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PSC wants laid off workers to benefit from COVID-19 economic relief

Last Updated on Friday, 21 August 2020, 13:21 by Denis Chabrol

by Samuel Sukhnandan

In light of the recent announcement by the government to offer relief to citizens and businesses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) is now pushing to have laid off workers benefit from this initiative.

This matter was raised and examined during a recent meeting held between Minister of Labour Mr. Joseph Hamilton and PSC Chairman Mr. Gerry Gouveia and other members of the private sector.

Mr. Gouveia told News Talk Radio 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News on Friday that many people lost their jobs due to the pandemic and with scarce employment opportunities available at this time, providing some sort of support to them is necessary. “So, we discussed that because we believe that these persons also deserve to get some sort of relief,” he added.

The socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been felt across Guyana, with many people being laid off, while others have had their working days/hours reduced. President Dr. Irfaan Ali said recently that increased unemployment, reduced operations and output and the loss of income has “led to starvation in many communities.”

As such, Gouveia said, “We want to know the labour position for workers laid off without leave and how this will be approached within this new dispensation.”

Meanwhile, the PSC chairman explained that the meeting also touched on a number of important issues related to private sector operation especially during the pandemic and providing economic support to businesses as contained in the recommendations it submitted to the previous COVID-19 Task Force. He said, “Our aim is to see how best these recommendations could be taken on board and implemented to bring relief to businesses and the citizens of this country.”

Gouveia noted that these issues would need to be looked at carefully with the aim of ensuring that economic relief provided by the government is done in an equitable manner. “The minister plans to have another follow up meeting to deal with the issues before us and so that some sort of economic relief is given, but we were told that the details are being worked out,” he added.

Two days ago, President Ali unveiled a package of measures to ease the cash strain on thousands of Guyanese due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The President said his administration wants to deliver an “all encompassing plan” aimed at reopening the economy, getting people back to work, improving health care and delivering education to children.”

The Bank of Guyana managed to persuade commercial banks to grant a further delay to customers’ repayment of loans and other debts to December 2020. Several Central Bank supervisory guidelines would now be relaxed to allow financial institutions to operate with more flexibility and allow for an injection of finance back into the economy.

Commercial banks have also agreed to waive all bank charges especially automatic teller machine (ATM) and local merchant charges to encourage transactions as well as charges for transactions by senior citizens.
Government plans to mobilise US$60 million from the World Bank, OPEC Fund for International Development, Inter-American Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank in addition to US$2 million from India in bilateral support to assist with it’s COVID-19 response.

The Guyanese economy declined by 4 percent at mid-year with contraction in business by more than 20 percent to 70 percent.