I refer to a short letter to the Editor, “Raising minimum wages might not necessarily help the poor,” written by Mr Shawn Ori in response to an editorial: “Minimum wage – how far can it go?”
Mr Shawn Ori’s simple yet interesting piece hit the heart of the situation as it exists in Guyana. In our economy today, the minimum wage currently stands at $44,200 a month. I am convinced that this is not enough. While there is talk of an increase to $60,000 per month, I would like to give my personal opinion on this by stating it is the Government that should strive to reduce the cost of living. The increase in wages should not be the main focus.
Persons need the empowerment of their monies and their earnings. Giving an increase would only cause inflation, as every other conceivable item would also increase almost instantaneously. The extra money that the workers seem to have received might now be what I call “more coloured paper money in hand, or just play money.” The benefit of the rise would only dissipate, and there would be no proper effect. This is the crux of the issue that I would like to touch on.
As a result of this increase, I foresee landlords increasing their rent simply because of the cost of purchasing their products to maintain their properties. Products such as paint, nails, construction materials, and labour would also increase. The price of vegetables and fruits would also increase automatically. It is indeed sad to say, but NIS would increase instantaneously, and sooner or later, Guyana Power and Light Inc. and Guyana Water Inc. would salivate to gain their share of the meagre, almost non-existent power of the pittance provided to the workers. Costs for virtually everything would rise instantaneously, with stores and companies adding even more to increase their profits, while at the same time covering the expense of the increase.
As I mentioned above, the most critical aspect is to increase the value of money, or the spending power of the citizens of the country. The most important thing is for the Government to reduce the cost of purchasing the United States Dollar, which fluctuates between $205 and $230 dollars, according to the desperation of the buyer of the United States currency. The Government must lower the cost of living in such a way that the poor or the small may prosper. The reality is that even if the minimum wage goes up to $60,000 and the cost of living does not increase, it would still be difficult for a small family to survive on bills or expenditures such as rent, transport, power, water, or food, just to name a few.
This, in my opinion, is a terrible situation. The system will increase wages and continue to offer useless coloured paper money as wages, but the cost-of-living would keep on increasing. It all seems to me, therefore, to be a pyrrhic victory. It would be like pulling wool over people’s eyes, by giving them an increase but the money has no power. Further, this increase at this time will be very difficult to maintain business, since the economy is currently broken and struggling with COVID-19 and the volcanic tornado in the form of political and economic mismanagement of the economy of the country during the 2015-2020 era.
I wish to commend the Government of Guyana, comprising its dynamic team of Ministers who have been fanning out to the various regions of Guyana to listen to the people, while creating projects to excite local economies within these regions.
The excitement of the people is at a high level at this moment, and this mood needs to be consistent and even climb higher through services and attention to the people of this country.
Guyana is at the height of greatness, and our people need to see and feel the reality of the development and dynamism in the environment by holding something tangible in their hands, so that they can provide wealth to their families while feeling a sense of joy and victory as Guyanese men and women.
At this juncture, I would also implore the Government, as I did years ago, to set up a system that teaches ordinary people to use the money to invest in places like Banks, New Building Society, Guyana Power and Light Inc. (when it becomes profitable, as in the United Kingdom, as it relates to electric power). Shares may be purchased from companies in Guyana, thereby providing additional cash flow to companies in the form of investments, and ensuring annual returns.
It is my prayer and desire that, after teaching people how to be prudent in their financial expenditure, the Government of Guyana can begin to provide every citizen of this country with an annual income similar to what is done in places such as Kuwait and well-managed oil nations such as Norway and others. All of which would make for a better Guyana and Guyanese citizens!
Roshan Khan, Sr