APNU MP Joan Baveghems on Thursday declared that “a Guyana where every elderly person can retire in comfort” is far off as she lamented the poor quality of public services offered to them and called for the proposed old pension to be doubled.
Baveghems, on the third day of the debate on the budget in the National Assembly, used her speech to challenge Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh’s claim, in his budget presentation, that a “Guyana where every young person can find rewarding productive employment and where every elderly person can retire in comfort” is within reach.
“…There has been little or no improvement in the livelihood of most Guyanese,” she told the House, saying that this is evident when one compares the rise in food prices with the fact that the world market price for both rice and sugar, two of our main exports, has decreased by 2.6% and 18%, respectively.
“While the government will boast of the increase in pensions, the reality is that there will be relatively no real increase because of the rising food prices, inflation and the continued rise in the cost of living. I would therefore wish to recommend to the Minister of Finance that he increases the allocation for pensions so that they could be doubled,” she added, arguing that this would be the only way for the increase to make any difference in the comfort or the quality of life of the elderly.
Baveghems informed that the Minister of Finance has her backing should he up the old age pension and implement measures beneficial to seniors, who otherwise face poverty and near destitution.
She also decried the long wait that pensioners have to endure “sometimes in the sun and rain” in order to collect pension payments and her emotional speech brought the steady thumping of tables by fellow opposition members.
These long waits the elderly endure, she noted, are not only for pension payments. At health facilities across the country, she said, they also endure long hours of waiting only to spend a short time with a doctor who in most cases prescribes “Ibuprofen and or Chlorphen.” The medication is not free in most cases as many health facilities don’t have all that is needed to fill the prescriptions, forcing patients to buy some of the medicine, she added, calling it a “buy one, get one free” situation.
Baveghems also drew attention to the difficulty faced by seniors to access the General Register Office at the Guyana Post Office Corporation building in Georgetown for records.
They have to climb many stairs, she said, making it sometimes impossible for those who have orthopaedic conditions. “It’s painful to see those seniors struggling to access the birth and death departments. Seniors must climb all those stairs. When will the minister address repairs to the elevator in that building?” she asked.
She also highlighted the lack of care homes for the elderly in regions 2, 5 and 10 and asked that this issue be addressed by the Finance and Human Services ministers.
Baveghems also questioned the employment opportunities available to young people. “Guyanese particularly our youth have no genuine assurance for future employment opportunities under this government” she said.
She made reference to the Marriott Hotel construction, saying “Young people with the relevant skills were mysteriously debarred from gaining employment in the construction phase… despite assurances of the former president that it will create hundreds of job opportunities for Guyanese young people.”
Baveghems opined that while there are boasts about the training of thousands, such initiatives are in vain since there are no jobs for those trained.