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This past year has been a tough one for Guyana, and every Guyanese has felt the squeeze, so to speak. The February 23rd jailbreak and the subsequent events had a domino effect on every activity within our society. Businesses have suffered tremendously and certainly foreign investors will not reconsider coming into a country where there is caused political instability.
But despite the poor performance and situation, Government in a gesture of goodwill made a payout in keeping with its affordability. This Government since taking office in 1992 has demonstrated a real concern for workers and the working class. In fact, the Public Service wages have increased between 1997 to present by 93 per cent.
At the same time, budgetary allocations in the social sectors have also increased drastically. Spending on education has moved from $1 billion to $11.8 billion; spending on health facilities has moved from $725M to $6 billion, and within the last 10 years, $12.5 billion has been spent to improve the supply of potable water across the country. The number of persons living in poverty has been reduced by 51 per cent.
Additionally, inflation has dropped to 4.1 per cent. These indicators are extremely important, because they demonstrate an effort to improve the standard of living of all Guyanese, including the public servants.
The Union's call for an increase of 64 per cent over the 2001 wages increase, while in the interest of public servants, has to be realistic in light of the current situation faced by the country.
The events within the past year have greatly hampered the growth of Guyana. The impacts have had far reaching consequences. Indeed, right now every person within this country should take an active interest in assisting Guyana to move forward, so that there can be renewed investment activities to ensure that the economic sector improves.
Additionally, it is hoped that the Guyana Public Service Union, in the interest of public servants, will move beyond 2002 and come to the bargaining table early so that a timely agreement for 2003 can be reached. This, more than anything else, would greatly benefit public servants, in that they will be able to reap the harvest increase earlier.
Year 2003 is around the corner and we all look forward optimistically for a prosperous year, which will show increase in every respect within our country.