Like their predecessors, some members of the governing APNU+AFC have sought the reins of power for the perks. Grand campaign promises were made. Not surprisingly, the population was conned as political perks have become symptomatic of political administrations, current and past.
A special piece of legislation to give a former Prime Minister Hamilton Green a whopping pension is the latest example. What Mr Green has done for Guyana is questionable.
The legislation seeks “to provide a pension, benefits and other facilities to Hamilton Green, Prime Minister from 1985 to 1992, to enable him to live in keeping with the high office he occupied.”
As a result, Mr Green will get about $16 million of taxpayer dollars as a pension, in addition to what he already receives from Parliament, according to reports.
The perk-setting formula surfaced under former President Bharrat Jagdeo who signed legislation for huge allowances for former presidents.
During his presidency, some people became millionaires. The PPP/C administration employed numerous party activists as contract workers who were paid monthly salaries for non-productive work. Ambassadors were allowed in some cases to write their own contract of employment.
One ambassador, for example, was paid over US$8000 as part of his package in addition to special first class travel allowances for himself and family.
The mansions in Pradoville One and Pradoville Two as well as the extravagant lifestyle some politicians had attest to the squandermania under the PPP administration. Details of white collar criminality, revealed by a number of forensic audits, continue to shock the nation.
While in opposition, the PNC and minority parties constantly harped on Mr Jagdeo’s pension perks and pledged to revisit the legislation.
A minor revision was subsequently made by the APNU+AFC administration upon their assumption to office but Mr Jagdeo continues to enjoy millions in benefits.
The political perks continue to be sought after. Within months the new APNU+AFC government gave themselves more than a 50 per cent increase in salary and allowances.
Today the economy staggers to keep afloat, thanks to low prices for sugar and rice. Meanwhile, President David Granger, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and other ministers travel around the world attending conferences of varying sorts. How these visits will benefit the nation will never be determined.
Despite modest economic growth over the years, per capita income remains the lowest in the English-speaking Caribbean. Public servants struggle on meagre wages and salaries, having been granted a minimal increase. It is time for a financial audit of political perks and the cost to taxpayers and the treasury.