Hon. Savitri Sonia Parag, Minister of Public Service responds to Stabroek News’ article: ‘Workers in Guyana deserve better pay’

It is an undeniable fact that the hardworking people of Guyana deserve better. Not just better salaries, but increased and improved access to opportunities such as housing, academic advancements, etc. that will elevate their standard of living. Opportunities much like the ones being created today by the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic government.

In the above-captioned Stabroek News article, Former APNU+AFC Member of Parliament Carl Greenidge and its current Member of Parliament, Coretta McDonald are quoted as making statements that can only be described as disillusioned and unconscionably misleading.

While it is disappointing that the newspaper simply printed their blatantly biased utterances without any comparison to current facts, or at least affording the government a response, allow me to clarify and put several statements into context.

Foremost, it is most obvious that the emergence of our country’s thriving oil and gas sector will attract foreigners, whether companies, refugees or skilled workers. This is neither unique to Guyana nor the PPP/C administration. 

The only anomaly now is that the Dr. Irfaan Ali-led government has compiled and enacted the groundbreaking Local Content legislation which mandates the prioritization of Guyanese workers and entities.

According to the Stabroek News article, Mr. Greenidge pointed to the existence of “economic injustices” which sees foreign nationals earning more than their Guyanese counterparts.

I am sure that a learned man like Mr. Greenidge would know that the PPP/C Government has specified under the Local Content law that Guyanese who possess the same skills and competencies as their foreign counterparts must be paid equally. We have made sure that doing otherwise is punishable by law.

So, if Mr. Greenidge’s claims are factual, it is my genuine hope that he will allow good sense to prevail and report these breaches with haste, especially since it is claimed that “the incomes and lives of Guyanese who object is being threatened.”

Mr. Greenidge remarked that Guyana must pay keen attention to “sustaining an equitable financial strategy that can benefit the working class.” I am sure that being a Former PNC Minister of Finance, Mr. Greenidge can appreciate the fact that the PPP/C Government is doing just that.

Our incremental approach to salary increases is not only sustainable, but strategically balanced with the issuance of a billions of dollars’ worth of cash grants that every single Guyanese has benefitted from in one way or another.

For years, there has been the complaint that public servants are pursuing greener pastures in the private sector, and while the APNU+AFC and its associates barefacedly continue to lament on this, it must be clarified that their government did nothing to rectify the situation.

When the PPP/C assumed office, work started in this direction, and today, public servants are making better wages and salaries at certain levels than the private sector. For example, the salary of a police constable is not on par with that of a bank teller.

So, when this government talks about improving the lives of our public servants, it is accompanied by actions and tangible results.

Added to that, Guyanese from all walks of life, in and out of the public sector, now have the opportunity, like never before, to prioritize and pursue various levels of academic advancement (From certificates all the way to PhDs), nurture skills, and build capacity, without having to budget their earnings for it. We are doing that.

Under the 20,000 Online Scholarships Programme, we have surpassed our promises and delivered with flying colours. Even Mr. Greenidge’s colleagues who continue to criticize the government have benefited and will continue to benefit with fairness.

Mr. Greenidge also alluded to COVID-19 and the rising cost of living, but in all his portrayal of sheer doom and gloom, Mr. Greenidge failed to mention that Guyana is one of the few countries that managed to stay in the green during the pandemic, due to the swift, comprehensive and strategic actions of this government.

While Mr. Greenidge’s cohorts in the APNU+AFC were busy attempting to steal votes and squat in public offices, the PPP/C was devising a plan for the people; a plan that was promptly implemented when President Ali was finally sworn in on August 2, 2020.

In addition to providing a series of tax incentives and issuing the $25,000 cash grant for every household, the PPP/C Government, Guyana was one of the few countries in the world that managed to secure sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for our people. The very vaccines that APNU+AFC Members were immunized with, but insisted that Guyanese not take, because “the Government was providing them with unsafe vaccines.”

Such unrivaled audacity.

Further, Mr. Greenidge called for government to address remuneration disparities in the workforce and revisit the country’s labour laws, apparently oblivious, or perhaps maliciously omitting the well-publicized fact that government has already embarked on such efforts.

Meanwhile, the article continued with Ms. McDonald accusing the government of not delivering on its promises. Perhaps Ms. McDonald can first be encouraged to research what the government’s promises were, and then make the comparative analysis.

While I am confident that the majority of Guyanese are aware and even appreciative of the pace with which government has been working to build this nation and address the issues facing its people, misleading statements of this nature must not be left to roam in the public domain, lest it be confusing to our future history.