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Guyana's Finance Minister opposed to direct cash transfers of oil money to every household



By Kiana Wilburg


Petroleumworld 08 10 2018

The prospect of handing out fat cheques from the oil wealth to every household has stirred a national debate. Several persons are of the view the government should push ahead with this idea. They believe that it is time the riches of the country be shared out evenly to the poor.

But Finance Minister, Winston Jordan does not necessarily agree with this perspective. Speaking with media operatives at Parliament on Thursday, the economist said that instead of giving direct cash transfers, the money could be used to fund projects and programmes that will generate long term income for citizens. He even summed up his belief in an old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Jordan also said that the government is already implementing a form of cash transfers. In this regard, he pointed out that parents benefit from uniform vouchers. He said that these types of cash transfers directly affect certain groups. He does not believe that handing someone a cheque for some US$5000 would have the same effect.

In this respect, the economist added, “I remember when we gave out the first $50,000 in 2015 and I asked someone what they did with it, and the person told me how the money is ‘joke money'. She said how it is just one pack of hair. And that is around Christmas time…I am not saying that is what everyone will do when they get windfall money, but you get an idea of how some people think.”

Additionally, Jordan said that the idea of cash transfers has not reached the level of Cabinet as yet. He is concerned, however, with the expectations such discussions might be fuelling. The Finance Minister stressed that at this point in time, Guyana needs to be focused on national issues and how the oil wealth might be used to address them.


While Jordan has not bought into the idea of direct cash transfers, his colleagues in the Alliance For Change (AFC), seem to be in favour of the proposal.

During an AFC press conference yesterday, AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman said that there are many countries where cash transfers have been used as a tool of economic empowerment and poverty alleviation. Like Jordan, Trotman noted that cash transfers can take various forms such as educational grants and boosting pension schemes.

Trotman said, “For 50 years we have been told about our potential and we have a duty to spread that wealth in a fair way. I thank economist, Dr. Clive Thomas for introducing this idea and the AFC supports any initiative that spreads the wealth to everyone equally and in a transparent manner. It is a necessary discussion, but please bear in mind there are variants of this cash transfer mechanism. Just do a little research.”

The Parliamentarian noted that indeed, the mechanism has been known to be a victim of corruption. He stressed, however, that this does not mean the country should be opposed to trying it.

Trotman said, “We have doubted ourselves for 50 years and this is my 20th year in Parliament. Since that time, I have noticed that we found every reason to doubt ourselves and castigate ourselves and pull ourselves down…We tend to believe that only when someone comes from a different country and tells us something it is right. Unless you try you won't know.”

The AFC Leader said that indeed there would be a need to have the necessary expertise on the matter, but he stressed that Guyanese need to take control of their own destiny and begin the discussion and process of the fair distribution of wealth.


Story by Kiana Wilburg from Kaieteur News
08 10 2018


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