Paradox of insult: Brunei and brunelia
It is budget time again, and the refrain is being played out – Guyana has done well over the years, with growth rates that exceed the rest of CARICOM. Every year when it is budget time, Guyana becomes another Brunei, a small, wealthy oil-producing nation. Of course the people singing the Brunei song are the President and his Ministers. The rest of the nation looks around while the song is being done and they don’t see what the singer is crooning about.
In this year’s budget, pensioners are given a twenty-dollar increase on their daily income and in the face of this moral outrage, speaker after speaker from the Government bench continue with their political masturbation of a growing and glowing economy.
No one could have shaped a better response to this twenty-dollar depravity than Moses Nagamootoo when he said that if you give $20 to a derelict on the street, he/she will refuse to take it.
I have had several experiences where homeless people frown on that amount. If they don’t reject it, they implore you to give them more. Outside of the DDL supermarket on Sheriff Street opposite the Guyoil outlet, I had the misfortune of seeing my $20 thrown to the ground after it was given, and the guy walked away. Our needy, aged folks have to contend with the final insult of an extra twenty.
Where are the benefits from the long cycle of growth that began with President Jagdeo? This writer is yet to expand on the failed legacy (for want of a better sentence construction) of Mr. Jagdeo, but on examination of this mediocrity, one sees the mirage of development.
We will leave an assessment of Mr. Jagdeo’s fictional accomplishments for another column, and for now, look at the benefits that came the way of a majority of Guyanese from the “sustained period of growth.” Before we do that, we need to point out that Professor Clive Thomas has consistently argued that official statistics coming from the Government are not reliable. He first made his allegation in 2006, when substantial growth rates were produced for 2005, and when in that year the Great Flood devastated Guyana.
So the yearly refrain is that Guyana has been outdoing its CARICOM partners, and in a world plagued by recessions, Guyana has been insulated from the international financial collapse. If this is so, then Guyanese have been living inside the paradox of an insult. Where is the distribution of the wealth that the economy acquired for all the years while the Champion of the Earth was championing economic growth?
Guyana’s teachers must be the worst paid in the region, and maybe our nurses too. Our only university, we are told, may not survive. And who said that? The retiring Vice-Chancellor, who comes from Trinidad, and has not an ounce of anti-government poison in him.
We are promised the benefits of this stupendous growth rate, but GuySuCo is cutting back horribly and cane cutters are taking home less in 2012? Something must be terribly wrong with a country that has money yet most of its school buildings are in a dilapidated shape. Go and visit any school – nursery, primary, secondary or even tertiary – anywhere in Guyana, and the outer face of the structure tells a sad story of hard times.
Strange, we seem to be getting wealthy while our neigbhours stagnate, but our carpenters, joiners, masons, labourers and clerks, among other categories, are heading for the shores of any CARICOM territory that will accept them.
One of the most depressing moments I had over the past two years was when I visited Ithaca. I first went there with Walter Rodney and a WPA contingent in the late seventies and didn’t go back until 2010. Ithaca is the same – there are no street lights, no signs of development.
If Guyana got wealthier during Mr. Jagdeo’s twelve years of hegemony, then the earth stood still in Ithaca under the Champion. Now I heard in the budget debate that the drinking water the people of Ithaca are getting is darker than amber.
So where did the money go the past twelve years? There hasn’t been a year in which public sector workers went beyond seven percent increase. Not to be deterred, the Ministers and the PPP Parliamentarians, as the budget debate continues, will look into the NCN cameras and tell the nation how rich we are and that we are the Brunei of the Caribbean. What they mean is that we are the brunelia of the Caribbean. In botany, brunelia is a flower whose capacity to reproduce is extremely difficult.