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Poverty fight, oil industry governance feature in politicians’ New Year messages

President David Granger

Politicians in Guyana broke the New Year promising to use Guyana’s expectedoil wealth to fight poverty, while ensuring the emerging petroleum sector is properly governed.

Incumbent President, David Granger assured that oil revenues, estimated to begin at US$300 million per year in 2020 from the Liza Phase 1 oil field, would be used to combat poverty among all Guyanese regardless of their differences. “The good life involves eradicating extreme poverty and reducing class, racial and geographic inequalities. The ultimate measure of the good life is happy communities, happy households and happy people,” he said in his New Year’s address to the Nation.

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), which is a member of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) component of the governing coalition, also cited the need to use Guyana’s oil wealth to get rid of poverty and creating full employment with a living wage. “This is a very significant area for us in the WPA. As a party in and out of government we are deeply committed to the liberation of the poor and the powerless, the working people, from the shackles of poverty,” party Chairman, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley said in a New Year’s statement.

Sarabo-Halley reiterated the WPA’s position that some of the oil money be set aside as direct cash transfers to households. 

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Headquarters- Freedom House.

Further, the WPA believes that some of the oil wealth should be given directly to Guyanese households. “We feel this policy measure would greatly help with the alleviation of poverty as all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity or social class, would be guaranteed an additional income to use as they see fit. We have every confidence in the ability of Guyanese to put that money to good use,” she said.

Both the governing APNU+Alliance For Change coalition and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) have frowned on the idea of direct cash-transfers, suggesting that that approach can result in laziness and already there are other forms of cash transfers to the populace.

Sarabo-Halley used her WPA New Year’s message to urge Guyanese youths and undecided voters to cast their ballots for the governing coalition to get a second term at the March 2, 2020 general elections because her party is historically committed to multiparty rule. “WPA does not believe that the Coalition reached its full potential during the first term, but we feel it has done more than enough to deserve a chance to finish its work. We make a special appeal to the youth and to those skeptical voters. Use your vote—do not spoil it by staying away from the polls. Your vote is your voice and your voice must be heard even if you are not fully satisfied,” she said.

Again alluding to his administration’s planned 2020- 2029 Decade of Development, the President said during the first five years the energy sector development would benefit from institutional, legislative and regulatory framework for the management of the petroleum sector and by fast-tracking the development of renewable energy sources.

But the People Progressive Party (PPP), in its New Year’s Message, pilloried the Granger-led administration again for “gross mismanagement of the sector” and promised to take remedial action. “Their sad legacy in the sector comprises abject failure to put in place an effective regulatory framework and local content policy, as well as badly negotiated contracts that do not serve the national interest. The PPP’s commitment to the Guyanese people for 2020 and beyond is to bring responsible economic management not just to the oil and gas sector, but also to all of the traditional and other new and emerging sectors of our economy,” the PPP said.

Presidential candidate for Change Guyana, Robert Badal is also banking on the oil and gas sector to deliver a better life for Guyanese. “Let’s seize this opportunity to strengthen our economy around oil and gas with value-added developments in agriculture, mining, forestry, information technology and other sectors that will provide high-paying jobs for our youths and rekindle their hope of a bright future in their own country,” said Badal, a hotelier and former supporter of the AFC in the 2015 general elections.

The headquarters of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

The President said every child would have access to nursery, primary and secondary education and free education would be provided to eligible students at the University of Guyana, and teacher education would be strengthened.

He said incentives would be provided to businesses including “robust support” for agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and mining to help increase economic growth. 

In the area of governance, Granger, who is seeking a second term, promised constitutional reform through “wider popular consultation, and with greater emphasis on broader political inclusion, protecting human rights and preventing constitutional gridlock.” He said steps would be taken to enhance transparency and integrity in public office, strengthen regional development and empowering women and youth.

The social protection agenda of a second Granger-led administration, he said, would include strengthening social safety nets for pensioners, the homeless, the indigent and disabled – and social cohesion by ensuring greater respect for each other’s religious beliefs, ethnic identities and cultural practices. He added that Indigenous Peoples’ development would include programmes to preserve indigenous cultural identity and recognise indigenous peoples’ knowledge in protecting the environment.

The President, who is a former Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and a member of the Disciplined Forces Commission of Inquiry, continued to promise a safe society by “intensifying action to suppress and reduce crime, protect human life and ensure national security by safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

The President said plans are in train over the next five years to extend aerodromes, bridges, road networks, stellings and ferry services through hinterland development and strengthening coastal sea defences. 

In the area of environmental protection, Granger said efforts would be made to protect Guyana’s ecosystems and their biodiversity, implement conservation, climate adaptation and mitigation measures and combat the adverse effects of climate change.

However, the PPP accused the APNU+AFC coalition administration of merely belching out slogans without any tangible benefits for Guyanese. “The incumbent government continues to engage in shallow sloganeering, promising a “decade of development”. The emptiness of this promise is best illustrated by their abject failure to deliver on that other shallow slogan that they have been parroting for the past five years, as “the good life” is yet to be enjoyed by anybody but themselves and their close cronies,” the PPP said.

The APNU+AFC-led administration is boasting of improved public security, better roads and bridges in hinterland communities, greater transparency and increased old age pensions, and public sector wages and salaries as well as measures to improve access to education.