Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, today said while he understands how government could use direct transfers of cash to get people out of poverty, many citizens could run away with the wrong impression. He said a credit system through commercial banks might be a better option.
Speaking at his weekly media conference today, Mr. Jagdeo said Professor Clive Thomas’ suggestion that a percentage of the oil earnings could go towards making US$5000 available to every household, offers an impression that people could stop working and depend on the money.
“Government should do this sort of thing but not to create a syndrome where people believe or create the impression that because oil is coming, we will get a sum of money every year and we have to stop working. That is what the impression they are creating and they are setting a lot of people up for failure because if anyone genuinely starts believing this, and it doesn’t materialise, what happens to the lives of those people?”, he asked.
Jagdeo said while he would not criticise citizens for expecting more, he has “a huge problem of the government misleading”.
The Government has not put forward any official position on the Clive Thomas suggestion, although Natural Resources MInister Raphael Trotman said on Wednesday that it is a suggestion that should be closely looked at and one that he would support in the government.
But according to Jagdeo, renowned Economist, Professor Clive Thomas is just talking off the top of his head.
Mr. Jagdeo made it clear however that he is not against the suggestion, but there would be a need for some conditions since the country might have to cater for those years when oil prices might go down and the earnings will also drop.
“Assuming we are getting US$300 Billion and we can give every household a billion dollars and still fund it and its guaranteed for the long run and thats fine, but I am just pointing out that the magnitude of money and if we have to do all the things that Jordan (Finance Minister) said they will do and want to do, is first of all, not adequate to do what they say they want to do, so they are just lying to people, and then this is all based on best case scenarios”.
Professor Thomas’ suggestion has triggered debate on social media and across the country about whether the Government should even entertain direct cash transfers to citizens as part of its plan for the oil earnings. He made the suggestion at a recent forum on the oil industry and earnings. He also said there should be several conditions that would have to be attached and the issue would have to be closely examined.