GUYANA: Cash Grants to Guyanese: “Give a man a fish” – Guest Editorial

Stabroek News

Stabroek News – Guest Editorial – June 9, 2022

Starting last year, the government has made various announcements of one-time cash grants to diverse groups for a variety of reasons; these were in addition to the contentious and inadequate one-off $25,000 distributed to each household that was meant to supplement lost earnings as a response to the economic deprivation wrought by the COVID-19 restrictions. They are also apart from the now on-again educational grant given to households with school-aged children.

The largest, to date, was that made in October last year by Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo of $250,000 to workers who had been severed when the sugar estates where they were employed were closed under the previous administration; he had estimated their number to be around 7,000. 

Last month, President Irfaan Ali announced that over 5,000 fisherfolk would receive $150,000 each in view of the decline in catches, which has had a negative economic impact on their lives. Last week, the President also announced that a once-only $100,000 grant would be given to children with disabilities (tentatively numbered as around 1,200) when he met them and their parents at State House and after listening to their myriad problems. There have also been handouts to farmer groups deemed to have taken an economic hit recently.

The government’s obvious magnanimity has raised some eyebrows and questions about the motive behind the announcements coming not from the ministries or the sector heads as the case may be, but the president and vice-president. However, to call a spade a spade, such questions are nothing less than disingenuous when asked by politicians among whom the saviour complex is par for the course anywhere you go. Moreover, a look at this country’s history would provide few if any examples of announcements of munificence by any of its governments having been made differently.

Meanwhile, as probably should have been expected, the question now arises as to whether other affected and vulnerable groups might experience the same largesse. Is there a lavish hand outstretched to, for example, adults with disabilities who are in dire financial straits? What about old-age pensioners and other marginalised groups? Already, there has been a formal request made by Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Regional Chairman Daniel Seeram on behalf of the residents of his region, via a letter to the editor published in this newspaper on June 1.

While the conditions befalling those who have benefited thus far cannot be argued with, there is no escaping the fact that the global pandemic precipitated a disproportionate threat to many of the already vulnerable, who might not necessarily fall within any of the aforementioned beneficiary categories. On the other hand, there could very well be families that fall into two or three of the groups. And unless serious cross-checking was done, which does not seem to be the case given the ad-hoc nature of the handouts, there might be families raking in windfalls while others remain bereft.

With regard to the cash grants, in each instance, accompanying measures to be instituted were also declared. Among these were skills training for the former sugar workers, aquaculture development for the fisherfolk, and care and business centres to benefit children with disabilities. In truth, the measures as outlined are far more valuable than the once-only payments, and, if effectively implemented, could really redound to the benefit of those targeted. Taken altogether, this is in reality, to paraphrase writer Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, ‘giving a man a fish as well as teaching him to catch’. It would be truly admirable if, in this case, the fish were more equitably shared. And surely, given his ‘One Guyana’ slogan, this is what President Ali intends.

There is a local tendency to use the phrase ‘welfare state’ with some amount of contempt. In fact it is an admirable model to emulate and one in place in many Western European countries that have managed to drive poverty levels down and raise the quality of life of their citizens. Indeed, Guyana has been struggling to follow such a model and could still do so if policies were streamlined and systems put in place that actually work. By definition, a welfare state is one where the government establishes institutions that protect the well-being of citizens. According to, national insurance, financed by compulsory contributions from citizens, is a fundamental feature of a welfare state. Other features include, but are not limited to, free education and health services, as well as poverty alleviation programmes and in some instances, free or low-cost housing provided on a means basis.

The money to fund all this usually comes from taxation, where the wealthiest pay the most. It is a system that does not always function as it should. When it doesn’t, governments are forced to foot the necessary expenditure and that can prove problematic. In our case it need not be; the much hyped oil wealth could be put to use. Critics of the welfare state believe that it engenders dependence and can be easily abused. However, there are proven measures that prevent these ills that have been successfully implemented in several Scandinavian countries, which should not be difficult here given our small population. This being the case, there is nothing, except perhaps political will, preventing government from truly taking care of the population, beginning with the most vulnerable.

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  • brandli62  On 06/10/2022 at 4:16 am

    The editorial above hits a nerve with me. Given the recent oil, gold, and bauxite discoveries, Guyana should be in an excellent position to implement a Western European welfare state for the benefit of its citizens. My advise would be to take Switzerland as a model. The welfare programs (unemployment insurance, disability insurance, social security, mandatory private health insurance) was designed to encourage its citizens to seek work, while protecting them from temporary unemployment, illness or poverty in old age.

    The Swiss welfare state requires however that all stakeholder (natural persons & legal entities) pay their fair share of taxes. This includes the very rich, who pay disproportionally more taxes than the poor, who do not pay taxes if their income falls below the poverty line. Multinational companies do neither get off the hook.

    Now here is where Guyana has a problem. How come that Exxon, Hess, and CNOOC can enjoy unlimited tax holidays as part of the productions sharing agreement (PSA) signed by the Government of Guyana? How come gold, manganese, and bauxite mining companies essentially do not pay taxes? Tax holidays are an internationally accepted tool to attract investment, but they should ALWAYS be limited to 5 to 10 years and owed taxes have to be payed in full and retroactively, if the tax-exempted company closes shop prematurely.

    Guyana’s oil producers are entertaining an unlimited tax exemption clause, where the Government of Guyana pays their taxes on behalf of Exxon, Hess, and CNOOC. These billions of lost tax revenues are missing in the coffers of the Guyanese state to finance a sustainable welfare state. It’s high time that the Guyanese people call out Exxon, Hess, and CNOOC for being selfish and unsolidary! When will the Ali administration start negotiations to correct the loop-sided PSA for example demanding an end of the tax holiday clauses by 2029, ten years after first oil?

    • Age  On 06/10/2022 at 11:24 pm

      Let’s focus on things we can control.
      Canada boasts of being the best country in the world, yet the Native Aboriginals live in modern day concentration camps and were robbed of their lands.

      • Dennis Albert  On 06/11/2022 at 5:49 pm

        You bring an out of topic, yet relevant point.

        Ali is giving away money left right and centre, yet in your country of residence, the government used to be stingy about money, yet OMAI was robbing us of we gold.

        The PPP is giving monies to the hinterland communities, while Canada continues to rob and terrorise the Amerindians to this day. I read that thousands of Amerindian children were murdered in the schools and there was a coverup for years.

        Now Alison Redford, this Devil, went to Guyana, and did not act in the Guyanese best interest, through brokering the Payara deal which continue to rob us of we oil.

  • Dennis Albert  On 06/10/2022 at 9:57 pm

    Corporations always find a way to get the resources of the so-called “Third World” for free.

    With the amount of natural resources, land and water that we own, we could be living off the royalties of these resources for life and invest greatly in the Singapore model of the service economy.

    Instead, Guyanese continue to flee to hostile lands up North to risk getting massacred by a middle class Trump voter. Not me and that.

    We got 15 billion barrel of oil discovered to date, but the profits go to New York, or Texas to pay for the welfare of a future racist mass murderer.

  • Age  On 06/10/2022 at 11:22 pm

    Bharat Jagdeo a generous man. I remember when I had to go on welfare in the 1990s and the Canadian lady working at the welfare office tell me that I should return to Guyana instead of using welfare money to buy alcohol.
    What a terrible accusation at that time, but there wasn’t awareness of the hell that unemployed immigrants faced during the early 90s recession.
    I remember Guyanese mothers being told to abort their babies or leave their husbands and work in factories to supplement the welfare cuts.
    Guyana is moving ahead wuth progress. Good for Ali and Jagdeo.

  • Emily  On 06/12/2022 at 2:55 am

    Which Canadian government sterilized BIPOC women?

    If this happened in The Ukraine, the Russian oligarchs would be forced to testify at the International War Crimes Court in the Hague.

    I’m learning a lot about Canada and it’s fake socialist leanings. It’s more capitalistic towards BIPOC and socialistic for the privileged races.

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