Betraying our pensioners again
hope that APNU/ AFC’s f ourth Budget might be a pro-growth, pro-people budget was shattered after the Minister of Finance read the 2018 Budget in Parliament on Monday. The 2018 Budget is an absolute betrayal of the Guyanese people, particularly the working class, women, children and pensioners. The Budget is entitled “Continuing the Journey to the Good Life”. What it succeeds in doing is continuing the backward slide. It continues APNU/AFC’s track record of disavowing all its promises and of punishing people with taxation and more taxation. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the 2018 Budget is the total, shameless betrayal of the senior citizens of our country and the work- ing-class pensioners.
The Old Age Pension increase of $500 per month is simply disgraceful. It is particularly disgraceful in the context that APNU/AFC had promised that were it given a chance to govern, it would immediately double the Old Age Pension. To be clear, it promised to double the Old Age Pension immediately, not incrementally during its term it. It is a broken promise and a disgraceful betrayal of the pensioners. If it had simply continued the rate of increase implemented by the PPP Government between 2011 and 2014, the Old Age Pension would today be greater than $20,000. In addition, it removed safety net subsidies that pensioners enjoyed prior to 2015, such as electricity and water subsi- dies and compounded the situation by introducing VAT on water and electricity bills. In effect, its boast that it has increased Old Age Pension is wicked spin. Pensioners are, in fact, worse off.
The parties had also promised that after immediately doubling the Old Age Pension, they would incrementally have increased it to make it equivalent to the minimum wage. This means that had they kept their promise of doubling the Old Age Pension in 2015 and then incrementally moving to equate it with the national public service minimum wage, old age pensioners ought to be receiving close to $40,000 monthly in the 2018 Budget. This is their promise; this is their contract with pensioners. They not only promised this on the public platforms, not only during their daily TV and radio broadcasts during the 2015 election campaign, they also formalised it in their Election Manifesto. Their clear failure to keep this promise is unforgivable, but it is particularly reprehensible that they are trying to sell the anaemic increase as an unprecedented increase for old age pensioners.
But there is an overall under-performance and an overall shameful betrayal of all pensioners, whether it is old age pension or a job-related pension, other than for the pension of serving ministers and other than the pension of the President and the Prime Minister. To get elected, they also promised retired public servants, teachers and Police Officers whose pensions were below the minimum wage to increase it immediately and to tie it to the minimum wage. They failed to meet this promise, and, in fact, APNU/ AFC has done nothing, not even a cent more for these pensioners, not in the 2015, 2016, 2017 or now in the 2018 Budget.
Clearly, the parties lied to the old age pensioners and they lied to all pensioners, except themselves. But Budget 2018 solidified their track- record of lies, misrepresentation, misdirection and obfuscation. They did remove VAT on Education and they claim this as demonstrating how much they care. Yet, it is APNU/AFC that introduced this tax in the first place, in spite of overwhelming public outrage. It is like the abuser who beats his wife to a pulp and then afterwards pretends to soothe the physical pain as proof that he cares. Incidentally, they did nothing to remove VAT on water and electricity and they did nothing to restore t he “Because We Care” subsidy for education which provided $10,000 per child in 2014 and was supposed to be more than $20,000 by 2018. They promised just weeks ago that there will not be any new taxes in the 2018 Budget and then proceeded in the 2018 Budget to increase property rates and taxes across the country. Absolute betrayal, lies, obfuscation, misdirection, misrepresentation! People deserve better than this!