FITUG says budget is ‘pro-workers’

-Calls on political parties to focus on issues rather than personalities

FITUG (Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana) has welcomed this year’s $192.8B  budget as a “pro-worker budget”, citing in particular the 25% increase in the income tax threshold.

FITUG in a press statement issued by its President Carvil Duncan, who is also General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), is calling  on “all political parties to conduct the debate (in Parliament) in the best interest of all Guyanese with a focus on issues rather than personalities.”

FITUG also welcomed  the support for sugar workers and their families as well as the “direct support to avoid increases in electricity bills by 20%, since it is the average worker that would feel the brunt of this.”

FITUG declared that “we recognize that the 2012 Budget reflects a country continuing on the rise, and all Guyanese should have a sense of pride of what we, as Guyanese brothers and sisters, can achieve when we work together.”

The FITUG statement also highlighted “real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years, external reserves rising threefold since 2006, to US$798 million, external debt being reduced from 658 percent of GDP at the end of 1991 to 47 percent at the end of 2011, the fiscal deficit being reduced from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 4.4 percent in 2011, foreign direct investment amounting to US$1.3B over the past five years, credit by the banking sector expanding by almost 20%, and inflation last year being only 3.3%.”

Apart from economic growth, FITUG expressed satisfaction with both the level of foreign interest and investment and the expansion of lending by Guyana’s banking sector.

Duncan also shared compliments. “First, let me compliment the Minister of Finance and the Government for the macro economic performance, particularly, given the performance of the rest of the world over the last five years. It is a testimony to the persons in charge.”

For the average working man, FITUG contended, the biggest measure in the budget is the increase in the income tax threshold that put an additional (amount)  in one’s pocket per annum, if they are earning above 50,000 per month.

“This 25% increase in the income tax threshold is the largest on record and is very much appreciated.  Given the public sector wage increase last year of 8% vs. 3.3% inflation for last year, the increase in the threshold this year will continue to see an increase in disposable income for both the public sector and the general working class,” Duncan contended.

He also welcomed the continued focus on social services and the expansion of the OLPF (One Laptop Per Family) programme this year.

Duncan  also expressed the view that the long overdue telecoms reform will occur soon and consumers/workers will see a drop in telecom rates and greater access to the wide array of services now available in the telecoms sector.

He said that FITUG also recognizes that the “government’s contribution to GPL of $6B is to avoid the 20% increase in electricity rates that the company is entitled to get – this is in essence a subsidy to the consumer. Given the share of electricity prices in the average man’s budget, the government support is very welcome; we also recognize that much is being done to reduce the price of transportation via the lowering of applicable taxes on fuel.”

FITUG also strongly welcomed the intervention in the sugar industry, with the intention of supporting the company on its return to viability, arguing that without this the company would face the real threat of closure or substantial loss of employment.

“Subsidizing sugar ensures the continuity of employment for over 18,000 workers and their families and those who benefit from the sugar industry—the budget notes that over 120,000 persons will benefit from this,” FITUG noted, adding that  last year’s performance of GuySuCo was better than before, and the workers are to be commended for this achievement.

FITUG also expressed the hope that the company’s performance will improve as projected and this subsidy will be avoided next year.

“It is hoped that the transition in tariffs announced in the budget will be manageable, but it is recognized that fuel has increased and the prices in Linden is about 10% of that of GPL for residential customers,” FITUG said, while noting that persons in Kwakwani receive electricity free.

Larger increase

FITUG said further that while it recognized the “increase in benefits for old age persons and pensioners, it would have been desired to have a larger increase.”

“We recognize that for over the last five years this represents a doubling. We would want to ask Government to consider this group of Guyanese as our brothers and sisters that are most vulnerable, and do deserve as much support as possible,” FITUG urged.

In the meantime, the trade union grouping is looking  forward to the  budget being approved by  the “unique composition of  Parliament”.