…as union engages Finance Ministry on 2019 BudgetThe Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) on Friday said it has engaged the Finance Ministry on talks for the final budget before Guyana gets deeper into the oil industry as of 2020.During a meeting that was organised by representatives of the organisation and Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma, the discussion circled around the development of the upcoming budget as part of its pre-budget consultations and ways to deal with some of the issues that has been affecting Guyanese.While the Federation sided with the Government’s intention to establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), it stated that there is the need for “institutional safeguards and appropriate policies” to avoid any downsides that many countries are currently facing. This is necessary since large sums of money will flow into the country when oil production begins.Another scenario, which baffled the Federation was the high unemployment rate which noted that as many as 12 per cent of Guyanese were jobless at the ending of September last year and out of this figure, one out of five were youths. As such, the solution suggested included the implementation of training programmes for unemployed individuals as well as the introduction of a national job bank.“Vexingly, we pointed out that large proportions of the unemployed were jobless forFITUG’s President Carvil Duncanmore than a year, indicating that jobs were difficult to come by. On this matter, we urged the Government to urgently consider training or re-training programmes for those who are unemployed. We suggested too the Administration consider the establishment of a national job bank to allow employers and prospective employees,” the union noted.It added that while this number has increased over the past year, another issue to worry about is the high cost of living along with the increased prices for other commodities. Additionally, the minibus fares were increased and the water rate is soon to follow.From 2014 to 2017, tax revenues have risen from $136.5 billion to $171.5 billion with the VAT and Excise receipts growing by nearly 25 per cent and Income Tax revenues rising by just over 31 per cent. During the engagement, FITUG called for increases in the Old Age Pension and some interventions to reduce utility costs.“We urged the Government to consider increasing the Old Aged Pension to $30,000 per month; reducing the Excise Tax on fuel towards reducing the public transportation costs; reintroducing electricity and water subsidies for old aged pensioners, among other things.”Pleas were also made for considerations to be made in the closed sugar estates and the fact that the plights of the workers should not be ignored. As such, budgetary allocations should be made to ensure that their children can attend school and also for the retrenched workers to be engaged in workshops to assist with the obtainment of another job.“We called on the Administration to consider an income support mechanism to ensure families can meet their obligations and send their children to school, among other things; introduction of school bus services to transport all school-aged children from their homes to school and to establish skills training programmes to allow the former sugar workers and the youth to receive skills that are demanded by the labour market,” FITUG stated.It added that recently, the country has seen a plague of increased criminal activities which the agency believes can be dealt with, by expanding emergency response in all regions. According to the organisation, the most effective way to end this scourge is by reducing the high unemployment rate.In the public infrastructure sector, it was highlighted that large sums of monies being allocated towards the main roads and bridges while many communities are faced with impassable roads, poor draining and dilapidated bridges.“We should not ignored and we suggested the Budget 2019 seeks to strike a balance towards allaying these difficulties our people face.”Public health was also on the agenda for areas to be addressed in the 2019 Budget scheme. In many cases, it is being reported that there are no drugs available at the health facilities.It was suggested that procurement systems are geared at ensuring the availability of drugs and there is an equitable spread of resources in all regions.