New Guyana President says $4.5B stimulus coming to help households during COVID-19 pandemic

The Government of Guyana has commenced securing an initial sum of $4.5B as an emergency response to help households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was disclosed by President Irfaan Ali during his inauguration speech on Saturday at the National Cultural Centre.

He said the Government is creating a COVID-19 Response Unit comprising of policymakers, represented by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health, and regional, international partners such as CARICOM, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Unit resulted from a rapid assessment. It will be guided by a collaborative policy to address medical responses and to create a COVID-19 impact socio-economic plan for the people, the President said.

Dr Ali noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed too many lives. As of August 7, Guyana recorded 22 deaths and over 538 cases.

“Everything possible must be done to protect our people from this dreaded and dreadful disease,” the President said adding that for this reason, he will participate in the Government’s programme to stop the spread of the disease.

With only one week in office, the Government has already mobilized and received 46,000 rapid antibody-test kits, Personal Protection Equipment, approximately 240,000 surgical masks, and face shields, gowns and other supplies.

Dr Ali disclosed that the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley has sent an additional 15,000 PCR test kits while another 10,000 PCR kits from PAHO will arrive in Guyana next week.

PAHO has committed to supply an additional 40,000 PCR kits.
“We have accessed three PCR testing machines with two more being sourced, and plans are in motion to train persons, including persons from the hinterland areas, in the use of the PCR machines and rapid test kits,” the President said.

Further, a meeting was held with the Bank of Guyana Governor Dr. Gobind Ganga who was directed to extend regulatory permission so as to allow for bankers to continue extending moratoriums.

Some banks have granted moratoriums on loans owed to them by business and personal clients.

“We have also looked at the possibility of adjusting the Reserve Requirement which will allow the banks to have more disposable resources and tying that adjustment with lower interest rate. We have started to examine from a fiscal perspective what support we can give to the private sector and other groups all with the view of supporting a resumption of the economic activities and putting people back to work,” he noted.

The Government has also reached out to several multilateral and bilateral sources to mobilise financial resources to tackle the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Guyana is currently affecting its outlying regions which share borders with Brazil and Venezuela. Both of those countries have recorded thousands of case with Brazil recording the second most cases globally.

Those regions are also faced with limited health resources and challenges to accessing affected communities due to the rough terrains.