The Trades Union Congress (TUC) today called on former President Bharrat Jagdeo to provide a complete bill for his recent medical expenses abroad considering that the public may have to foot the bill under the controversial Act that provides benefits to former presidents.
Jagdeo was flown to Florida on February 21st aboard a private jet after he reportedly contracted a virulent strain of dengue fever. He returned to Guyana several days ago but has not spoken publicly about his illness, neither has he said whether he will be paying this bill. Jagdeo, 50, is already receiving benefits under the Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act 2009. Critics have said if facilities were available in Guyana for his treatment, then taxpayers should not have to foot his overseas expenses.
In a statement, the TUC said Jagdeo’s “lavish” health care spending cannot be afforded by a poor third world country struggling to boost and sustain economic growth and living wages. As a result, the TUC welcomed the linking by the opposition of passage of the anti-money laundering law with approval by President Donald Ramotar of an opposition-led bill which had curtailed benefits under the Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act 2009. There had been a bruising parliamentary debate on this bill which was eventually passed by the opposition despite strong government opposition. President Ramotar has however not assented to the bill.
“Not even in developed countries are such excesses permitted. Even more than before the people of Guyana must ensure that these public officials stop this wanton expenditure of Mr. Jagdeo and give him the quality of care not astronomically above that which matches our country’s coffers and local health care system”, the TUC said.
It pointed out that the Ministry of Health and the National Insurance Scheme both have overseas medical care policies and no ordinary citizen would be given permission or reimbursement for going overseas for dengue fever.
The GTUC contended that overseas care must only be available where such is not accessible in Guyana and for which Jagdeo or any former president must pay some part out of pocket. It said that this is more than the average citizen receives.
“No sugar worker, public servant or tax payer must support this continued abuse of our money and all must call on their respective political representatives in parliament to effect this change which must remain hinged” to the anti-money laundering bill, the TUC asserted.
The TUC said that the spate of health care deficiencies highlighted at the Georgetown Public Hospital brings into sharp contrast the state of the average worker in need of healthcare and emergency medical attention and that of former President Jagdeo.
“The gross disparity of these two levels of care is a burden and embarrassment to this country. It is an insult and abuse of taxpayers’ money … It is made worse in a system where the government in power believe they have no right to account to the taxpayers of the country and where there is lack of transparency”, the TUC declared.
The TUC said that past leaders both in the PPP and the PNC did not live such ostentatious lifestyles on the backs of the workers.
“We cannot ignore Mr. Jagdeo’s recent jet ride as a presumptuous act in defiance of Guyanese expressed concerns for the abuse of our financial coffers which it presents”, the TUC stated
The TUC noted that to justify Jagdeo’s Florida treatment, the nation was informed by the government and the PPP/C that former PNCR Leader Robert Corbin and late AFC MP Sheila Holder have been beneficiaries of similar treatment.
“The opposition is therefore reminded that when they beg for or take favours from a corrupt regime it comes back to be thrown in their face and compromises their positions as the nation seeks change”, the TUC warned.