Women's Issues In Guyana

Steps to cushion food prices welcome, but women’s groups want VAT reduced

Posted in Culture & Society by wiig on April 29, 2008
Tags: , , ,

Stabroek News – April 29, 2008

Two women’s organisations said yesterday that while they welcomed the efforts by government to cushion the increasing prices of food, they still believe the steps taken so far, fall short of what is needed and are convinced that a reduction in VAT could go a far way.

Red Thread and Grassroots Women Across Race held a press conference to address the effects of the escalation in food prices on the survival of families and on the burden of the work that women carry
On May 1 the groups will hold a peaceful picketing exercise at the corner of Regent and Cummings streets, during which they hope to give a louder collective voice to their cries and demands.

“Our families cannot survive the daily increase in the price of food, prices of electricity and the high price of water,” they said.

They noted that on May Day there would be the traditional marches and speeches, but “will as usual not acknowledge or even consider our unwaged labour as caregivers in our homes and communities and through our religious bodies, whether we are mothers or not.”

The women feel that the speeches would not acknowledge women’s labour although it is “our unwaged caring labour that is holding up our families.”  

The groups said they recognised that prices were rising worldwide, but it was never admitted that in Guyana, VAT was contributing to the high cost of food. They urged that since VAT was borne by the consumer, all food items should be zero-rated.

They hailed the steps government has taken to cushion food prices, including the removal of taxes on some items like wheat, the starting up of a fund to provide money for single parent households and the increase in old age pension and public assistance, but remain convinced that more is needed.

They contended that while government and the parliament look at the “national economy”, women were tasked with managing their household economies. To this end, they said, they wrote to Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh asking him to meet a group of women to hear their concerns, but received no answer.

The women have said they support the minimum wage for some jobs in the private sector, but that the public sector’s monthly minimum wage “is not a living income” and in this regard, slammed comments by Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir that the minimum wage was not intended to give people a minimum standard of living.

The groups extended support for government’s plan to pay money to single parents and said they would cooperate with the distribution of forms. However, they warned against the perception that $100 million divided among the number of single parents in Guyana could provide a living income or even a real boost towards a living income.

“Its no point telling us the cost to the economy of the measures government has taken. …When so many of us have to choose between sending our children to school or buying food,” the groups declared. They observed too that a favourite proposal of ministers at the food prices consultations was for persons to help themselves, but “what more work do they want us to do?”

The two women’s organisations are said to be working on proposals on what government could do to protect them, but noted that their clear demand was for a reduction in VAT.


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