My Fellow Guyanese,
As you know, since my Government assumed office last August, we have spared no effort to ensure the reversal of the severe and punitive conditions created by five years of misrule and mismanagement by the APNU/AFC dictatorship.
Through our 2020 and 2021 budgets, we removed the Value-Added Tax (VAT) on water and electricity, as well as on basic food items, basic household necessities, and on medical and educational supplies. We reduced water tariffs by five percent, and reduced by 50 percent licence fees that had been increased since 2014. We also moved to make homeownership and home construction more affordable by removing the VAT on basic construction materials, increasing the ceilings on low-income mortgage loans from $8 million to $12 million and on loans granted by the New Building Society from $12 million to $15 million, and doubling the ceiling on loans eligible for mortgage interest relief from $15 to $30 million. We also reduced the cost of connectivity by taking off the VAT on data for residential and individual use and on cellular phones.
In order to reduce the cost of doing business and to create jobs for all Guyanese, we removed the VAT on heavy machinery and equipment, removed corporate income taxes on companies investing in the education and health sectors, and reduced land rental charges back to 2014 levels. The latter measure alone put $1.4 billion back into the hands of farmers.
More recently, I announced two major sets of interventions aimed at relieving the suffering faced by farmers and households as a result of the floods of May-June 2021, as well as to ease the impact of imported freight charges on the cost of living. In the first set of measures, I announced a $7.8 billion package of assistance to farmers and households to help get them back on their feet and help bolster production in the wake of the devastating floods they faced. The pay-out of this package will start later this week. In the second set of measures I announced last week, I introduced a cap on the freight charges used to calculate taxes on imports. This measure will allow for a saving of $4.8 billion by consumers and businesses.
Other measures that my Government has implemented since we assumed office include an increase in old-age pensions from $20,500 monthly to $25,000 monthly and in public assistance from $9,000 to $12,000 monthly. These two measures alone have injected an additional $4.5 billion in income support to these vulnerable groups.
My Fellow Guyanese,
I now wish to announce a further set of measures aimed at providing $2.6 billion worth of additional support to the most vulnerable in our society. These are:
- A one-off grant of $25,000 to all old age pensioners, equivalent to one month of old age pension. This grant will benefit almost 65,000 persons, and place an additional $1.6 billion of disposable income in the hands of our elderly. I wish to reiterate that this $25,000 one-off grant is equivalent to additional month of pension to every Guyanese pensioner in every community.
- Secondly, one-off grant of $25,000 to all public assistance recipients and persons living with disabilities. This grant will benefit about 25,000 persons, and place more than $600 million of additional disposable income in their pockets.
- Thirdly an electricity credit paid to GPL on behalf of households consuming not more than 75 kilowatt-hours per month. The credit to each household will be equivalent to one month of their electricity bill, and will inject more than $200 million of disposable income to more than 40,000 households. I wish to repeat this, targeting the most vulnerable again, those persons, those households in our society would receive the equivalent of one-month’s free electricity in these new measures that I’m announcing, this will benefit directly more than 40,000 households across the country.
Together, these three new measures will provide additional income support of $2.6 billion to our most vulnerable households.
This comes on top of the COVID-19 relief cash grant that we rolled out as soon as we came into office and which is currently in its second phase. Once this phase is finished, the COVID-19 relief grants will have placed more than $8 billion in the hands of families across our country.
My Government remains committed to supporting all Guyanese as we navigate the current challenges of our time, as we rebuild our country from the difficulties of the last five years, and as we work towards realising the prosperity that inevitably lies ahead for our country and all our citizens.
My fellow Guyanese, tonight’s measures will bring $2.6B into the pockets and hands of ordinary Guyanese. This will go a long way in bringing relief. This is a Government that cares. This is your Government regardless of which community, which region you are from; this is your Government delivering to you again $2.6B challenging and difficult times. I say to you that we remind commitment and that in the coming months, we will continue to work in finding ways in which we will continue to make your lives easier and ways in which we will continue to make you more prosperous and ways in which we will deliver to you a life that is fulfilling and satisfying.
I thank you, and God bless you.