• 04 Dec, 2022

“Because we care” Govt must ask for renegotiation of the oil contract so people would not rely on handouts for survival

“Because we care” Govt must ask for renegotiation of the oil contract so people would not rely on handouts for survival

“Because we care” Government must ask for renegotiation of the oil contract so people would not rely on handouts for survival

Dear Editor:

Nothing is wrong with giving out money to poor people under the banner of “Because We Care (BWC).” And it is simply wrong for that PNC Member of Parliament – a big wig in the Teachers Union – to discourage teachers from assisting with the distribution of the money. The PNC criticizing the giving out of money to poor people in these hard guava season times is not smart. I prefer cash transfers to the poor instead of political crooks thieving out the money in various guises. It’s better for cash grants to go to the people than for greedy politicians to carry an Allion in their mouth (as one politician described a Minister doing expensive dental work at the state’s expense) or a Minister wearing an Allion on his wrist (referring to expensive gifts a Minister appropriated to himself at taxpayers’ expense).

The cash grant is somewhat similar to “The Enhanced Child Tax Credit” now being doled out to families in the USA. The government gives US$3,600 (G$756,000) for each child under 6 or $3,000 (G$630,000) for children ages 6 to 17. 

That being said, the Ministry has failed to show how the BWC program is tied to any educational objective in the National Education Plan. Where is the new educational plan to drive equity, innovation and reform of our education system? Is this not a priority of the Ministry? An Education Ministry simply should not dole out billions and it’s not tied to some specific pedagogical or curriculum, instructional, assessment or technology objectives and outcomes, that makes it a specific activity to be done under the banner of the Education Ministry. The failure of successive Governments is they do “bean counting” advertising the inputs they have made into programs such as was done for the NGSA. That’s one side of the equation. Smart, professional educators also measure program impact and outcomes. What measurable educational outcomes or impact was the BWC designed to accomplish?

If the goal was simply to give parents an extra small piece because of hard times, why did we not consider giving out these funds at the same time we were giving out the COVID relief funds, to avoid parallel and multiple processes, and the extra related administrative costs to share out the money? All these multiple interactions with groups of people sacrifice efficiency and are insensitive to the need to reduce group interactions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. We are “working harder, not smarter.”

Additionally, the virus has revealed the deep digital divide between the urban and rural/interior areas. An urgent educational need is to provide tablets or computers to every student, and provide free or affordable and functional Internet. This was the apt time for the Government to reintroduce the one laptop program or one tablet per student. That would have been a clear educational objective. The decision to convert the dedicated $4,000 school uniform voucher (which is clearly an educational objective) to a cash grant removes the educational objective inherent in the school uniform program. It now makes it “mad money” for parents to do miscellaneous spending. So this did not have to necessarily be a Ministry of Education activity.

The Department of Public Information reported that the Minister gave an example of how families may need to expend the monies in different ways to enable the academic advancement of their children. “A mother stood up and said that she is going to buy a black tank with her grant because with a black tank, her children can get water in the house, and they don’t have to come out at nights when they are studying to use water downstairs. They would no longer have to get up early in the morning to fetch water upstairs. So, people use it for different sort of reasons, but it will be to the benefit of the children and to the family,” the Minister posited. This explanation is so hilarious. Should the Minister not worry why in this 21st century, fifty-five years after Independence, in the richest country in CARICOM, our Government has us getting up early to go fetch water, while Exxon, Hess and CNOOC are eating our breakfast, lunch, and dinner and laughing all the way to the bank?

What is to stop a family with four children receiving $76,000 to go buy a big screen TV for mommy to watch “The Young and the Restless?” Or for Daddy to buy liquor or dope? Government policies and practices must make sense. I urge the government to move from gimmickry to renegotiating the oil contract so that Guyana gets more money to meet the multitude of needs of our people. That’s an authentic action that would truly show that “we care.”

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Jailall