Public audits can be used as a tool to identify and tackle inefficiency, mismanagement, waste, and fight corruption if lawmakers take them seriously and act on their recommendations. For the fiscal year, 2017, taxpayers lost more than $1 billion in overpayments to contractors, payments for goods without any vouchers, and payments for good that were not delivered, according to the Auditor General’s report. Public audits are meant to provide lawmakers and taxpayers with an assessment of how well public agencies delivered public services, whether they have operated within their budgets, and more importantly, whether they have executed their functions consistent with good public financial management practices.
Berbicians are in for more pain and economic hardship as the Berbice Bridge Company proposes tolls increases that are three times higher than current tolls. Families and businesses alike are already suffering from the ill-advised closure of multiple sugar factories that were the backbone of the County’s economy. The proposed tolls hike would devastate families, especially low-income and poor families, school children, and workers, and bring the County’s economy to a grinding halt unless the government takes the necessary steps to avoid the proposed toll increases.
Reduced Health Funding in Guyana Since 2011 Resulted in Higher Infant and Child Deaths and Worsened Adult Health Outcomes
Public investment in health in Guyana declined continuously since 2011, reaching its lowest level in almost two decades. The result was a substantial increase in child deaths and a slowdown in improvement in adult life expectancy. Balancing a budget on healthcare or tying its funding to non-economic outcomes are short-sighted policies with devastating consequences that are paid for with Guyanese lives.
Suicide is a Society-Wide Problem That Needs a Society-Wide Solution: Social Organizations Can Do More
One of the biggest public health and social issues facing Guyanese is the rate of suicide deaths which remains one of the highest in the world. The problem affects all races and ethnicity, however, it is more rampant in communities with a large Indian population. Several economic and social factors are linked to suicide and these are likely to worsen with the current economic slowdown. Religious organizations, charities, and other institutions can take a more active role in providing people with necessary skills, information, and knowledge to overcome suicidal ideation.
The government should use a portion of oil revenues to fund an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program to help lift families out of poverty and put them on a path to prosperity. It also incentivizes work as opposed to discouraging it resulting in greater labour market activities and improvement in social and economic well-being. The EITC is one of the most successful anti-poverty reduction policies and a better option than direct cash transfers. In addition to lifting poor and low-income families out of poverty, the EITC has been successful in growing the tax base and reign in informal activities in the formal economy.
Deaths By Suicide Remain a Major Public Health Issue in Guyana – Lawmakers Can Do More to End This Tragedy and Save Lives
Deaths by suicide in Guyana remain among the highest in the world, despite progress in recent years. In 2018, 31 of every 100,000 persons died by suicide. This puts Guyana second for the highest suicide death rate in the world, behind only Sri Lanka, according to data by the World Atlas. The cost of suicide is high, it destroys lives, damage communities, and undermine long-term economic prosperity. Fortunately, lawmakers can do more to prevent this tragedy and save lives.
Guyana Flirts with a Public Health Crisis: Immunization Rates Fell Despite Record Funding for Health
Once a poster child for immunization coverage, Guyana is flirting with a public health crisis from common preventable illnesses. In 2016, vaccination rates that protects against polio, tuberculosis, pneumococcal disease and other fatal bacterial infections declined between 3 – 5 percentage point over 2014. The decline in these vaccination rates are not only striking but a surprise given that from 2014 public health expenditures grew by 29% or almost $6 billion, reaching a total of $26.2 billion in 2016. Lawmakers and public health professionals, alike, must take these findings seriously, take immediate actions to investigate the causes, and corrective measures to ensure that every child gets vaccinated on time.
Regrettably, the only winner of the 2018 budget is the government, not the hard working Guyanese families struggling to make ends meet, agriculture and low-skilled workers searching for good paying jobs to support their families, or small businesses struggling to make payroll. The growing cost of government administration consumes significant amount of resources that could be better use to benefit families and businesses. Despite increasing total spending, the budget cuts funding for critical sectors and is unlikely to stimulate job creation and economic growth.
While there is no way of knowing what the government priorities are until the budget is presented, it is important to reflect on the state of the economy and more importantly the policy and budget decisions of the 2017 budget that contributed to the current economic distress. Despite record level government spending, the economy remained in peril with high-risked growth, high unemployment, severe poverty, rising crime, and low consumer confidence as funding for key sectors were diverted to a growing appetite of the government administration costs. Fortunately, there are common sense policies the government can take to boost the economy and promote widespread economic prosperity.
The experience of countries around the world shows that closing the gender gap and reducing inequality results in better social and economic outcomes, and promotes widespread prosperity. Unfortunately, in Guyana, there is a reversal of progress made in these policy priorities, according to according to recently released data by the World Bank. This is likely a contributing factor to the country’s current social and economic problems.