Those cuts in subvention
Guyana must be the most interesting place on earth. It is interesting to say the least because at the slightest agitation people mount protests. Sometimes these protests turn ugly because there are always people who are more incensed than others. The latter are the people who at the drop of a hat would become hostile to the point of confronting anyone who challenges.
These past few days during the budget debate there have been a series of protests directed at the parliamentary opposition. For the first time there is a situation in the National Assembly where whatever the government tenders as a national budget is not necessarily going to be passed. In the past, because of its majority the government would present its budget and irrespective of arguments would pass what it presents.
However, this time the parliamentary opposition has a say in what passes. The members want to see some cuts in areas that they feel are not in the national interest. One of the areas, they see, is the use of state funds to operate the state media. For years, the opposition has been complaining that the state media was being used to promote only the interest of the government to the exclusion of any other.
The opposition, armed with the experience of what operates in the British Broadcasting Services and the Voice of America, two institutions funded by state money but free from state intervention in broadcast content, decided that this should also be the case in Guyana. But it is not. The off shoot is that the parliamentary opposition feels that the state media should collect its money from the market place, in the same way that the others do, and then feel free to broadcast what it wants.
News of the proposed cuts has brought out the staff of the state media, from top to bottom. These people are sending the message that there should be no budget cut for their operations. This is arrogance to the highest. When the government withdrew its advertisement from the private media these very state media employees batted nary an eyelid.
And with the loss of those funds the affected enterprise never sent its staff to the breadline. In fact, the government never considered that it would be placing people on the breadline and so be classified as anti-working class.
What it says is that there is self interest here. There is even a total disregard for media colleagues. Worse, people in the state media are of the firm belief that the taxpayer must give them money to pander to the dictates of the government to the exclusion of all those who opted not to vote for the government.
The opposition made its power felt Wednesday night and the candle light vigil by the staff of GINA and NCN did not matter. Indeed the opposition voted for them to get a subvention of one dollar each, a token sum.
The nation saw a similar set of protests when one of the opposition parties proposed that contract employees be cut. Again all the public servants, regardless of whether they were contract employees, took to the streets.
And more recently, people attached to the sugar industry took to the streets because the opposition parties are proposing cuts in the amount of money being allocated to bail out the sugar industry.
What is of interest is that in each case when the opposition suggested a budget cut in certain areas the government countered that the opposition was against the working class. In the case of the state media, the message that the government has sent is that members of staff will be put on the breadline.
The impression is that the subvention is crucial although the NCN administration openly stated that the $81 million subvention was a mere nine percent of revenue, that the company made as much as $800 million last year.
That would suggest that NCN is the most profitable media enterprise in Guyana and for its management to suggest that the cut in subvention would lead to job cuts is to stretch the imagination.