Budget 2024 places Guyana on a firmer footing – FITUG

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

See full statement from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), the most representative organisation of organised labour in our country, would like to offer its preliminary response to Budget 2024. The Federation acknowledges that the Budget, crafted under the theme “Staying the Course: Building Prosperity for All,” has admirably attempted to address the diverse challenges experienced by various segments of the Guyanese population. This approach is encouraging and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to listening to its people and their representatives.

The FITUG is delighted to acknowledge that the positive interventions proposed in Budget 2024 aim to improve the lives of working people, children, and the vulnerable. These measures seek to increase disposable income while controlling the cost of living. It is reassuring that the government has considered the struggles many families face and has taken steps to alleviate their financial burdens. Budget 2024 offers great hope for the working class and provides a platform for them to achieve a better quality of life.

The Government’s positive consideration of several of the recommendations put forward by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) during the pre-budget consultations has been met with utmost satisfaction. The FITUG applauds and welcomes the increase in the income tax threshold, acknowledging that it has risen by as much as 55% since 2020. This year’s improvement alone will release almost $5B into the pockets of our workers, this is a step in the right direction towards a more equitable tax system. Furthermore, the FITUG recognises the hike in the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) old age minimum pension and survivors’ pensions, which we raised during the consultation. We expect that the Government will continue to prioritise measures that benefit the working-class people of Guyana.

Notably, the Government has given due consideration to the concerns of our senior citizens and public assistance recipients, as evidenced by increased benefits. The FITUG has been an active advocate in this regard, and we are pleased to see our proposal being taken into account. The improvement in the “Because We Care” grant, discontinued unmeritoriously between 2015 and 2020, is also a step in the right direction. It is commendable that the Government is making strides towards achieving free university education and taking measures to alleviate the university debt burden of Guyanese citizens who have contributed to our nation’s development. These initiatives are significant and showcase a commitment to progress and development. As a working-class organisation, we acknowledge the importance of such efforts as we look forward to continued collaboration with the government in creating a better future for our citizens.

FITUG expresses satisfaction with the measures proposed to address the rising cost of living, a significant concern for working-class households. The decision to maintain tax exemptions on fuel, which will result in the government forgoing $40B in revenue, is particularly noteworthy. The continuation of the freight cost adjustment initiative, aimed at mitigating the effects of imported inflation, is also commendable. In total, the measures, according to President Dr Irfaan Ali, are projected to return approximately $100B to ordinary citizens, representing a significant financial gain on a per-capita basis. FITUG views these measures as a positive development in the drive to alleviate the economic burden on Guyanese families.

The Federation notes too substantial sums earmarked for the social sectors, which are collectively geared to enhance the well-being of our people. We must single out the policies to assist Guyanese women in obtaining cervical cancer screening, school-aged and pensioners in being tested for sight, and assistance in obtaining spectacles if required. Additionally, large expenditures are programmed to improve our physical landscape, undoubtedly making the lives of our citizens easier. Similarly, Budget 2024 has given a prominent focus on addressing the issue of home ownership as it seeks to enable more of our people to live in their own homes.

Upon examination of the Budget 2024, it is evident that it has brought numerous gains for ordinary people and contributed significantly to the development trajectory of our nation. The budget’s comprehensive approach addresses present-day challenges while focusing on creating better tomorrows, making it a remarkable balance for the country.

More specifically, the budget emphasises the importance of investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to drive economic growth and improve all citizens’ living standards. Overall, the Budget 2024 places our country on a much stronger footing for the future, allowing us to take advantage of emerging opportunities and overcome any potential challenges that may arise.