OK…Let’s see if your Eyewitness gets this straight. First, Foreign Minister Greenidge (is he now actually living in “foreign”?) complains that over 80% of our UG graduates have absconded the jurisdiction for presumably greener pastures abroad. Now that’s a “butch”, isn’t it? While there HAVE been complaints about the quality of our graduates, they’re all we have when it comes to higher education. Meaning having a bit more than rudimentary knowledge about the things we need for our development.
After all this is the purpose of “education” in the modern world: to churn out folks with the knowledge to produce commodities that can be sold for money. And which therefore makes the world go ‘round.
So, dear reader, you ask what about “lichricher” and art and music and such like that are also taught at the University? Did you really miss all the pontifications on “cultural industries”? When you learn music nowadays, it’s to produce commodities named “CD’s” with copyrights!
Anyhow you get the point, nuh? So your Eyewitness moves on to his next point…rather the next point another Minister of presumably the same APNU/AFC government made. That the government might just WAIVE interests on the $10 billion the deadbeat UG graduates owe on loans going back to 1994, when the programme was launched. The figures supplied by the forensic audit of UG Student Loan Agency revealed that 69.4% of the students loans – (17,000+!!!) issued during that time were delinquent.
So this Eyewitness has some questions. He always thought UG graduates couldn’t wave goodbye to our muddy shores until they paid off their UG loans. So could the Minister – who plans to give debt relief exceeding the Paris Club’s terms – please tell us whether any graduates who gravitated “foreign” are also getting the free lunch? And the answer better be a resounding “no!”
But your Eyewitness suspects it’s not…since only some 488 local names were published in what he foolishly thought was a “name and shame” manoeuvre to get the deadbeats to cough up. So not only is the government gonna let off the hook all the dastardly departed who acquired their education at our bargain basement prices and are hauling in the big bucks abroad – it’s going to do the same for the big time lawyers, magistrates, and even judges!
Where’s the justice? And what kind of message does this send to the rest of society that subsidises UG with their hard earned tax dollars? Shouldn’t we start questioning of what use is an institution to us when 82% of its products are of no use to us?
And the remainder are deadbeats?!
…legality on SOCU and SARU
And the farce about SOCU and SARU inevitably degenerates into a tragedy for rule of law. When the APNU/AFC Government deployed the former (created by the PPP) and created the latter, you’d think organisations intended to keep the citizenry on the straight and narrow, would themselves set an example of probity and lawfulness, nuh?
Well, you just wasted a thought. The first mission of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) was to seize papers from NICIL!! And here your Eyewitness thought Congressional hearings and “The Godfather” had taught him what “organised crime” was all about! Not to mention SOCU was supposed to augment the investigations of the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU), formed out of the AML/CTF mandate! And then it was deployed by the GDF – not the Police Force under which it was constituted.
So we’re to believe it’s all straightened now? Yes…Santa Claus is real!
The Stolen Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) – deployed without a legal mandate – is now “legal” because its operating out of OP?
Talk about bootstrapping!!
Your Eyewitness learnt a new word as he forced himself to watch the proceedings of the Republican Convention that finally confirmed Donald Trump as their Presidential candidate.
“Screed”. It means a long, boring, and tedious speech!!
…to upper middle class?
The announcement by the World Bank that Guyana has moved on out of being a “middle income economy, to an “UPPER middle income economy” brings to mind the old saw about “lies, damned lies and statistics”. All your clean-mouthed Eyewitness could exclaim when he read the blurb was, “What the freak??!!”
The claim is made because the World Bank announced our gross national income (GNI) per capita is now between US$4036 and $12,475. And this is where the ridiculous statistics come in that make it even worse than “damned lies”. The GNI is calculated by dividing the Gross National Product – the value of all the goods and services Guyana produces – by the population. We’re dealing with “averages” here.
Now the year before – taken from the 2014 figures but dubbed “2015” because of when it is released – our GNI was supposed to be US$3663. Using a round GY$200 for US$1, this means each man, woman and child in Guyana were raking in GY$732,600 annually. Or a typical family of four made GY$2,930,400!!! Typical!! Can you believe this?
But this is what statistics does. It doesn’t matter that 10 per cent of the populace could be raking in 50 per cent of the income…it’s assumed the income is shared equally! But even though we know this is pure, undiluted bunkum, we now hear we are pulling in even larger incomes! Even assuming the new statistics barely put us into the new bracket – say another US$400 (GY$80,000) annually giving us a GNI of US$4063 – does this sound reasonable?
Where the heck is this additional income coming from when RICE, sugar, timber, bauxite and retail sales are down? Well…the Finance Minister did give us a clue last week when he said gold production was up. The problem is – how much of this money from gold gets into the pockets of the AVERAGE Guyanese. Right off the top, the two largest gold mining companies are FOREIGN and all GOVERNMENT of Guyana gets if 5- per cent.
The rest goes abroad.
But the irony isn’t just that the Government will now boast we’re in an Upper Middle Income bracket – hinting, wink! Wink!— we’re at the upper end of the scale of US$12,000 per annum: better than Malaya!! No that’s expected.
The irony is we now won’t qualify for a host of concessionary financing from institutions like the same World Bank that issued the new classification to begin with. This Government will never have the guts of Singapore that disputed their new classification when it was first awarded.
There’s no Lee Kwan Yu in sight here!!
Word is the Government’s contemplating opening up Government procurement – which totals a whopping 27 per cent of our national spending – to international competition. It might’ve done better by first contemplating its collective navel. Which developing country opens up Government spending to international firms? Why would it do this?
Governments spend from taxes it collects from citizens – even the loans have to be repaid from the latter. And it will now use this to pay foreigners rather than locals? Jeez!! The reason Minister Sharma gave was “more efficient spending”. So this is the alpha and omega of Government spending? What about getting money to locals – without having to resorption to handouts?
Another reason proffered was to stop corruption?!Really??!! Surendra? Fedders Lloyd? Bai Shan Lin? Wal-Mart? 427 top companies from the OECD? When will we stop believing in the superiority of the “foreign”?
And allowing the region’s to monitor larger contracts will lower corruption? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
We can’t delay the Public Procurement Commission any longer.
…on City high handedness
Your Eyewitness wants to emphasise he has no problems with a surcharge on containers – parked or moving – on city streets per se. But he objects to the authoritarian lack of consultations in imposing the levy.
Bullyism it is!
“Mandela Day” has come and gone, but what have we gained from reflecting on the life of the great man? Did we even reflect? Our political leaders were locked in debate in Parliament – and they hardly looked “Mandela like”. It was the same ole, same ole – which was the complete opposite of what Mandela stood for in his principled quest for justice.
For instance, Gandhi was one of Mandela’s heroes and the iconic South African leader even started out as a pacifist. But as the thinking, committed-to-justice man he was, after analysing structural practices holding Apartheid in place, he concluded violence was necessary. Then. But after being freed, knowing it may be distorted during the tense post-Apartheid negotiations, in a cameo in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X”, he refused to utter the latter’s famous “by any means necessary”.
Mandela was committed to his country and realised “tit for tat” responses aren’t conducive to sustainable peace. For decades, the Government had used “whatever means necessary” to oppress Africans and other non-whites to construct the Apartheid state. But Mandela understood he’d have to create conditions where all South Africans, including the whites, would remain committed to their country. Freedom achieved by “any means necessary” had the danger of becoming institutionalised and forming the mirror image of the Apartheid system just overthrown.
The great man, who’d spent 27 years in jail for his commitment to justice for his African people who were treated like third-class (and third-rate) citizens in their own country, understood it would take the efforts of all South Africans, especially whites, to make South Africa, first class. Taking over the reins of power after his people had been excluded from the experience of running a modern state for so long necessitated the cooperation – if not the commitment – of the whites to build a “rainbow” nation.
Guyana so much needs a Mandela-like leader at this time. It’s futile to keep on debating whether the leaders during the “28 years of the PNC” and the “23 years of the PPP” could’ve done things differently leading to a more united nation. That’s water under the bridge. Let’s stipulate they did their best. But what about going forward?
Do we really need to keep on hiring people for almost all the major jobs in Government and State institutions from one set of Guyanese? Or providing “leadership training”? Or heading Commissions of Inquiry? Or whatever? As to whether the Government “intends” to exclude half the country, is irrelevant. The effect of the optics will send its own ripples.
The hour for a Mandela-like leader has arrived. Who’ll step up?
Alluding above to what transpired yesterday on Mandela Day, your Eyewitness mentioned the goings on in Parliament. The Telecommunications Bill was debated and passed. Now, the need for a new dispensation had been mooted long before GTT’s 20-year exclusive rights had expired in 2010. So you’d think our political leaders would’ve sorted out matters by now, nuh? Forget it. Looks like we need a Mandela in Parliament also.
And your Eyewitness isn’t even talking about the substance of the Bill…just the form. What bone did we have to offer GTT, since by the original contract of 1990, they had first dibs on anything new? Did we really have to pass the Bill without the regulations in place? This was all about “regulating” the telecommunications sector, nuh? More than anything else here, the devil’s in the (regulatory) details.
So we now know there’s to be competition between the two biggies (and new entrants).
And placing so much power in the hands of the Minister isn’t Mandela like.
Bishop Randolph George of the Anglican Church just passed away. He was our Bishop Tutu-like figure in the transition of 1992.
…and Turkish failed coup
The “Turkish coup” of 2016 is the coup that never was. We woke up last Friday and heard about the attempt to take over the country. Three days later, it was over with the Government still firmly in power and 6000 persons, mainly from the Army, rounded up. What gives? Was it a case of a few bungling Inspector Cousteau types who couldn’t get their act together? Or was there more than met the eye? Your Eyewitness is interested. Not least of all because Turkey represents one possible fate of those colonial countries that attempted to graft Liberal politics over an older culture built on contrary premises.
Most of us have forgotten that Turkey was the centre of the Muslim world for centuries and seat of the Islamic “Ottoman Empire”. At its height, it stretched from Europe to India and was as powerful as the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ran things in Europe for the longest while. But by the turn of the 20th century, it had run out of steam and was dubbed “the sick man of Europe”. The end of WWI in 1918 saw it humiliated with even pipsqueak countries like Serbia nibbling off its territory.
One army officer, Kemal Attaturk decided to make a bold move in 1923: he seized control of the State and decided to transform the State into a “modern” one built on Western Liberal principles. Religion –- in this case Islam – would be banned from the public sphere, women would be educated, individual rights would be emphasised and elections would chose leaders – eventually. He even mandated the wearing of European clothing. In the process, Kemal and his supporters gave a whole new meaning to the term “Young Turks” – go-getters who would storm the bastions of power to change the status quo.
Fast forward to the 1960s. Turkey was transformed all right – but not in the way Attaturk had envisaged. While the “Westernised” citizens had many of the forms of political life as in Europe, the promised prosperity hadn’t been delivered. And it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when some started questioning whether, in fact, the removal of Islam in Turkey from the public sphere and identity was necessary.
The election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 1999 to power brought the varying impulses to a head. While he accepted the democratic forms he was a religiously inclined individuals who accepted the return of Islam back as the core of Turkish identity. And that’s what this coup is all about and why it is important to us in Guyana, where there are unresolved questions of the place of identity in politics and the public sphere.
What, in fact, are the limits to forcing an identity on a people?
…and the AFC
Over in Guyana, there was another (hopefully unconnected?) articulation on identity. Through Executive Member and Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, we learnt that the AFC had held an all-day confab with its elected officials from both the local and national levels and decided they had to hold on to their identity. They had been in coalition for a year and a half with APNU and the question had long been noted – from inside and outside.
Most folks had concluded the pre-coalition prediction of party leader Khemraj Ramjattan – that the AFC would be “dead meat” if it coalesce with APNU – had come to pass.
But the question now on the table is: “What exactly IS the identity of the AFC?” When it first launched back in 2005 with one leader each from the PPP, PNC and WPA, it insisted it would be a “third force” between the two big guns.
So, will it now support the PPP if they come up with a good idea?
…and parking contracts
And here we thought that the LGE meant Central Government would keep its nose out of local government matters. Now by taking a cut of the revenues from the parking meter deal, is the Central Government saying parking’s not within the City’s sole competence?
…at the political “other”
For years and years, when female Guyanese wanted to put down someone they had issues with, they engage in a “cuss out/down”, “expletives” vividly describing acts and parts of the anatomy connected with sexual activities. This evolved, like all good theatre into performances that may have several acts and utilise various props – like making noise with pots and pans. In proper company, one may substitute the term “suh and suh” for the actual cuss word: like saying “Shut yuh suh and suh mouth!”
Called a “cuss down”, this activity could – and did – sometimes break out into fights. But usually, would just allow the two combatants – and sometimes their partisans – to “air their disagreements”. These cuss downs – using the standard substitutes – are regularly displayed in Parliament when they “debate” contentious issues. They call it “heckling”, but obviously they have no notion of what they’re talking about since they display none of the wit that’s de rigueur for heckling.
A milder form of the “cuss down” in Guyana is to “throw talk”. Here oblique expressions about the person at the receiving end are expressed aloud in their presence. While both the “thrower” and the “throwee” of the “talk” know what’s going on, it allowed the thrower a way out of a possible confrontation by pretending he/she didn’t know what was REALLY being said. Members of Parliament are always throwing talk. The tip-off is when they begin a remark with “The Honourable member…” Like in “The Honourable Member would know the contract for the Speciality Hospital wasn’t put out for bidding because someone was getting a cut in the side.”
But, of recent, the expression “throwing talk” is being slowly replaced by “throwing shade”. Basically they mean the same thing, but, as usual, because “throwing shade” is of foreign origin, it’s now becoming the “in” expression to show you’re in the know. It seemed to have replaced the word “dissed” which in any case was being used by younger types for situations where they wanted to openly disrespect another either verbally or non-verbally.
Throwing shade in Parliament would be like when a member tells another, “Dominica is NOT the same as “Dominican Republic”. The latter is where those girls you were having a good time with comes from.” The words would be accompanied with a facial expression – a curl of the lip, a raised eyebrow, etc – that makes it obvious an insult is intended.
But with all the shade being thrown at our Honourable politicians – all’s not lost in Guyana’s politics.
At least up to now, they haven’t descended from “suh and suh” cuss down to hair pulling!!
…examples by Trump
While your Eyewitness wouldn’t be able to describe the facial expressions that accompany “throwing shade”, since the latter originated in the US, just think of Donald Trump during his debates. Any one of them! Like when he insisted all Muslims should be banned from entering the US, but explained condescendingly, “I have Muslim friends, Greta, and they’re wonderful people”!!
Trump doesn’t confine throwing shade at his political rivals – he’s gone after women in general. He once tweeted that Arianna Huffington “is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man—he made a good decision”. Then there’s that feud with TV interviewer Megan Fox, which started after she asked him whether his descriptions of various women (“pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”) suggested he didn’t have the temperament to be president. Calling her a “Bimbo,” he continued with a sneer, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes–blood coming out of her wherever.”
But he insisted he wasn’t talking about her menstrual cycle!
But others have decided if they can’t beat Trump at throwing shade, they might as well join him. Recently, Hillary Clinton described his hair as: “one strand that he swirls over his head like a soft serve at Dairy Queen!!”
Fifty years after Independence, coming off the big Jubilee Bash, the Public Service Union is locked in talks for what they hope will be “salary increases” from the PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition government. Some of their older heads must be sucking their teeth at the irony of history. Fifty three years ago, it was THEIR strike that gave the British and Americans the excuse to intervene to throw out the PPP and install the PNC with Burnham at its helm into power.
The honeymoon didn’t last too long and by the 1970, after Burnham declared what was now a “coop republic in transition to socialism”, large swathes of the upper echelons of the public service became “public enemy”! They were, of course, a bit leery about being addressed as “comrades” by their juniors. Burnham gleefully changed their name from “Civil Service” to “Public Service” and shipped them off to the Hope Coconut Estate where he introduced them to the salutary moral improvement induced by manual labour. Burnham literally “overseered” them from a “high horse”. His jodhpurs were his idiosyncratic touch!!
Anyhow, by the time the PPP took over in 1992, the Public Service was a shadow of its former self – not only through losing its status but also shrunken in size by Desmond Hoyte on the directive of the IMF. The PPP tried to score some brownie points with the Public Servants by halting the “retrenchments” but to no avail. When it came to political loyalty, ethnicity continued to rule the roost.
And so even though the PPP said “please, pretty please – the cupboards are bare and the IMF’s calling the shots”, when it came time for wage negotiations, the Public Servants evidently’d recovered their “spunks”. They came out into the streets in 1999, browbeated the PPP/C to arbitration and received an astounding 31.6%!! Well, maybe the Public Servants’ve learnt they can’t risk being taken for granted by another PNC-led coalition?
After saying before the elections Public Servants will get a “substantial” salary increase, and getting zilch last year, they’ve started off by demanding a 40% increase this year. But PNC leader and now APNU/AFC President David Granger has now made that demand seem quite quixotic. He insisted “lazy public servants” will get lazy increases. So will the GPSU now come out into the streets and show some of their old “spunks”?
While your Eyewitness has some doubts about leopards losing their spots and all of that, he does have some hope. Living conditions are getting more dread daily.
And the clincher might be the reminder that the government gave its ministers a whopping 50% increase last year!
…of foreign working girls
If it’s summer then it must be time for another sweep of “working girls”. Last year it was the recipient of the US “International Hero” award for fighting TIP – Simona Broomes – who rode into the Wild West town-to-be of Bartica and hauled 15 or so foreign girls – who all insisted they were all “working girls” – to Georgetown. There was supposed to be an investigation to verify if they were in fact “trafficked” but we never heard anything… Just that four of them didn’t have their passports stamped. No wonder the US official report rapped Guyana for not vigorously prosecuting.
So this year, 11 “foreign strippers” were taken into custody: but this time – all from a club in Georgetown. Once again, however, all that was noted was some of the girls didn’t have “papers”. So what’re we doing? Going after Trafficking In Persons or Policing morals?
Are we saying women can’t do what they want with their bodies?
…muscling in on drug smugglers
Barry Dataram’s an interesting fella. He never tried to even deny he was a drug smuggler. He was willing to face the music – legally. What he resented was that those who were supposed to stop him, kept trying to muscle in on his action!
You can’t even be an honest crook nowadays!
There was a long disquisition in the papers recently of the dangers of demon rum.
Rum has always been a two-edged sword in Guyana. As a by-product from the manufacture of sugar, it provided employment to workers on the plantation and revenues that supplemented sugar sales. But on the other hand, introduced to the workers to drown their sorrows – especially after slavery when they HAD money to pay for it, it became an addiction.
There’s no question alcohol consumption in Guyana is legion. And if measured, might just be another one of those dubious qualifications that give us world rankings. Like so many habits inculcated on the plantations, it became part of the “way of life” of those that came out of it.
One interesting feature is since the African slaves were only given rum at the “crop over” period in celebration – they don’t in general imbibe at the level of the descendants of the East Indian indentureds.
In fact, with the latter group in present-day Guyana – and Trinidad for that matter – “Rum” forms the most dominant topic of song and dance. One wonders if the fella that crooned the hit “Rum till I die” saw the irony of what was the denouement of rum drinking. Among folks in different cultures that imbibe alcohol, there are two approaches that produce completely different behavioural patterns in the imbibers.
There are the Mediterranean drinkers – like the Italians – who consume alcohol as part of their culinary repertoire. In total they may consume as much alcohol as others but generally do not resort to violence when they get “high”. They’re “pleasant”.
The other type of drinkers – and the Guyanese Indians fall into this category – they drink to get drunk. And when in that state get violent. And this is one of the objectionable features of rum-drinking in Guyana with its association with domestic and interpersonal violence that the disquisition objected to.
But the point your Eyewitness – who’s a “social drinker” who’s never resorted to violence – wants to make is, there’s no ineluctable connection between drinking alcohol and violent behaviour. The latter is culturally mediated.
So for those who would abolish alcohol – they need to look at the prior cultural patterns that lead to violence and other objectionable behaviour in some groups.
…till 2 o’clock in the marnin’
The “Rum till I die” ditty signals what some folks think is the purpose of alcohol for those that abuse it and destroy their liver and brains: they’re committing slow suicide.
Now on the sugar plantations, one could understand the frustration created in folks who were dragged from their tight-knit villages in India and now forced to struggle against an oppressive system on their own. Strangers in a strange land who can’t take it no mo’.
But what is it today? Are the conditions of their existence in modern-day Guyana still lead them into a state of hopelessness that make them fall back on rum to numb their nerves? These are questions that should be looked into rather than banning rum shops and bars from serving alcohol past 2am.
With all the interventions that educate folks about behaviour that leads to self-destructive results – like, say, AIDS…couldn’t ministries like social services, public security, communities, etc get together and launch something to discourage violence-related drinking?
Or do we need a CoI?
…in all the wrong places
They say if you want to help an addict, remove him from environments that facilitate the addiction. But the government’s -past and present – are licensing rum shops in every nook and cranny.
Where are self-destructive and violent drunks to go?
The other foot’s finally dropped in sugar. At a function to honour “champion workers”, Agri Minister Holder revealed what’d been long suspected – sugar’s “done for” in Guyana.
A few years ago, then leader of the PNC David Granger had opined his party didn’t see much point in carrying on with sugar. It was only after hitching up with the AFC – and with his eyes firmly on the sugar workers being wooed by the latter – that the new leader of APNU allowed sugar would be supported.
Well…like with so many things in THAT marriage, things have reverted to the status quo ante. The decision to close Wales had been the tip-off to all but those wilfully choosing to be blind. Word then was the government was only closing Wales factory and the sugar cane would still be cultivated and cut – but sent to Uitvlugt for processing.
That elicited quite a few derisory guffaws from old hands since they knew it was pie in the sky (or woeful ignorance) to even SUGGEST such a possibility. Well…now we know. Maybe! The line now is Wales is the pilot project for a complete makeover for GuySuCo – which is now called NEW GuySuCo to emphasise the point. Sugar will now be diversified – into “co-generation, aquaculture, fruit crops, dairy farming, livestock farming and rice cultivation.”
We might just be hearing some even louder guffaws from the aforementioned old hands as they reflect of the old saw- “the more things change…”! For President Granger and his crew are going right back to the 1970s plan of the PNC for sugar. Now don’t get your humble Eyewitness wrong. He’s not pronouncing on whether sugar in Guyana has a future or not…just on the way the government’s going about with its plans.
They’re causing even friends to question whether in fact they actually have a plan…they just seem to be making up things as they go along. Probably with their fingers crossed – hoping for the best. After all, you don’t just wait six months after shutting down Wales and now say it was all part of a wider plan. Why not say it then? Even now the ad hoc statement by the Agri Minister raised more questions than answers.
Those folks that had long advocated that there needs to be an exit strategy from sugar had also proposed that diversification needs to be achieved by allocating the land to the sugar workers in, say, 15 acre plots – which are the most efficient size for family-run farms.
So what is it? Sugar workers are gonna be sold down the river.
…of correspondent banks
In the grand scheme of (international) finance no one in their right senses would claim that Guyana matters. Our ENTIRE economy generates just US$3B which is just pocket change for a medium-level company in the States. So why should Bank of America (BoA) take the time to single out small economies like ours and Belize to sever correspondent banking ties? Well that’s the point, isn’t it?
We DON’T matter…but BoA because of its own sketchy past (it had to pay a US$16.65 billion fine for mortgage law violations two years ago – and still has some outstanding matters in the air) has to show it’s doing something, doesn’t it? So why not two jurisdictions that didn’t matter – but they can show the American regulators they struck off TWO COUNTRIES in tightening up standards! BoA is basically a zombie bank that’s doing a fair imitation of the Walking Dead!!
Has BoA cut relations with banks in Columbia?
It was fined as late as 2014 for laundering drugs money from there.
The Government’s being embarrassed by the failure of its institutions to send statistics to the IMF. This institution uses the figures to pronounce on the health of our economy after sending down its own experts.
What’s the government hiding?