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ACDA calls on government to provide relief to the poor being hit by COVID-19

Last Updated on Wednesday, 1 April 2020, 16:49 by Writer

The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) on Wednesday called on the Guyana government to set aside the political situation and provide emergency relief due of economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 decline in economic activity.

“A more robust and broad-based stimulus package for households and business, that can protect the people and economy of Guyana from the potentially widespread ravages of the Corona Virus is of paramount importance. Since an entire nation is at risk, it would make good sense (to) act now. This must be a national effort devoid of partisan interest,” the organisation said.

Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan could not be immediately reached for comment as several calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

Several private businesses and government departments have either closed temporarily or scaled back operations to a bare minimum. Fewer persons are travelling because there is no work, school or university to go to.

ACDA said the massive disruption in global economic activity caused by the pandemic would adversely impact on the open economy of Guyana, “putting it at risk of experiencing significant economic disruption.

In the face of increased demand for basic commodities and disruptions caused by social distancing, ACDA said there is a marked slowdown in economic activity and foreseeable loss calls for aggressive stimulating action by Government. The organisation also predicted that more workers especially laborers and other skilled tradesmen and women will find themselves on the unemployment line with an inability to meet their basic expenditures in the coming weeks.

“The Government should not allow limitations of administration to prevent it from protecting and helping the Guyanese people to survive this pandemic. Under current abnormal circumstances, the Government, therefore, needs to step forward with additional measures to help the population, as it contemplates a total lockdown of the country,” ACDA said in clear reference to the stalemate over the declaration of results of the March 2, 2020 general elections.

Government has been unable to table and pass a 2020 national budget, and so far recurrent expenses have been limited to one-twelfth of 2019 expenses. President David Granger last month authorised the Finance Minister to draw down monies from the Consolidated Fund to finance emergency supplies and operations to help fight COVID-19.

ACDA lamented that in this crisis, Guyanese matter most since they are involved in production whether for themselves, on behalf of the government or private business. The organisation queried “how do we take care of the people of Guyana, and what social and economic strategies are being drafted to protect Guyanese?”

In a desperate appeal to the political directorate, ACDA said the COVID-19 crisis is not of the making of ordinary Guyanese and they should not be made to suffer unnecessarily for it. The entity stressed that these are not ordinary times in Guyana and disruption of economic activity in one part of the economy will have a domino effect throughout the economy.

“Those at greatest economic risk are the private businesses and their workers. One can convincingly argue that the poor, for who social distancing may represent privilege, will undoubtedly be impacted significantly. Shutting schools and limiting social engagements have severely curtailed the need for transportation. Livelihoods that depended on the commercial activity on the perimeter of school compounds are disrupted. Vendors who occupied the pavements have seen their means of existence disappear. The daily “hustle” that causes a pot to boil in many homes has ceased,” ACDA added.

Hard hit also are those who will be working from home and, according to ACDA, would have to spend more in cellphone and internet services. In that regard, the organisation urged employers to help pay those bills.