Pres. Ali rubbishes criticisms; says public servants better off under PPP/C gov’t

-       claims $10B in budget for salary increases ‘far from the truth’

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In a scathing rebuke of criticisms of the government’s recently announced seven per cent across the board salary increase for public servants, President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday defended the offer and said public servants are better off under his government than they were under the former APNU+AFC administration.

The President took particular umbrage to the concerns being aired by union leaders and said there are persons parading as trade unions actors but they are actually political actors driven by an agenda.

The President disparaged as “far from the truth”, claims that some $10 billion was set aside in the 2021 budget for salary increase. He said although the monies were listed under a line item, it also addresses year-round adjustments to wages and emoluments and caters for new employees in the public sector.

He reasoned that the criticisms, as unfair as they are, was heavy while the government was still working out further relief measures to offer to the population.

Dr. Ali recalled that when the APNU+AFC gave themselves a 50 per cent increase in 2015 and gave public servants a five per cent increase, union workers voices and activism was dead.

“The unions went quiet, they went silent, they went dead,” the President said in his Friday morning address to the nation from the lawns of State House in Georgetown.

“I’m not in the business of scoring cheap political points; I’m not in the business of misleading people,” Dr. Ali contended.

The President believes there is a concerted attempt by the APNU+AFC political opposition to cause destruction and distract from the government’s positive agenda.

“I appeal to the union to take off their political hat and put on the hat of reality, the hat of fairness and in a comprehensive way they too should applaud the government,” he said.

President Ali claimed there was a broken relationship between the former APNU+AFC government and public servants during its term in office because of unfulfilled promises.

“When the APNU+AFC came to government, they inherited a buoyant economy, they didn’t inherit a situation which we inherited – a COVID-19 situation, the economy in shambles,” Dr. Ali said.

In comparing 2015 when the APNU+AFC took office and 2021 – one year after the PPP/C’s return to government – Dr. Ali said the salary increase and other support by the government is by far a better package than what was offered then – a five per cent increase.

According to the Head of State, during APNU+AFC’s reign, professionals in the public service, such as doctors, were taken off of contracts coupled with a hike in taxes, particularly the introduction of VAT on education, and the ban on imported vehicles more than eight years old.

“Remember, they also made homeownership for the public servants more expensive by cutting the mortgage interest relief by half… this injustice was only corrected in the first months when the PPP/C returned to government,” Dr. Ali argued.

“Fact not fiction,” he said while asserting that there was more disposable income in the pockets of public servants. He reminded of the closure of the three sugar estates and the closure of the call centre in Linden, Region 10 by the APNU+AFC Coalition.

To make his case, the President pointed to the situation in developed countries where less is offered and in some cases, there is a wage freeze.

“We have outdone most of, if not the entire globe.”

Dr. Ali stood by the announcement made by the Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh who also extended the seven per cent retroactive salary increase to teachers and members of the disciplined services, constitutional office holders, as well as government pensioners.

He also announced that frontline workers in the local health sector will benefit from a massive $400 million payout that has been set aside by the government.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali also talked up the government’s intervention over the last year which included recent disbursements of cash grants such as $25,000 COVID-19 relief and $19,000 for each child in public schools.

Another $25,000 cash grant was also given to all pensioners and persons with disabilities and $200M was offered in electricity credits to vulnerable households.

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