No pol­icy re­gard­ing job preser­va­tion and job cre­ation - FITUG

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER -

The

Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) has con­sid­ered the 2018 Na­tional Bud­get pre­sented by Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Win­ston Jor­dan on Novem­ber 27, 2017. The Fed­er­a­tion was ex­pressly dis­ap­pointed to con­clude that the Bud­get largely failed to live up to the high ex­pec­ta­tions of the work­ing-peo­ple who looked for­ward to mea­sures that would have less­ened the bur­dens they are made to fetch now-a-days. Such ex­pec­ta­tions, un­doubt­edly, were height­ened by the cheery, colour­ful bill­boards and the many ad­ver­tise­ments that have ap­peared in the elec­tronic media to pro­mote the Bud­get.

At this time, too, the FITUG can­not also fail to ex­press its deep re­gret that de­spite what we felt were fair and rea­son­able sug­ges­tions ad­vanced to the Min­is­ter dur­ing the Bud­get con­sul­ta­tions, just one was pos­i­tively con­sid­ered. We felt and still feel that our sug­ges­tions were re­al­is­tic and rea­son­able. The shun­ning of our pro­pos­als, in our opin­ion, tells us, once more, a lot about the Gov­ern­ment’s con­cern about the work­ers plight and the Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s se­ri­ous­ness in en­gag­ing the work­ers or­gan­i­sa­tions. Though dis­cour­ag­ing, we are not daunted and we will con­tinue to pro­mote our sug­ges­tions rec­og­niz­ing their im­por­tance in im­prov­ing work­ers well-be­ing and their stan­dard-of-liv­ing. We must share too our vex­a­tion that a pal­try $500 per month or $16 per day in­crease was given to the Old Aged Pensioners who clearly de­serve a much more re­al­is­tic in­crease, es­pe­cially in these times. The FITUG be­lieves it’s not too late for the Gov­ern­ment to re-ex­am­ine this mat­ter with a view to find­ing a more ac­cept­able sum to give our for­mer work­ers.

The FITUG wel­comes the de­ci­sion to re­move Value Added Tax ( VAT) on Ed­u­ca­tion and to grant taxfree sta­tus to leave pas­sage al­lowances for em­ploy­ees in the pri­vate sec­tor. While ac­cept­ing both mea­sures, we feel con­strained to point out that those sums pale in com­par­i­son to the heavy costs the work­ers have borne aris­ing from the widen­ing of the VAT net and the sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in the costs in Gov­ern­ment fees and ser­vices, among other things. We fur­ther noted the Min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment of the in­ten­tion to re-value prop­er­ties which will ob­vi­ously lend to in­creased rates and taxes payable to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and NDCs. Re­ally, the work­ing peo­ple to­day a light­en­ing of their bur­dens not more eco­nomic pres­sures.

The FITUG, like the work­ers, were vexed also to learn that the Ad­min­is­tra­tion did not ap­prove any im­prove­ments in the in­come tax thresh­old. It was some­thing that many work­ers had eagerly looked for­ward to and some­thing that they widely ex­pected. While not­ing that work­ers who work dur­ing part of the year will ben­e­fit from the full year’s free pay, it is some­thing that just a small num­ber of work­ers would ben­e­fit from. Fur­ther­more, it could be seen as dis­crim­i­na­tory as those work­ers who work part of the year will have a lower ef­fec­tive rate of taxation than those who work for the en­tire year.

The Bud­get, dis­ap­point­ingly, did not ad­vance any se­ri­ous pol­icy re­gard­ing job preser­va­tion and job cre­ation, both crit­i­cal mat­ters at this time. Be­sides a few pass­ing ref­er­ences about cer­tain ini­tia­tives which un­for­tu­nately did not ben­e­fit from much ex­pla­na­tion noth­ing more was said. Given the Gov­ern­ment’s track record of im­plemen­tation, it is dif­fi­cult for us to place great faith and hope that the poli­cies re­ferred to will see the light of day in a quick man­ner. What is of con­cern too is the ab­sence of any clear pol­icy or di­rec­tion to as­sist in has­ten­ing the im­plemen­tation of the Pub­lic Sec­tor In­vest­ment Pro­gramme ( PSIP). The timely ex­e­cu­tion of the PSIP is in the in­ter­est of the work­ing-peo­ple and the coun­try as a whole and we can­not fail to ex­press our alarm that the Ad­min­is­tra­tion has not seen it fit to have a clear di­rec­tion set out.

Re­gard­ing the sugar in­dus­try, dis­con­cert­ingly, the Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in our view, did not pro­vide any roadmap to the thou­sands of work­ers who stand to be af­fected by the minia­tur­iza­tion plans. This is both un­for­tu­nate and dis­turb­ing. While FITUG con­tends that there is no need to cut down the in­dus­try, the Gov­ern­ment nev­er­the­less is duty bound to ad­dress the fall­out from their ill-con­sid­ered plans that would have se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions for the work­ers, the sugar com­mu­ni­ties, state agen­cies such as the NIS and GRA, for­eign ex­change earn­ings, and the ef­fects on the busi­ness com­mu­nity, among other things.

Also de­spite the heavy tout­ing of the Oil and Gas in­dus­try, FITUG was dis­turbed to note that very lit­tle was men­tioned es­pe­cially given the sig­nif­i­cant im­pact the Gov­ern­ment says that in­dus­try will make. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern, was the ab­sence of any clear and de­fin­i­tive state­ments on the Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund (SWF). The monies that would be de­posited into the SWF be­long to all Guyanese to­day and to­mor­row and, there­fore, a pru­den­tial frame­work is nec­es­sary for its oper­a­tion. Sim­i­larly, en­gage­ments and agree­ments be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and the var­i­ous oil ex­plor­ers should be known to Guyanese as it is the peo­ple who ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit from the in­come and will bear the costs.

On the en­ergy front, the FITUG rec­og­nizes that seem­ingly the Amalia Falls pro­ject has been aban­doned de­spite the com­pelling ar­gu­ments for it to be pur­sued. De­spite a com­mit­ment to Green Devel­op­ment, we rec­og­nize that fu­ture power gen­er­a­tion is to be pred­i­cated largely on nat­u­ral gas. Such en­deav­our can­not fall into the ‘Green’ frame­work, un­less pos­si­bly the in­ten­tion is to paint the plant in the colour green. For our or­ga­ni­za­tion, though Guyana is blessed with an op­por­tu­nity to de­liver power from re­new­able re­sources, it is up­set­ting that we con­tinue to en­gage, largely, in power gen­er­a­tion from non-re­new­able re­sources which in­put price we may not be able to in­flu­ence.

The FITUG re­it­er­ates that the Bud­get styled the “Peo­ple’s Bud­get” by the De­part­ment of Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion (DPI) has failed to live up to that ex­pec­ta­tion. Though ac­cept­ing there were some mar­ginal im­prove­ments, the pres­sures, dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges by the work­ers re­mains, re­gret­tably, l argely t he same. While the Min­is­ter tells us the “The Jour­ney to the Good Life con­tinues” for the work­ers they see them­selves not on the same boat though they wish to be. We re­call Prime Min­is­ter, Moses Nag­amootoo in his col­umn which ap­peared in the Novem­ber 26, Guyana Chron­i­cle ad­vanc­ing the no­tion that the 2018 Bud­get will be a ‘grass roots’ bud­get. Un­for­tu­nately, the proof is in the pud­ding and the or­di­nary peo­ple re­main down­trod­den and slid­ing into a state of de­spon­dency. (FITUG Press Re­lease)

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