, you find them in the elites; they make opinions in the society,” Thomas told a WPA-organised public forum on cash transfers.
Former Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge; current Finance Minister, Winston Jordan; Guyana’s Ambassador to India, David Pollard and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) executive member, Anil Nandlall are among those who have said that cash transfers would be a disincentive to production.
Days after the WPA had made yet another pitch for cash transfers, President David Granger had reiterated his emphasis on delivering free, high quality education to all Guyanese instead of “handouts”. “It does not speak about gifts, it does not speak about handouts, it does not speak about vouchers. It speaks about education…if you follow me,” Granger has said.
Thomas laments the failure by government and the University of Guyana to set up a special committee to refine his proposal, a process he says can take as long as two years. “Nobody is doing that and that is why I have decided to start systematising these presentations because I figure that if we have to leave it to the government, nothing will be done and they are part of the ‘ignar’ class too…Now that is not intended to bash them. That is to help people to bring a reality. We have to edify many of the decision-makers and maybe it is something, since a year ago, when the idea was thrown out. There should be some task group from the university who would begin to do some sketch paper on the modalities of putting a cash transfer process into play in Guyana,” said the former Head of the University of Guyana’s Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
Professor Thomas calculates that, at US$70 per barrel, government will be able to set aside at least US$1 billion annually for redistribution to households.
The WPA, in recent weeks, appeared to have intensified its advocacy for cash transfers to be listed in the incumbent coalition’s list of promises for next March’s general elections. WPA executive member, Tacuma Ogunseye, in a letter to the press, referred to Granger’s remarks at the recent International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly (IDPADA) annual meeting as a “profound, public rejection of the WPA‘s proposal that 10% of the oil revenues be set aside for payments of US $5,000 annually, to Guyanese households.
“The timing and the occasion chosen by President Granger to address this matter are of great significance. The occasion was at a major assembly of Africans and their organizational leadership, and it was delivered shortly before his anticipated announcement of a date for national and regional elections.”
Ogunseye called on the President to clarify his statement while at the same time warning that if he was interpreted correctly, that stance would be “unhelpful and could adversely affect his and the coalition’s re-election efforts”. “As it stands there is nothing politically, to be gained from him being misunderstood on what a large segment of the coalition’s supporters sees as a very important issue. For the President to continue to give the impression this is not a matter that is important to his agenda, is to signal that he is engaged in infantile politics,” said Ogunseye.
The WPA says it has already secured the backing of the Alliance For Change (AFC) for cash transfers. WPA executive member, David Hinds has declined to say what would be his party’s next move should the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) refuse to include the transfer system in their coalition’s election manifesto.
The WPA has had a long relationship with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and at one time was under the banner of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD). They eventually parted ways when the PPP did not agree to certain demands and expectations in the run-up to and after the 1992 general elections.