PPP/C Member of Parliament Dr. Vindhya Persaud on Wednesday flayed the government’s proposed 2018 budget, calling it “uninspiring” due to a lack of effective programmes and policies to deal with issues that plague women and children in the country.
“Once again women have been sidelined in this budget. There is no mention of effective programmes to deal with many issues that plague women in our country. Countries around the world see that sidelining women is not good for sustainable economic development,” Persaud told the National Assembly, while stating that she did not notice anything in the budget to address the issue of domestic violence, which she said continues to plague women of the country.
Additionally, she explained that the current infrastructure in place to address the issues are “weak and not a programme or policy has been mentioned in this year’s budget speech.”
Persaud highlighted that 50.9% of women are in the working age population, yet less than 35% of them actually work, which she said is a travesty.
As a result, Persaud explained, the non-involvement of women in the economic sectors or in the working world gives more “strength and forcefulness” to their partners, who control their “finances and fate.” This, she said, encourages domestic violence, since more women are not financially independent and cannot make harsh and necessary decisions for themselves and their children.
“This budget is devoid of programmes that will empower women. Nothing that will enable women economically, that will give them leadership skills,” Persaud said, while pointing out that the Guyana Women’s Leader-ship Institute has not been functioning for the last two and a half years.
The institute, she noted, was established under the previous administration to facilitate the development of leadership and social skills. However, Persaud pointed out that there are currently no programmes that are being carried out at the institute, nor have there been any initiatives that have been put in place to help vulnerable women in both the hinterland and coastal areas.
“The budget continues to promise a good life… Nothing has changed for the better and people have been let down just as they have been let down previously by other budgets. I want to say poverty is fueled by social injustice and if a government abets it, that government could never be a good government,” Persaud charged.
Referencing the thousands of sugar workers that have been laid off from GuySuCo so far, Persaud questioned why no plans or strategies were developed to assist the women who are going to be affected by the imminent closure of sugar estates.
“We heard about jobs from the government but no details about where the jobs are. We still are at a very high percentage of unemployment. The young people contribute to 40% of unemployment, which is a travesty,” she said, while stating that two and a half years is enough time for the government to have steered onto the right track.
Persaud added that not enough has been placed in the budget for the Ministry of Social Protection to deal with the welfare of the women and children, which she said are the most vulnerable people in the country.
“…Going forward it seems as if Santa Claus has stayed home and the Grinch is going to visit and has visited,” she said, while adding that the infrastructure to address the issues of women and children is woefully inadequate.
Persaud went on to question whether the government is up to the task of ensuring that mechanisms are in place to ensure that victims of sexual assault and other social issues are protected, since there is no clear policy or strategy that has been highlighted by the budget speech.
Persaud also highlighted the lack of an expansion programme for counselling in schools, which she has been advocating for. “We need counsellors; we have less than 100 counsellors in this country that are placed when we think of the burden placed on these few counsellors and social workers,” she said, while adding that there is a need for more counselling hubs, human resource capacity building and more resources to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“….There is nothing in place, no collaboration to deal with any of these and we continue to see a consistent increase of deaths when it comes to domestic violence. Do we see any mention being made in the budget? No. It is not about putting units but making sure that they function and are staffed and have policies and programmes,” Persaud said.