February 24, 2017

Guyanese are struggling to make ends meet under the present Administration

Dear Editor,

Time and time again, the APNU/AFC Government has been accused of giving with one hand, while taking much more with the other. We’ve see this strategy unfold with the Administration increasing Old Age Pension from G$13,000 to what it is now G$19,000. But on the other hand, they took away the electricity and water subsidies that pensioners enjoyed under the PPP/C Administration, leaving our senior citizens to pay their own utility bills.

They have improved transportation for children in a few selected communities, allowing them easier access to schools through their “Five B’s” initiative. But on the other hand, took away the G$10,000 ‘Because We Care’ school grants that were given to every child in the public school system.

They have improved Immigration services, making it easier for persons to obtain passports, but increased the cost of this document from G$4,000 to G$6,000 and the Travel Tax at airports from G$2,500 to G$3,500.

While the Income Tax threshold has been increased, and the Finance Minister deserves some credit for this, he must be aware that whatever little savings are gained from these measures are taken away by the additional tax burdens now imposed on every household. Guyanese all over are struggling to make ends meet under this administration.

This year, the cost of living will be tough-going for most families with the 14 per cent VAT now added to water and electricity. Gasoline prices have already gone up. This will soon be followed by an increase in the cost of transportation; tolls have increased; the cost of basic food items are steadily going up; vehicular licences have already gone up since this Government came into being. Fees to transfer the registration of a vehicle have jumped from G$5,000 to G$25,000 or 2 per cent of the value of the vehicle, whichever is greater. Fees for permits and other documents have also gone up; and the cost to obtain a liquor licence has just been increased last Friday. This is not the “good life” that the Guyanese people expected.

Editor, after the Ministry of the Presidency sent in the thugs to take over the Red House, tearing down the CheddiJagan Research Centre signboard with the aim of destroying the legacy of one of our Founding Fathers, followed by the despicable behaviour of persons who disrupted a peaceful candlelight vigil and assaulted a comrade, Jason Abdulla, I’m convinced that there’s nothing more left to go up but the PNC Party Flag flying once more above the Supreme Court. But I’ll be damned if the Guyanese people ever allow this to happen again. And while things continue to go up, the only thing that seems to be coming down is the credibility of this administration.

People are becoming desperate. This is reflective in the escalation of robberies being reported every day in the press. More and more young Guyanese are risking apprehension and incarceration just to survive and provide for their families. Where are the Jobs that were promised during the election campaign by the Coalition?

Editor, listening to the Finance Minister during the debate on the Income Tax (Amendment Bills) in Parliament, he made it sound as though a taxpayer can easily go to GRA and claim monies due to him. This is highly unlikely to happen as my colleague Bishop Edghill alluded to in his speech. Chapter 22 of the Principal’s Act states that “If the tax payable under the assessment is LESS than the tax deducted from any person’s emoluments during the year of assessment, the Commissioner General shall repay the difference to such person, in accordance with Section 107 of the Act.”

There is no time limit set out here as to when a taxpayer will get a refund from the GRA. But Section 21 (1) of the same Act clearly states that if the tax payable under the assessment exceeds the total tax deducted from any person’s emoluments during the year, the excess shall be payable by such person to the Commissioner General within 30 days after that person is served with a notice by the GRA. In fact, what this Act is saying is that if a citizen underpays the GRA, he’s given 30 days to pay up or face the consequences which will be very severe. But when the GRA owes hardworking taxpayers of this country money for taxes overpaid, they have to wait several years until the GRA finally gets around to processing their files.

Since my return to Guyana four years ago, I have dutifully submitted my income tax year after year, but I’m yet to receive a notice from the GRA with a check for the amounts that I have over-paid. And when contacted, I’m told by the GRA that they’re still working on the 2012 returns. There are some who believe that the amount of money owing to the Guyanese taxpayers by the GRA may well exceed G$8 billion. Whether this amount is accurate or not, one thing is certain: When the GRA owes you money, they’re in no hurry to give it back to you. This double standard is yet another exercise in gross mismanagement and incompetence.

Sincerely,

Harry Gill, MP (PPP)

 

Let us embrace peace in this season of goodwill

Dear Editor,

At this time approaching the season of goodwill, I would like to ask all our leaders, at whatever level or persuasion they belong, to remember the following truism that I feel can provide the only avenue for lasting peace and progress in our country.

The prerequisite for peace, harmony and progress in any community is that all the parties that provide effective service are willing to forget differences, prepared to cooperate for the good of all its members, and disposed to forgetting their own preferences and to compromising to find solutions acceptable and beneficial to all.

We may be able to dupe ourselves for a time that we can generate progress by acting in a partisan manner but, as history has demonstrated over and over through the ages, it is only this earnest and selfless desire to join hands within any organisation of whatever magnitude that will result in any real and permanent progress.

Please let us inculcate the spirit of this coming season into all our interactions, and move forward as one Guyana to face the future confidently and remove all obstacles to our advancement as a united nation.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Paul

 

Guyana Times doing a good job at keeping Government accountable

Dear Editor,

Now that the PPP has been removed from office, all the other media houses, except for Guyana Times, have been dormant on the excesses of this present government. Oversized ministries, spiraling crime rates, unwarranted dismissal of public servants, (especially indo-Guyanese) because of their affiliation with the PPP and many other horrible mistakes of this government do not make the pages of the any of the media houses, except for the Guyana Times.

This is what Guyana has become! In spite of the mistakes of the PPP, Guyana has never seen such a terrible spate of crimes under its watch. Nor has there been such vengeful politics as we’re having now. Keep up the awesome job Guyana Times. Without this paper, God knows what this country would have become!

Business in Berbice is really suffering. Imagine stores in Rose Hall closing at 3 pm instead of 6 pm, because of the deadly crime spree. I am fearful for my future under this Government!

In the meantime, except for Guyana Times, the other media houses are in a deep slumber, only waking to attack the PPP.

 

Sincerely,

Rakesh Singh

 

A city in crisis: An open letter to Councillors

Dear Editor,

Permit me the space in your pages for an open letter to City councillors.

Eight months ago we assumed office as councillors of which a large part of our mandate is to consider the general welfare of the whole municipality, the Capital City, Georgetown.

We were already working in our various constituencies and sought to amplify our efforts by aligning with an organisation whose vision and mission closely resembled ours.

We, perhaps, had laboured with utopian hopes that with the added legitimacy a new dynamism would be affected in the communities we inhabit. But such hopes as we harboured remain unrealised, and as our national poet says ‘those miseries you cultivate as yours as well as mine’.

I am certain that you were surprised, as I was, the issues that should have found ventilation before the Council were decided on beforehand and little more than tacit acceptance was required of us, on other issues the body Council was entirely circumvented or ignored; public trust diminished.

What remains an anomaly is that we are a repository of so much talent, experience, and training as councillors that our City should have been on a growth path for success and excellence, less reliance on Central Government, yet before us is a City in crisis on every front.

We have sat at Council in disbelief at what we saw transpiring before our eyes, we have spoken in corridors in hushed tones, or with words whispered in phone calls of the little interest expressed by those in command to chart a different course. Yet, time would have the final word, which brings us to this moment in the history of our Council, and a chance at something great.

As I said to my sons, Jon and Ethan, on the eve of LGE: “The services of a city are essential to its human dignity, whether infrastructure: roads, street lights, drains or essentials like health and fire services or police protection etc. They all have to work effectively and efficiently, geared toward the good life for the citizens who engage them.”

I was hopeful that by the time they grow up they would “appreciate that the things you now freely enjoy were bought these many years ago at a high cost and a long arduous struggle.”

I am afraid now that on our present trajectory your children and mine, your family and mine, the next generation of City councillors, and inhabitants, will only inherit all the struggles we now face. If you are in doubt ask yourself are we better off than we were in April?

My dream and my ardent hope for us as councillors is that we have a greater say in the management of our constituencies, that we are given the tools; empowered to make the changes that are necessary.

My wish is for us to have a City administration that carries out the directives of the Council and for a leadership that listens to our voices; leadership that is both master and servant, transparent and accountable.

Moving forward, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana David Granger sets out his administration’s vision for capital towns as engines for economic development of the regions of which they are the nucleus. This is the framework for success that is worthy of our acceptance.

Finally, I call to your remembrance when His Excellency visited with us at City Hall he told us in no uncertain terms that we are not on the City Council to represent our political parties but to represent the people.

In all that is to come we have to represent the interests of the people of Georgetown and the quality of service and leadership we offer them.

There are hard choices ahead of us; we have difficult decisions to make but I have every confidence that when future generations of city residents look back they will say this was our finest hour.

Sherod Avery Duncan,

Councillor

 

APNU/AFC Govt pressuring the poor and working class

Dear Editor,

When the Finance Minister in his 2017 Budget presentation announced that electricity and water bills will attract 14 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on the consumption of more than G$10,000 and G$1500, respectively, from the first dollar, all jaws, rich, poor and the in-between, dropped. It came as a bombshell. It was an unexpected tax, taking into consideration the current government’s much-touted talk of improving the quality of life of all Guyanese.

How could the quality of life improve when the two most basic necessities of any home; electricity and water, are being heavily taxed? The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, in their post-budget press conference, disclosed that their statistics show that 80 per cent of the consuming public consumes less than G$10,000 of electricity per month, as such the implemented VAT will only affect the remaining 20 per cent, who presumably are the more affable of society.

By this disclosure, it is then implied that this government is advocating that the 80% consumers who consume less than G$10,000 per month should never aspire to move above their current level of life, where electricity and its use are concerned. This 80 per cent should not dream of having that additional TV in their home, never dream of having even an 8000 BTU air-conditioning or microwave unit, and never should hope of having a small fridge in their kitchen.

At the same press conference, the two government officials stated that the imposition of the tax on electricity is to encourage conservation. Are they advocating that citizens should take all their lights off in the night when bandits are marauding each and every village in this country?

Or should citizens use kerosene lamps instead? How could the poor afford solar panels to substitute for GPL power? If one wants to see conservation at its best, pass the government houses in the night on Main Street, Georgetown. It’s as bright as Times Square, New York; not on solar power, but from GPL.

Has anyone considered the domino effect of having 14% VAT imposed on electricity? The cost of manufacturing local goods and the retail prices in stores and shops for even zero-rated items will all be increased, and these increases will be passed onto the consumers, because most manufacturing entities and all shops and stores source electricity from the national grid. In actual fact, the overall cost of living will be increased by 14%. Where is the, not only economics, but simple commonsense in the formulators of this budget?

Editor, I find it extremely distasteful for the current government to make heavy emphasis on the increase in the pensioners’ pay. The increase is G$800; yes 800 Guyana dollars. It is G$26 per day. Try giving a vagrant G$26 and see if he will accept it. Contrast the pensioners’ G$800 per month increase or total G$19,000 per month pension to the government’s parliamentary lobbying to pay another pensioner, who is close to them, G$1,750,000 per month, and visualise the government’s perception of equality.

If the government is sincerely desirous of improving the quality of life of all Guyanese, then their thinking and perceptions have to change. They need to manage with reality and develop a more caring approach. The draconian budgetary measures on the imposition of VAT on electricity and water, and removal of VAT exemptions from several basic foods such as milk, flour-based products and medications which were all previously VAT exempted, does not exhibit even an iota of care by this government. It’s shameless for the government to raise revenue to meet its expenses by pressuring the poor through taxes, rather than initiating avenues for foreign direct investment, stimulating investments by the local private sector, and encouraging entrepreneurship to generate growth and expansion in the economy.

The government is hiding behind too much statistics which are obscuring them from reality; from crime statistics to now statistics on power and water consumption.

Yours Sincerely,

Selwyn Narinedatt

 

NAPS to target youths in HIV/AIDS testing drive

The National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) is re-introducing its national days of testing for HIV/AIDS, ahead of World Aids Day, which will be observed on December 1.

This exercise commenced on Wednesday and will run until Sunday at all 62 fixed voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) sites, as well as the 17 temporary booths countrywide. The initiative, which is being held under the theme “Test and start a new life for HIV Prevention”, is to encourage the Guyanese population to go out and get tested.

However, National VCT Coordinator attached to the NAPS, Debra Success-Hall, outlined that while it is important for everyone to get tested and know their status, they will be targeting youths and young adults during this testing drive period, since the infected population has gotten younger.

She explained that the Secretariat’s programmatic data has revealed that persons between the ages of 15 to 19 and 20 to 25 are infected and are being diagnosed on a daily basis with HIV. This, she noted, calls for urgent actions to be taken.

“We need to ensure that we do something urgently to ensure that we are able to decrease that. We have our in and out of school youths, and we have to probably go back to the drawing broad and develop a new strategy to deal with these (young) people,” she stated.

On this note, Success-Hall urged the Public Health Ministry to engage the Education Ministry so that there can be dialogue on how to go about getting senior students tested. “It is disturbing what is happening (with young people) and we need to take control,” she posited.

Meanwhile, re-launching this ‘week of testing’ initiative was the brainchild of Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, who underscored the importance of persons being tested for HIV/AIDS.

“I am inviting the general public to know their status. It’s no doubt that many a times there are persons who don’t know whether or not they are HIV positive. Gone are the days when that used to be a sort of death sentence, now it has become a chronic infection because of the possibilities (of treatments) that exist now,” he stated.

Moreover, the Minister noted that the theme of this testing drive can be aptly applied to either of two scenarios. The first being that a person tested negative will have the opportunity to adapt measures to ensure their status remains the same; while secondly, those who are tested positive will now be able to adapt a life-style that can prolong their health.

According to statistics from the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), some 40,331 persons were tested for HIV/AIDS from January to the end of July. The statistics for the remainder of the year will be available at the end of December.

It was pointed out that given the high costs of conducting these tests, it has been found that it would be more cost effective to target groups that are in the higher risk categories such as youths.

 

Fighting domestic violence together

Dear Editor,

The tragedy of domestic violence in our community is often examined in the media. It seems all the more heartbreaking when it occurs at our very doorsteps, leaving the community asking how such a thing can happen.

Though it may be a relief to name a person or agency as responsible, to do so vastly oversimplifies the complex reasons why persons continue to suffer abuse.

Even as the society grapples with the reality and the responsible agencies struggle to meet increasing needs with ever dwindling resources, persons, especially women, continue to be at risk. They will still suffer unimaginable abuse and will have changed, and all will seem well until the next tragedy occurs. The cycle will repeat itself until the community comes forward to meet the challenge.

We can all help by becoming educated about the true reasons behind abuse and in turn, educating others in the community. It is time for the communities to become part of the solutions.

I am sure that we have many allies in the fight to stop abuse, agencies that provide mentoring, counselling and adequate housing, outreach to young families, food and job skills training. There are neighbours and family members who can also step in to provide assistance or simply lend an ear to listen. Still, we need more people to step forward and make a commitment, small or large, to ensure that those most vulnerable among us are safe from harm. We cannot wait for the next tragedy before we take action.

 

Sincerely,

Petra Singh

 

Is history repeating itself?

Dear Editor,

The Government, in the height of a crime wave, is speaking about too many legal guns being around. It seems that someone misled the President into saying that some legal gun owners rent their weapons to criminals. The way it was put, one gets the impression that the President believes that this is a widespread practice.

However, no proof, no examples were offered to substantiate that claim. If the President had made that statement in Parliament, he might have been asked by the Speaker to leave the chambers due to lack of evidence.

Persons have already pointed out that every legal weapon has to have had a forensic test by the Police. They keep those records and check them whenever a crime is committed to see if they can find a match from their records.

This is widely known. We have had no reports of this phenomenon. Therefore, we may ask why is such a statement being made when there is no case, or at best very, very few?

Is this a preparation by the regime to rescind the licences of some persons?

When the PPP/C came to office is 1992, it established a system of priority for granting licences. Three categories were identified. Business persons, the reason for this is clear, this group of persons are the main targets for bandits; farmers, to protect their crops and livestock; and Amerindians, this is important for them in their pursuit of hunting.

Historically, the PNC, due to their anti-people policies, had denied these groups permission to own their own weapons.

Indeed, one of the early moves of the PNC regime, when it took power in 1964, was to take away the shotguns from farmers that an earlier PPP Government had granted.

This was seen as racial discrimination, since Indian-Guyanese farmers were the victims of that policy.

Now too, at a time when the crime rate is high, this announcement appears to be ominous.

The first target would be the suspected PPP/C supporters. Disarming these people would make them even more vulnerable to the criminals. With the knowledge of an unarmed business sector and unarmed farmers, criminals will become emboldened.

It is also of interest to note that whenever bandits are captured or killed during robberies, the regime makes statements of condemnation. Recall, too, the riots in the Georgetown Prisons when the Government sent two senior ministers to speak with the prisoners.

Contrast that with the attitude towards the victims of crimes. No sympathy has been expressed or no visits have been made by members of the regime.

Maybe the criminals have sensed this; that is why when the two bandits were captured in Eccles earlier this month, they were cursing the crowd.

Is history repeating itself?

 

Sincerely,

Donald Ramotar

Former President of

Guyana

So many university graduates, too few jobs

Dear Editor,

I read in most of the daily newspapers that the University of Guyana has once again produced over a thousand graduates for 2016 – 1628 to be exact. While this is indeed commendable, I was struck by one thought while reading; how many of these holders of degrees, diplomas and certificates will find meaningful employment where they will be able to utilise their new found academic prowess? I am sure many others are thinking the same thing.

Many will find themselves forced into “temporary” occupations in bars, stores and offices that can turn uncomfortably permanent, and this is a reality that we cannot hide from. These individuals must have asked themselves why they bothered writing dissertations and studying for years, just so they can run up a large “debt” – in reality many have not cleared their student loans and many have borrowed to do just that so that they may be able to graduate. I know of at least one dozen such young people in this very position who graduated less than two years ago and who are still struggling to find meaningful employment. Some may argue, “at least it pays the bills right?” This reality does not bode well for current University students.

Guyana simple does not generate sufficient hi-tech, high-income jobs. Traditional graduate occupations in the public sector – teaching is the outstanding example – are hardly booming, given unattractive salaries. In the private sector, the usual professional routes are often also difficult to crack – as it is a matter of who you know.  From veterinary practice, to journalism, the supply of willing graduates often exceeds the ability of the professions to absorb them. Exceptions, such as some fields of engineering or IT, merely prove the point that demand and supply are badly out of equilibrium.

That said, some new-wave jobs, such as the archetypal entrepreneur in a digital start-up, are there for the taking by the motivated graduate. This is not as fanciful as it sounds: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Steve Jobs (Apple), Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) didn’t even finish their degree courses. Few of them must worry about “what might have been” if they’d got that degree. So the fact that graduates are not always going into the sort of jobs their parents went into – often with big corporate “lifetime” employers – may not be quite as distressing as it first appears.

As for entrepreneurship, I can also list about a dozen names of graduates who were looking for the next ‘big thing’ and who ended up investing in businesses only to have it fail in the first few months. Not for lack of trying, but owing to a struggling economy, where disposable income has dwindled.

The reality is that students who probably won’t get that much out of university will be deterred from applying. And those that have achieved their certification will migrate.

In Guyana we have a lot of BA’s and BSc’s with honours working as shelf-stackers and sales assistants; that cannot be right.

Sincerely,

Richard Ince

Trump was not expatriate Guyanese American choice for President!

Dear Editor,

Hillary Clinton was projected by all and sundry to be the overwhelming favourite to win the Presidential election. She was the popular choice amongst immigrant communities, not least in West Indians and Guyanese, all across America-especially here in the largest concentration of expatriates-“Little Guyana” or Richmond Hill and environs. Clinton’s defeat surely was not due to money, effort and voter outreach, because she outspent Trump and received more votes nationally than him.

So how come Donald Trump won, precipitating one of the most stunning upsets in history and prompting unprecedented widespread protests in a country which touts its democratic processes and readily accepts election results?

Clinton said the FBI is to blame for her loss after its embattled Director Comey sent a letter to Congress based on vagaries and speculation only days before the election, announcing he was reinstating an investigation into whether she mishandled classified information when she used a private email server while being Secretary of State.

Although Comey announced a week later that he had reviewed emails and continued to believe she should not be prosecuted, the political damage had already been done, and the die was cast for Clinton’s defeat. Like the Titanic, her candidacy was doomed to sink in spectacular fashion. In contrast to her primary rival Bernie Sanders, Trump went for the jugular, and an exemplary trailblazer’s life and legacy has been tarnished and truncated prematurely.

Here in “Little Guyana,” thousands came out to vote for Hillary in record numbers. However, our hopes were destroyed, again! We have relived another painful loss, and a reminder that we are a nation of double standards. The same FBI Department crushed our efforts to attain recognition and empowerment, just as they did when civil rights leader and community activist attorney Albert Baldeo ran for public office in 2010, when they overreached an impossible theory that Baldeo’s use of his own money in a City Council election to repay his loans was a federal crime. Baldeo was acquitted of the underlying charges, but his non-peer Manhattan jury, after a long deadlock, convicted him of obstructing crimes he did not commit, a legal and illogical conundrum.

Similarly, the fallacy that the FBI’s actions are as American as apple pie, has perfunctorily gutted a great woman’s efforts, and we will be the losers for their egregious actions for generations. It is time for Congress to rein in such perverse actions of federal law enforcement officials, who are already immune from accountability.

 

Kim Miller

125-09 Liberty Avenue

Richmond Hill, NY 11419