Minister of Finance Winston Jordan on Sunday said it is the government’s intention to utilize oil revenues to benefit citizens, saying there will be “direct income changes.”
He stopped short of using the word cash transfers, which has been a controversial one. The WPA and the AFC, both parties in the governing Coalition, are in support of direct cash transfers to citizens, but President David Granger had said while there has been no definite decision, the matter has to be further clarified.
Minister Jordan, on a visit to the island of Leguan, spoke on the use of oil revenues and pointed to the direction the government could proceed with if it retains the seat of government at the March 02 general and regional elections.
He said the advent of the petroleum sector represents a “great revolution” that is coming, saying that the country will get “money unheard of” from the high quality petroleum reserves offshore.
“We don’t want to waste it,” Jordan stated, noting that the use of the money will be governed by the Natural Resources Fund.
He said the Fund has three objectives: (1) save for future use; (2) save to continue major infrastructure projects if there is a dip in the price of oil; and (3) development, with two objectives, namely undertaking infrastructure projects and “the soft part”, which is allocating funds to citizens.
“People are our greatest assets. So, we are going to see direct ‘income changes’ to our people,” Jordan stated.
He indicated the revenues could be used to boost Old Age Pensions, saying that though there has been increases over the years, it is still short of where it should be.
“So we will be looking to improve that right away,” he declared.
He said too the revenues could also be used to help the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) meet its obligations.
“NIS has itself made some reckless investments and so the income that they should have been getting from those investments, they did not get it. And it is such now that NIS is actually eating into its capital to pay even now the benefits…”
“So, that will be attended to” with the oil revenues, Jordan stated, “so that people can get better benefits.”
He said too the oil revenues could be used to address pensions in the public service, because public servants who retired in the 80’s have seen their pensions decimated because of devaluation, with former General Managers and Chief Executive Officers receiving “minimal pension,” which he said is half the minimum age.
“They have been coming at me like a ton of bricks,” Jordan stated.
“I mean we will have to look at their pensions.”
He also pointed to other beneficiaries as being single-parents, disadvantaged Guyanese, including those in difficult circumstances and those with disabilities.
Further, he said consideration will be given to youths by encouraging entrepreneurship by providing easy credit and the development of a wide range of skills.