Norton, Fernandes continue to blatantly misrepresent facts − Finance Minister

In light of recent events surrounding the intentional misrepresentation of Guyana’s poverty statistics on the World Bank Fact Sheet by Opposition Members of Parliament, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, on Wednesday issued a statement addressing the falsifications.

The fact sheet displays Guyana’s poverty line at 48 per cent, one of the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh

During a recent press conference, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton used this report to make allegations that the PPP/C Government is doing little to address poverty in the country.

However, in his haste to soil the reputation of the administration, Norton had neglected to inquire as to the manner and period in which the statistics were computed.

An update to the fact sheet by the World Bank later clarified that the poverty statistics for Guyana were taken from research conducted in the year 2019, while the current opposition was still in government.

“It’s not very difficult it’s quite normal to be writing something in 2022, and to include in it, 2021 and 2020, and 2019 material. The reality is, the World Bank made it very clear in their updated fact sheet, which Mr Norton has, that the poverty statistics related to 2019.

“Mr Norton’s logic that because the fact sheet included a reference to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 and his argument that because of that inclusion, the poverty statistics could not be from 2019, and it must have been 2022, shows either the absurdity of his logic or the blatant nature of his dishonesty,” Dr Singh said, in his statement on Wednesday.

It is this persistence in presenting falsities to Guyanese, Dr Singh contended, that dissuaded even former President, David Granger, from appointing Norton to any substantive post of government.

“It is my considered opinion that Mr Norton would do himself well to remain silent on these matters because apparently every time he opens his mouth, he either has to misrepresent the facts, or he has to display his complete lack of logic.

“But let me say it goes far deeper than that. Because what Mr Norton is trying to do, is he is trying to misrepresent the reality that beset Guyana during the five years that the APNU+AFC was in government. And I can list hundreds of things that were done by the APNU+AFC Government deliberately to impose and cause hardship on the people of Guyana,” Dr Singh said.

He highlighted, among other things, the closure of sugar estates and firing of sugar workers, the firing of Amerindian Community Support Officers (CSOs), the imposition of hundreds of taxes on Guyanese citizens, the inclusion of VAT on educational and medical supplies, as well as food items.

Over the five years of misrule under the APNU+AFC, the people of Guyana went through a period of unprecedented hardships. However, the minister contended that this was typical of the party’s leadership.

“If you go further back to the PNC’s legacy, by 1992 when the PNC finally conceded and accepted the result of a democratic election… after 28 years in government, every single Guyanese person had been impoverished. Guyana had moved from a point where, at the time that we got independence, we had gotten almost to the same level of development as Singapore. That’s a widely cited observation…. That was the PNC’s legacy before 1992, and it was their legacy from 2015 to 2020.”

This, he said, was a historical fact that the PNC, and by extension, the APNU+AFC, are incapable of denying or distorting.

The problem, however, runs much deeper than Norton’s allegations. Following the issuance of the corrected fact sheet on November 2, the AFC MP Juretha Fernandes, continued to make statements about the old version of the sheet, despite the corrections being available in the public domain.

“But that is nothing new, she is notorious for misrepresenting facts. There have been several incidents in the public record that we could go back to. The rest of her statement just puts on display either her complete lack of understanding on these issues or her deliberate intent to misrepresent,” Dr Singh said, about her comments.

The recent efforts by the opposition to misrepresent information are the latest in several attempts to soil the reputation of the PPP/C administration.