The members of the coalition can no doubt remember my unflinching support for them as I consistently highlighted the PPP’s failures leading up to the 2015 national elections. They cannot now be surprised at all that I have turned my attention to them, as they have picked up exactly where the PPP left off on a host of issues. In this particular instance, public sector wages.
The coalition got into office with big promises of comprehensively addressing public sector wages. Yet after three years and six months of receiving proposals from a joint task force of the Guyana Teachers’ Union and Government officials, protests have to be mounted to force the pressing welfare issues of public servants to the front burner again. The unimportance to which this issue has been relegated by the coalition and the Minister of State speaks volumes for the coalition’s concerns not only of public sector workers, but welfare issues of the masses in general. It has been observed in the Friday June 6th edition of the local newspapers that the administration has suddenly woken up and raised monthly payments to state pensioners from $10,000 to $30,000. They very probably consider that they have made done their good turn for the year. This shallow, unschooled attitude to addressing our welfare issues is tragic, and underlines the need for better alternatives at the political level. Beggars very likely earn more than $10,000 per month or $330/day, and $30,000 remains a pittance for Guyanese who have worked their lives contributing to Guyana’s national development.
A quick comparison of the nominal increase the ministers granted themselves in 2015 with what pensioners are receiving brings the scale of inequality and lack of judgement of the coalition into perspective. This $30,000 is also half of the current public service minimum wage (http://dpi.gov.gy/government-announces-increase-in-minimum-wage-and-public-servants-salaries/).
Returning to the proposals for teachers, it has been repeated over and over again from numerous commentators that teachers’ salaries are wholly inadequate and insufficient to allow them to meet even basic living requirements for their households, and the proposals tabled by the task force in fact represent a compromise brokered between the Teachers’ union and government officials regarding what is really due teachers. The coalition administration therefore, in quite the same way they liberally granted themselves their 50 percent increase in 2015, should in fairness grant teachers what is being requested through their unions. The ‘financial implications’ to which the good Minister of State referred can, within the context of the $58 billion overdraft the coalition administration ran up with the Bank of Guyana at end-May 2018 very probably on the assumption that oil money was just around the corner, only be a shallow negotiating trick.
So just pay teachers and all other public servants their due salary increases, because oil money is just around the corner.