Govt in talks with banks for low-interest mortgages for teachers

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Urging teachers to be fair and put the interest of the students at heart, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has appealed to teachers to remember the good the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has done for them, and the commitments it has made to do even more.

During an address to the nation on Sunday, President Ali referred to several initiatives the Government has rolled out and will continue to roll out to benefit teachers, while he urged them not to be used as political pawns.

“I’m very concerned that the political actors in our society are trying to use our teachers — and I’m using this word very frankly because they are aware that we are committed to a plan in which our teachers will be not only prime beneficiaries of the development and advancement of our country, but that their position will be comparable to anywhere else in the region,” the President has said.

“But, of course, it takes time. We’ve announced a series of measures to improve the lives of teachers, nurses and Public Servants, and these measures are going to continue even before the end of this year. No one needs to push this Government, we’re committed to this task,” President Ali said.

The Head of State reminded that he comes from a family of teachers, and noted that Government does not have to be convinced of the need to do more for teachers. He made it clear that Government would not allow persons to be used as political pawns by a union that is not even accountable to its members.

“For more than a year and a half, we paid teachers during COVID, while they were at home while many others in the Public Service were working. The Police and army and the doctors were saying we should pay half and then increase their salaries, we said, ‘No’. We did not make any adjustments because we are concerned, we care about every single category of worker in this country,” the President said.

Further, he detailed some other measures the PPP/C Government implemented after it took office, including correcting salary scales for $700 million; increasing the remote area incentive from $9000 to $20,000; over a 100 per cent increase and the provision of 3800 scholarships to teachers.

He also referenced the $10,000 allowance for teachers with university degrees. Additionally, the Government has been providing teachers with the opportunity within their school to earn their degrees through the Associate Degree, Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL), and online teacher training programmes.

“Outside of that, we’re giving an additional allowance of $6000 for every teacher with their postgraduate diploma. And guess what? All the training we’re doing under the GOAL scholarship programme qualifies teachers to be part of this also. The granting of a $20,000 allowance for all teachers with a master’s degree. The $30,000 allowance for all teachers with a doctoral degree.”According to President Ali, the teachers were informed of all of this during a meeting with him only last year. He made it clear that the Government’s commitment to doing all this and more for teachers should not be taken for granted.Duty-free concessions, an important issue for many teachers, were also addressed by President Ali, who said,“The continued issuance of duty-free for teachers. We’ve increased this plus we agreed to the granting of a duty-free concession to all senior teachers who have three years left to serve. Because we did not want a single teacher to leave the system without this benefit of duty-free. That’s why we said if you did not get it, and you had three years of service left, automatically you will be given that duty-free concession.”

He continued, “I told the teachers then, and we’re negotiating with the banks now, a special mechanism through which a low-interest rate will be provided to teachers for them to own their own homes and build their own houses. Those negotiations are ongoing, where you’ll be able to get loans at 3.5 and 4 per cent because we will give up the withholding tax on profits. So, you’ll be treated differentially.”

He also noted that Government was able to get the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to do two senior promotion cycles yearly, ensuring that more and more teachers are put on higher salary scales. The Government also did a general waiver letter to allow teachers to travel abroad without collateral.This, according to the President, was one of the requests made by teachers during their meeting.He further noted that the Government has much more in store for the teachers. “What more do we need to do to prove to teachers and every category of workers in this country that we have your back? A little bit of patience and understanding, as I said when I met the teachers. In the course of this and the coming years, it will get consistently better and at a more rapid pace. Let us focus on our children,” President Ali has urged.

Meanwhile, in light of revelations that the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has failed to submit financial statements for two decades, despite collecting billions of dollars in dues from teachers over the years, President Ali urged teachers to ask questions of their union.

“I’m not going to go into the accountability issue of the union. But teachers must ask questions…$2 billion invested at 10 per cent returns can give you annual returns of $200 million. No audit from 2004. Those are questions you must ask your union,” he said.

“But I can assure you that this Government is committed to making the lives of every single worker in this country better, but workers must be committed to this process; workers must understand that there’s a short-, medium- and long-term plan. I can look every worker in the eye and say to them, ‘We’ve got your back’,” President Ali has said.