The Government Information Agency (GINA) reported yesterday that after the approach, APNU negotiated with Government for a package for Linden which included the granting of more television licences, and reinstituting the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) programme. Additionally, Government had committed to engaging the three commercial banks that operate in Linden to work out an arrangement similar to the Women Of Worth (WOW) programme, GINA said.
“They agreed and they said that they understood. However, the next day they changed their minds largely because the AFC put pressure on them, as they were advocating that no change be made to the Linden electricity tariff,” GINA quoted Ramotar as saying. Nevertheless, Government stands committed to fulfilling its end on the other agreements that were made with the APNU, GINA said.
With regards to the Opposition call for the Value-Added Tax (VAT) to be cut by 2%, the President said that, while his Government is not opposed to cutting VAT, a comprehensive analysis has to be done on what would be the impact of this reduction and how will the revenue from this be expended, GINA reported.
He explained that a cut in VAT will provide little or no relief to people in the lowest income bracket, since more than 100 items that they consumed have already been zero-rated. “If you cut the 2% across the board who will benefit? It will be some of the people that can afford to buy items that are not zero-rated and that will be no kind of re-distribution taking place,” he said. On the basis of this argument, it was agreed that the list of zero-rated items should be extended while that analysis is being conducted to examine the implications of a cut in VAT in various percentage points, GINA reported.
With regards to the pension, the president said that while an agreement was reached for the old age pension to be increased to $10,000 per month, the Opposition asked for the pensionable age to be raised to 65. The President said that while he saw wisdom in such action, consultations must be held with the relevant stakeholders including the trade unions and the labour movement among others.
According to GINA, the Head of State noted that members from the Government side answered every question that the Opposition posed to them including on the list of all the contract workers; nevertheless, the cuts that have possibilities of slowing down the country’s development were made. “The major ones apart from people losing their jobs have to do with the stymieing of the development of the hydropower…what we are criticizing them for is the vindictiveness,” he said.
Referring to an article in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, which quoted AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan as saying that Government is budgeting for money that it does not have, the President said that, “how could you cut money that is coming into the country?…A budget is a budget; it is an educated guess of the money you expect to get, any budget any part of the world is the same process.”
GINA said that in response to a statement made by Opposition Leader, David Granger that he is ready for Government to seek a supplementary budget provided that certain conditions are met, President Ramotar said that he is not running a “casino-type” operation and maintains that all decisions will be based solely on what is in the best interest of Guyana and its people.