“SALARIES & PENSIONS MUST BE RAISED IN GUYANA!” PUBLISHED IN THE KAIETEUR NEWS ON MONDAY 12th SEPTEMBER 2011

Dear Editor,

I recently spent 8 wonderful weeks in Guyana and talked with Policemen, Teachers and Pensioners (among others), and ALL were adamant about the same issue – they are not getting enough money to survive in present day Guyana.

"...Anything less than GY$1,000 per day for a monthly average of GY$30,000 in pension per elderly person is inhumane. Would any Minister in or out of office give his or her old mother or father GY$250 per day and expect them to survive on that?"

I don’t want to waste valuable space in this respected newspaper by way of voluminous writing, but suffice to say that these few points should be given the highest consideration by our current and future leaders and ACTED upon, not merely pondered or vaguely hinted at – with no subsequent follow-through.

I am told that the average Policeman in Guyana makes less than GY$50,000 per month, if he has house rent, utility bills, medical bills, food and other day to day necessities to pay (and he most assuredly does!) how can he support himself alone – or a wife and children! It is impossible, and we wonder why so many officers take bribes; could they survive without doing so in these times? Morally bribe taking in wrong, but when one has bills to pay in order to survive – morals often take a back seat.

I am told that the average teacher in Guyana makes less GY$40,000 per month, for the same reasons above – how can we expect to attract the best and brightest to this noble profession – whom we rely upon to lay the foundation for the leaders of tomorrow and future generations?

If I could have my wish come true we would see Policemen and Teachers in Guyana earning a take-home pay of at least GY$100,000 per month.

I am told that the average pensioner in Guyana receives less than GY$7,500 per month, how in our right minds can we expect even a single elderly person to survive on GY$250 per day on average? Anything less than GY$1,000 per day for a monthly average of GY$30,000 in pension per elderly person is inhumane. Would any Minister in or out of office give his or her old mother or father GY$250 per day and expect them to survive on that?

I am not blaming any political party as it serves to purpose to do so, each party has done positive and negative, no government on earth has ever been – or will ever be perfect.

However – we can look at the Amerindian government of Bolivia under President Evo Morales whom I have met in person, I have also met with 8 Ministers in his government when I was in Bolivia as the only person from CARICOM invited (as a member of the Indigenous Caucus Working Group of the Organization of American States/OAS) to be present at the Presidential Palace when the Natural Gas Industry was nationalized in April 2007.

"...the average Policeman in Guyana makes less than GY$50,000 per month, if he has house rent, utility bills, medical bills, food and other day to day necessities to pay (and he most assuredly does!) how can he support himself alone - or a wife and children! It is impossible, and we wonder why so many officers take bribes; could they survive without doing so in these times?"

Do you know that the FIRST thing President Morales did when he assumed office was to cut his own salary as President and that of every government Minister IN HALF!

As President Morales said – “too much of the taxpayers money was being wasted on huge salaries for Government officials, and this money could be better spent on the poor instead….we cannot live in luxury when so many are in poverty in our country“.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the FIRST and so far ONLY case of a President anywhere in the world cutting salaries of top officials by 50% – and it was done by the world’s ONLY Amerindian President, he set the example – but will any other of our elected leaders follow? Or will most politicians ensure that their own lives are led in comfort on the high horse while so many who voted for them are struggling to make two ends meet far down below?

Let us all re-examine our own lives and cut down the vine of selfishness while we plant the flower of generosity within our own hearts.

Guyana CAN do it, there are examples of financial wastage that can make these things possible if halted and diverted.

As brother Bob Marley said “where there is a will – there is always a way“.

Yours faithfully,

Damon Gerard Corrie

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