Since Professor Clive Thomas made the proposal that a part of the oil revenue be used to pay cash transfers to each Guyanese household, and the WPA subsequently adopting the recommendation, pointing out its potential transformative effects on the lives of the poor and powerless in the country, there have been a number of letters and articles expressing opinions for and against.
I am aware that Dr.Thomas and the WPA welcome the spirited debate that has emerged so far in response to the proposal, and are paying keen attention to positions and ideas coming from both policymakers and citizens.
While I appreciate the interest shown in this matter, I am personally disappointed that critics, including government officials, have chosen not to address the proposal honestly, but instead to engage in the tactics of deliberate misrepresentation and disinformation. Interestingly, this approach to the debate cuts across the political divide (government, opposition, and civil society), so much so that a case can be made that morality and honesty in public debate have become something that our political culture is devoid of.
To illustrate the above I have chosen to cite a recent letter written by Mr. Hamilton Green and published in the Stabroek News, Saturday August 11, 2018 edition, under the caption, `There are more important priorities for oil revenues than transfers to family units’.
Mr. Green has been a politician and public administrator for most of his adult life, and as he reminds readers, he had been “…on the hustings for generations”. Now retired, he has ample time to read and comprehend, and in relation to the Thomas/WPA recommendation for the use of part of the oil money as cash transfers to each Guyanese household, I can only assume that the veteran politician has done so. But his letter runs contrary to that logic and forces one to conclude, that he consciously decided to engage in deception and disinformation in stating his position on the proposal, bearing in mind that Thomas and the WPA made it quite clear that the cash transfers to each household of a minimum of one million Guyana dollars annually, would amount to a very small portion of the expected oil money since it represents between 2 to 5 % of gross revenue.
This means that the government has at least 95% of the oil revenue to spend on other policy initiatives. Mr. Hamilton Green and similarly minded critics have mentioned in letters and articles many areas that the money should be spent on. In Green’s letter, he cited seven areas, all of which and more can be funded from the 95% of the oil revenue the government will have after giving the 5% in cash transfers to the poor and powerless.
I am convinced that the detractors of the proposal are aware that the Thomas/WPA proposal represents a very small portion of the enormous wealth that will be in the hands of those who manage the state. In spite of this knowledge, they choose to demonstrate ignorance in the public space (not understanding simple maths). In doing so they do a disservice to themselves and the country.
Finally, I end by taking note of an article published in the Stabroek News, Tuesday, August 14, 2018 edition captioned, `Justice For All Leader hammers WPA cash transfer proposal’. In this article the Honourable Minister Mr. Jaipaul Sharma is quoted as referring to “ .. the suggestion from the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) that oil revenues should be used for cash payouts to every Guyanese…”. This clearly illustrates my point about the dishonest approach to this debate by some government officials. If he is quoted correctly, the minister is devoid of political morality – he can’t claim that he doesn’t know the difference between each household and every Guyanese.