…accuses coalition of playing with teachers’ emotionsThe teachers’ strike continues, and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has said the nation’s educators had received more under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration than what they currently get under this coalition Administration.GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald addressing teachers on MondayGTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald, who has been at the helm of the leadership of that union and would have sat in several negotiations with both the previous and current administrations, made this statement to teachers on Monday.McDonald told scores of teachers assembled in the GTU auditorium at Woolford Avenue, Georgetown that it was under the PPP that teachers, for the first time, received additional benefits apart from a salary increase.“If we look at what transpired under the PPP Government when they were in power and what is transpiring now…remember we didn’t want the five percent. We made noise about it. But with the five percent we got a whole lot of non-salary benefits,” she said, to loud applause from the large gathering of teachers.She continued, “For the first time in the history of this country, our teachers were able to get clothing allowance, duty free concessions, and allowances for additional qualifications. While the PPP Government was in power — and you know I don’t want to sound political, but we have to make the comparison because of all the untruths they peddling out there…”The GTU official went as far as to say that the current David Granger-led administration is playing with teachers’ emotions “to say to us that this thing is just three-and-something years since they in the Government. And this is the party that most of the teachers supported. So is our party. ‘Our party’ don’t work when you go in the market; ‘our party’ ain’t working when you have to pay rent; ‘our party’ don’t work when you have to face the bank to repay your mortgage; so ‘our party’ dead,” she declared.Meanwhile, GTU President Mark Lyte debunked claims that he has political ties to any one party, much less the PPP. He said at one time he was accused of being associated with the People’s National Congress (PNC), and now he is being accused of being a supporter of the Opposition PPP.“It seems as though every time you stand up for a just cause people put a political spin to it! I don’t have party card from either party or any third party; I represent teachers, and that is what I will continue to do,” he asserted.Last week, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo looked into Government’s spending, listing several areas where it can cut back and use that money instead to pay teachers a better living wage.Although Government and the GTU are still at loggerheads over increases for teachers, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary feels the matter could be resolved.The former President said that if Government is to cut back on its wasteful spending, it would manage to cover a reasonable increase for the country’s teachers.“I believe that there is money to fund a lot of which the teachers have been asking for without increasing overall expenditure in the budget…” Jadgeo reasoned.Jagdeo pointed to a few examples of where Government’s bill has increased since 2015, in many cases double what it used to be before.During the meeting with President David Granger, Jagdeo said he pointed out to him that the Government has a corrupt contract, where an individual is paid $14 million a month for a house at Sussex Street, Albouystown.“If you terminate that contract alone, that could fund the annual clothing allowance for all…of the teachers; you just have to terminate that one project for that,” Jagdeo said.The Opposition Leader has debunked claims that the teachers and their union are acting unreasonably. He said they have been waiting for three years to meet with Government.In providing a further breakdown of how the demands of the teachers could be met, Jagdeo said he has even taken a look at the budget estimates, to come up with how spending could be curtailed to facilitate the request.In comparing seven items from the current expenditure column between 2014 and 2018, Jagdeo said there are enough monies that are being wasted that could be reduced and used to meet the demands.He pointed to the celebration of national and other events which in 2014 had been budgeted at $477 million now in 2018 being budgeted at $911 million. For dietary (food) items, $3.6 billion had been budgeted then, but in 2018 it is now $5.2 billion. The other category (operating expenses) showed that $1.8 billion had been budgeted in 2014, but in 2018 it costs $2.6 billion.“If you add those three, that’s $2.8 billion increase alone,” Jagdeo pointed out.Further, for travel, in 2014 it was $1.4 billion, and it is now $2.1 billion. This indicates a growth of $732 million per annum. As for vehicle spares and service, in 2014 it was budgeted at $853 million, but in 2018 it has moved up to $1.34 billion. ‘Other transport and travel’ was $874 million in 2014, but has now gone to $1.3 billion. Rental of buildings in 2014 was $795 million, but has now gone to $1.39 billion. This totals $2.2 billion, he explained.“In these seven heads alone, we have increased expenditure of $5.1 billion. We could easily cut these and find money to pay the teachers’ wages and restore the one month allowance to the Discipline Forces, pay the debunching for the teachers, housing allowance, all of these things… just here,” he explained.