GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – As wheat prices peak at record high globally, His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali said his government is exploring the possibility of sourcing a variety of wheat for local production, reports Synieka Thorne; meanwhile, the government of Guyana is “aggressively” seeking solutions to ease the burden of the rising cost of living, says a report by DPI.
Local cultivation of wheat
The surge in wheat and other commodity prices is a result of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Both states account for about 30 percent of the world’s traded wheat.
“Soon we are going to work to see whether we can find a variety of wheat that we can plant in Guyana, so that we can fulfill even our local requirement. We are learning important lessons now that we must not leave unanswered for future generations,” pesident Ali said.
Speaking at the commissioning of a new well at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara on Tuesday, president Ali lamented that both the Covid-19 pandemic and the war have led to supply chain disruption, which has major economic implications.
The pandemic in some instances has increased the cost of goods and services between 20 to 145 percent, while the cost of shipping and logistics has caused increases by as much as 200 percent.
The war in Ukraine then arose, taking out close to 40 percent of global wheat production. The price per barrel of oil also surged. And if that was not enough, China with just an emergence of a few COVID cases, has gone into another lockdown.
Notwithstanding these challenges, president Ali said the government is unwavering in its quest to build a Guyana that is resilient, and a country that meets not only its national responsibility, but plays an important role in its global responsibility.
“We have started to present leadership on our next big crisis, food security…The world has thought us that we can no longer be dependent, we have to be as self-sufficient and self-sustainable as possible, especially when it comes to the supply of food and basic commodities,’ the president noted.
He said citizens must understand the complexities of the environment under which the government is operating, acknowledging the fact that despite the many challenges, the administration has managed to maintain a country that boasts the best debt-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio.
The government has also been able to keep all its public servants employed, expand employment opportunities, provide increases in salaries and pension, and incentives to more students.
Seeking solutions to ease the burden of rising cost of living
Meanwhile, His Excellency Dr Ali said that his government will have a national consultation on the best options to address the rising cost of living, with the intent of easing financial difficulties on Guyanese.
He noted that having meetings with a cross-section of stakeholders would allow for open and frank discussions in addressing “this multifaceted problem that we are faced with”.
The head of state made this announcement on Tuesday afternoon while pointing to the global challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are now heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“So as if COVID-19 was not enough, the war in Ukraine came upon us, taking out close to 40 percent of global wheat production, taking the price of oil to as much as $126 per barrel, driving up the costs of transportation, cutting off supplies, and if this was not enough, China with just an emergence of a few [Covid-19] cases, has gone into lockdown again.”
President Ali assured that his government is “aggressively” tackling the issue and examining the best approach.
“We have already started discussions, and the government will be continuing that aggressively with a cross-section of Guyanese and communities so that we can come up with the best possible approach; listening to ideas, listening to some of the connected issues and then coming up with some policies.”
$5 billion in relief measures
President Ali reminded Guyanese that nearly $5 billion has been earmarked in the 2022 budget towards various interventions aimed at easing the burden of the rising cost of living. Earlier this month, the head of state assured that dealing with issues affecting the cost of living is at the top of his government’s agenda and is being tackled head-on.
Since taking office, the government has introduced several measures to put more disposable income into the pockets of Guyanese. From the onset, Value Added Tax (VAT) was removed from water and electricity.
There has also been a constant increase in old-age pension and public assistance, which in 2022 put $2.3B and $432M into the pockets of Guyanese.
Additionally, the PPP/C government reinstated ‘Because we Care’ cash grant and school uniform grant, which stands at $30,000 per child in both public and private schools.
The government has also cut excise tax on fuel on several occasions in light of rising fuel prices since taking office.
“We have reduced it to a point where I think it’s at 10 percent … so that has been continuously done without anyone calling for that…”