I am pleased that the government decided to hold a meeting with the operators and owners of private schools along with other stakeholders. Unfortunately, I had to leave this meeting at its most crucial point, but after reading in the news what occurred, I was thankful that I was not there since I would have been tempted to walk out as well. From what I saw in the electronic and print media, it was not a wise move for Prime Minister Nagamootoo to appear at this particular consultation. It was also surprising that he would make such an unpopular declaration to an angry crowd.
The government stated that 17.2 % of the 2017 budget is spent on education in Guyana, but hasn’t this always been so? Hasn’t a significant portion of the budget always been spent on the education sector? It is nothing new; there has always been expenditure on rehabilitating and constructing schools and living quarters for teachers, so I do not think that this was much of a point made by Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine to justify the imposition of VAT.
To say also that approximately 600 teachers would be graduating from the teacher’s college is also nothing new, since the Cyril Potter College has been producing teachers at this level for a number of years. I believe it did nothing to strike the hearts of those listening. Further, it should be taken into consideration that when 400 or 600 graduate from the training colleges, perhaps 2/3 abscond from their contracts and migrate to the islands and nations overseas, causing a shortage of teachers locally. Dr Roopnaraine had impressed me as a revolutionary person, a patriot and lover of this country, as well as one who would go to any length to protect the interest of his people. Without wanting to appear disrespectful, I wish to state that I was surprised at his typical political excuses and verbal meandering as if trying to pull wool over the eyes of the populace, mirroring the clichéd politician who has won power.
The Government of Guyana needs to consider that if all who are enrolled in private schools were to leave and enrol in public schools, what effect this would have on our education system. This would cause the system to become inundated with students which would add pressure in terms of the teacher shortage that currently exists. Instead of making it difficult for the parents to pay the increase in fees, the government should consider the added expenditure it would face if there were no private schools. How much does it cost the treasury to fund each student in the public school system? Let us assume it is $100,000 per year for each student, why isn’t this money being given as a tax break to those who are funding their own education? This would allow private education to remain affordable so that people can enjoy the ‘Good Life’ that was promised by this government.
I believe that now more than ever we need to encourage all our peoples to pursue higher education, so that we are prepared for the job opportunities that are anticipated as a consequence of our significant oil find. We must not give with the left hand and kick with the right foot. Just to note it is interesting to see how the parking meter protest and the VAT protest has brought all political personalities, supporters of the various political parties together for the common good although still keeping their individual political loyalties.
I advise the government to go after the non-compliant private education institutions through the Guyana Revenue Authority instead of destroying the dreams and future of our nation’s youth through the unnecessary taxation of their education and its materials. The government has made a significant error in implementing VAT on private education.
My advice to the government is to repeal this VAT. As usual, as I am a person of law and principle, I would advise my Guyanese brothers and sisters to remain disciplined and respectful to authority despite being in disagreement.