Gov’t interventions providing relief for vulnerable groups amid rising cost of living
─ farmers, residents in hinterland severely affected
Two of the new relief measures announced by the government on Monday, the one-off $25,000 cash grant for riverain and hinterland households and the $1 billion in fertiliser for farmers, are especially significant, as persons living in these areas and farmers were severely impacted by the rise in cost of living.
These two interventions are among four announced by President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali during a live address to the nation, aimed at buffering the effects of the rising cost of living, especially for vulnerable groups.
The cash grants will be placing $800 million in total, at the disposal of residents in the communities. The fertiliser, when purchased would be distributed to farmers to use in their planting and replanting activities.
This initiative, is expected to significantly reduce input costs and assist with the scaling -up of production. The funding comes from the $5 billion set aside in this year’s national budget to address cost of living interventions.
The President pointed out in his address, “Considering that fertiliser account for between 15 to 30 per cent of total operating cost per farmers, this initiative will significantly reduce input cost and help ensure scaled up production and adequate supply of output which is critical to maintaining price stability,”
The interventions are the first in a series of measures that are forthcoming by the government; and follows countrywide consultations with citizens.
Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo during his outreach in Essequibo back in March, listened to the concerns and suggestions of a number of persons, including members of the business and farming communities, as well as other citizens, on how government can assist them.
Members of the business and farming community had requested the Vice President to look into the cost of fertiliser, as well as other initiatives that would assist them with production.
The rise in cost of living is attributed to the COVID- 19 pandemic, which has disrupted the supply chain and imposed hardships around the world, among other external factors, such as the war in Ukraine.
The Vice President provided insight from a global perspective on the situation during the March outreach. He pointed out that Russia and Ukraine supply one-thirds of the world’s wheat and with the ongoing war, there have been major shortages pushing prices up.
“Fuel prices now are like four times what they’re worth in 2015. Fuel is related to fertiliser, and so everything just ratcheted up and the cost of living has gone up. So, this is a new challenge that we have to manage,” VP Jagdeo has explained to residents.
“… There is another issue and I keep mentioning this, that the pandemic left us with, that we are still to address, not the health consequences, but the cost of living consequences, because when the country shutdown they stopped producing and so the material that we import, like building materials and foodstuff etc., now the prices are just skyrocketed, and even when you have money now, you can’t find supplies,” he added.
Despite these external factors, since taking office in August 2020, government has continuously provided assistance to citizens regardless of location.
The removal of VAT on electricity and water, the 5 percent reduction—across the board—on water tariff, the zero-rated status on essential items and household items, the removal of VAT on data, the reduction of the excise tax rate on fuel (first in February and then in October) and the reduction of licence fee are just a few in the menu of measures.
Additionally, there were many non-tax measures that directly impacted Guyanese, including the one-off $25,000 relief grant, the re-introduction of educational grants, which benefitted both public and private school students, a one-off 25,000 cash grant for pensioners and a range of other incentives.