Letter: McDonald’s “no compromise” position is flaunting

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Opposition MP Coretta McDonald

Dear Editor,

I write to offer a short perspective on the ongoing teachers’ strike, based on my understanding of what has transpired. As part of the union’s menu of demands, retroactive increases of 20+ percent are being sought from as far back as 2019. It must be recalled that there was another government in power at the time. The APNU+AFC Government, though it fell on December 21, 2018 and occupied government illegally thereafter, a full, complete and legal budget had been passed some three weeks earlier. APNU+AFC therefore had every legal avenue for offering specific increases to teachers.

Please recall that, in 2019, teachers benefited from a 9% increase for those who earned $100,000 or less, and an 8.5% increase for those earning above $100,000. That existing APNU-led Government declared that the treasury was unable to afford or sustain any additional payments to teachers. Fast forward a bit to 2020, after prolonged failed attempts by APNU to steal the election, the PPPC came to power and was appalled at the level of financial mismanagement of the economy, and confirmed that, indeed, the broken, ravished, and rundown economy of 2019 could not afford another cent to any recurring financial regime.

In this letter, I will not delve into the odious, brazen, and unapologetic overt political agitation masked as a teacher’s strike, except to point out that the striker in chief, Ms Coretta McDonald, is a sitting member of Parliament of APNU.

Ordinary citizens and teachers should demand from MP McDonald why her party, which gripped power so tightly, failed to negotiate with, and pay, teachers greater increases in 2019. Instead of owning up to this and outlining the truth, MP McDonald chooses to attempt to hoodwink the nation. The truth is that, with the state the economy was in at that juncture, the treasury could not even sustain the 8.5%.

The APNU administration found itself with its back against the wall, occupying the seat of power illegally, knowing fully well it would have to face the electorate in a short time. In fact, APNU launched its campaign for the March 2020 elections three weeks after the announcement of the increases, and on the said day the payout commenced, it was all electioneering.

Coretta McDonald knows that. She knows that APNU starved many other good and worthy ventures of resources, and increased taxes to fund their 2019 political odyssey. In 2019, realizing they had a short time left, the APNU Government raided the treasury and diverted hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit a few friends. Think for a moment, APNU was facing an election for its very political survival, and designed its campaign around “massive” salary increases for public servants. MP Coretta says the economy could have afforded a 20% payout to teachers, yet they did not pay it to bolster their campaign. Ask yourself why, the money just was not there.

Coretta McDonald also knew that the plan was to steal the election, and then attempt an economic rescue mission in 2020. Instead, the electorate chose the PPP/C. The PPP/C entered Government in late 2020, having to repair the ravishes done to the economy in 2019, the battering of Covid-19 along with the repairs to the tattered reputation of the country as a lawless, undemocratic nation, one shade away from economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Even though economic activities in the country ground to a halt in 2020 and 2021, the Government of Dr. Irfaan Ali was able to pay teachers 5% and 7% increases respectively.

The tone of the political rhetoric coming from MP McDonald and other known political operatives embedded in the GTU strike action suggests that teachers did not receive any increases whatsoever. This is a lie.

Further, during 2020 and 2021, much of the nation’s resources were absorbed in diverting funds to the health sector to acquire vaccines, build specialized high-dependency COVID units, pay overtime and exposure premiums to healthcare workers, etc. So, the increases already given to teachers are absolutely what the country could have afforded.

This expresses how ridiculous and unconscionable the “no compromise” position MP McDonald is flaunting. The years 2019, 2020, and 2021 cannot reasonably be included in any negotiations for increases. This is not to pre-judge any other year for inclusion or exclusion in negotiations, I merely addressed these specific years mentioned.

All for your consideration.

Sincerely,Arnold Sanasie