Giving thanks for Minister Jordan’s $500

-Pensions – and growing old in Guyana

There are occasions when you are quite aggressively upset with a generosity, a gift, even advice offered when you should accept “philosophically” (as in “calmness of temper and judgement”). And even express gratitude for the gesture.

Some of us whose chronological age corresponds, appropriately to maturity can actually murmur “thanks” even though extremely disappointed. That’s my position as I say in writing, to Finance Minister Winston Jordan: “Thank you Minister for the addition of $500.00 (G) to my old age pension. I’m past seventy but that $500.00 increase might still inch me closer to your good life promised during your first 2015 budget. I thank you sincerely on behalf of all Senior Citizens past 65 who receive the national Old Age Pension. Including His Excellency and his GECOM Chairman.

Jordan used to “create” annual national Budgets for Dr Jagdeo and seems good at using numbers for great imagery as Dr Ashni Singh used to do.

After all our current good-life-for-all Finance Minister is not actually deceiving us when he states that the $500 Old Age increase “to $19,500.00 represents an almost 49% increase in just two and a half years”. And just as I respectfully chided the now-disappeared Singh (on March 28, 2014), I remind Honourable Jordan that the cost to the government will impress on paper but it is still only $500.00 more per month at the Bounty, Bourda and New Amsterdam markets.

In giving thanks I also remind the State and nation that there are only about 50,000 of us old folks who receive Old Age Pension. Respect us. Don’t fool us with “stats”.


Pensions – and growing old here

When I feel compelled to repeat certain views on specific issues of national significance, almost annually, I realise one adage is sustained: The more things change the more they remain the same. Let’s consider my (past) contexts and facts about growing old/”old age” in our Dear Land of Guyana. “Dear”? Not at all to us, the over–fifties to over–eighties!

In his just-presented Budget details, the near Senior-Citizen Minister recognised some “concern” for the “plight” of the elderly and those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. How noble of him to define “plight” and “difficult circumstances” amongst the vulnerable golden-aged working-class Guyanese. Of course, I suspect that moms and dads, moreso grand-parents of Ministers are luckier than the more “ordinary” amongst us.

“Old”, “elderly”, “seniors” differ in various cultures. Traditional, cultural and legal considerations determine “old” in different societies. Developed places with advanced life-expectancies might not view 55-65 as “senior” as their thousands of seventies to nineties. Those societies usually plan for a greyer, older, golden community. The eighties and nineties signal certain age-related disabilities, diseases, social, physical, mental challenges. Here in good old Guyana?

Governments have never prioritised “old age” considerations. The story of NIS and Public Assistance is known. Pensions are laughable whether from Public Service or Private Enterprise. Only our oldsters back from a life in America and Europe enjoy reasonable post-70 pensions. Good for GDF veterans! You bet the Brigadier will soon deliver for them. The rest of us? I doubt old retired Public Servants will enjoy recent Public Service payouts. Shame!

Among our numerous Services and Rights Commissions is one (purportedly) serving Guyana’s elderly. I’m still hard put to discover what it actually does. Three aspirational articles in the Constitution still do not catapult consideration for our few seniors to any front burner on the national stove. No free or reasonable national transportation, medical care, utilities subsidies, hospices or genuine retirement homes. What a pity! Retirement? Here? That’s another sad tale.


His Excellency the Comrade


Guess what, you politically-minded, politically-aware folks: my erstwhile political party, the People’s National Congress (PNC) aint finish celebrating its 60th yet! The media and the Party are inviting all to a $6000.00 dinner! (Campaign Fund-Raiser?) Y’all going? I can’t make it on the Old Age $500 increase. But it set me thinking again about the attributes of the Party’s current comrade-Leader His Excellency the President.

He has to separate Presidency from Party Leadership. The green Ministry of the Presidency and green State House from Congress Place. Humanly possible always?

Recall how I admired the suspected political neophyte confronting his own comrades – leadership and membership – by swiftly becoming PNC Leader, APNU Leader and Parliamentary Opposition Leader. A clever “novice” I’d say. Now transition to the 4000-plus President who must serve all Guyana and control Party.

How I “enjoyed” the Party’s 2014 goings-on at Sophia. When Comrade Aubrey Norton challenged the Brigadier for the Party’s leadership. Vigorously! (Alexander and Greenidge had had good reason to throw in that towel long before.) Remember as a large contingent of Comrade-voters became quite restive at the 2014 Party Congress gunshots rang out? Granger and his senior Party lieutenants spoke of “explosive sounds”. Great PNC political theatre!

Linden’s Sharma Solomon and Solomon’s own comrade, Vanessa Kissoon, once young Party stars, were both “retired” by the Comrade Leader for alleged “disrespect”. Comrade Aubrey publicly castigated His Excellency then. Said Comrade Norton: “The average PNC person thinks that there is need for leadership change. There is no significant accomplishment under Granger.” He was, however, suspicious of the electoral “process” at the 18th Biennial 2014 Congress. Even comrade Clarissa Riehl expressed disappointment at Granger’s treatment of the Linden Comrades then.

But the astute popular Brigadier prevailed. Today, as Party leader and President, he has appointed Comrade Aubrey a Presidential Adviser and Comrade Clarissa a High Commissioner to Canada! The two young Turks from Linden were not that fortunate.

In a “gyaff” the other night, both past and current Party Comrades were speculating just who could lead successfully the PNC in Granger’s absence. Into the 2020 Jubilee/Oil Elections. Let’s leave that for another column. The man is solidly in charge.

Meanwhile, observe keenly how His Excellency is leading his Party and Government – his greening, his appointments, his management and his latest budget of socio-economic proposals for our Good Life. What’s your opinion? Discuss…

’Til next week!


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