GY$5 billion cost of living relief is PPP “slush fund”- Norton

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 January 2023, 17:52 by Denis Chabrol

Deomattie Nandram complaining to President Irfaan Ali about the unfair distribution of cash grants.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Thursday accused government of disguising GY$5 billion for political bribery  as cost of living relief in the 2023 National Budget.

“The aim is to ensure there is no scrutiny and accountability and provide them with a slush fund for them to get richer,” he said.

He said the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) would try its best to be on the ground at the time of disbursement to monitor how that money would be spent although it has not been allocated for specific relief measures.

Mr Norton said the government chose to go the route of poor budgeting because it would allow the administration to spend the money for political purposes to avoid detailed oversight. “They do it because when the time comes to distribute it, they want to be involved in corruption,” he said.

Last year’s GY$5 billion cost of living relief was disbursed as cash grants to fisherfolk, farmers, riverain communities, sugar workers, micro-entrepreneurial support, pensioners and disabled persons. But, the opposition has been pressing relentlessly for details on who received the grants, even as it has charged that there has been discrimination.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, a resident on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway complained to President Irfaan Ali at a public meeting he held in Kuru-Kururu that not everyone had received cash grants and demanded that everyone be treated equally. “When the grants are shared, when the hampers are shared, they have selected people,” Deomattie Nandram said to loud applause, adding that her house was bypassed in the payment of the COVID-19 cash grant, flood relief and the Old Age pension grant late last year. “They have nepotism, they have favouritism and everything,” she added.

Ms Nandram, suggesting strongly that she is a PPP supporter, stressed that “all of us need” the grant and that it was State rather than personal funds. She warned that if the cash grants were not distributed fairly, it would have political implications. “If this thing ain’t go right, trust me election time will going to be terrible,” she said.

Dr Ali, in his responses at the meeting, did not address Ms Nandram’s concern.

At one time, the Ministry of Agriculture had suspended cash grants to farmers after allegations that a number of persons had received monies although they were not farmers.

The  Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which noted that there was an estimated 11 percent inflation in Guyana, noted that the Guyana government had provided support to vulnerable segments of the population.