Be­tray­ing our pensioners again

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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!

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