The Chinese gifts and the government insecurity
Guyana has been engaging the Chinese in a number of development programmes. Within the recent past the projects have included a brand new hotel, an extended runway and a modern airport terminal at Timehri, the much touted Amaila Falls hydroelectric project and the various cable projects being undertaken for Guyana Power and Light and for the One Laptop per Family programme, and even laptop project that seeks to place a laptop into 90,000 homes.
This has been made possible by China’s booming economy and its desire to place itself as a giant in this corner of the world. The region has been subjected to the influence of first the British, then the Americans. These brought a level of economic advancement but in recent times their financial package has drastically reduced.
Indeed, they have their special interests and the demands on their resources by those countries that are of special interest to them would determine where the money goes. Guyana is no longer strategically important nor is it important in the scheme of things. It has no resource that the United States and Britain need and it is surely going to be a drag on these countries.
China, on the other hand, wants to expand its global borders. It sees the Caribbean as being ripe for its influence. Given the money at its disposal, it is not finding it hard to place itself at the centre of any economic development of the region. Guyana is not exempt.
However, the government is bent on doing things in the shade. It never tells the people what it is doing and when these things come to the fore the government is quick to accuse anyone who questions the arrangement of being anti-government and hostile to development.
This newspaper has been questioning some of the projects that are already in the pipeline and at each turn, it is being greeted with government hostility to the extent that there are some who have accused it of actually thwarting foreign investment.
Details of the airport expansion programme have emerged but certainly not from the government. The Chinese contractors were repeatedly constrained to invite the media to seek answers from the Guyana Government; that certain questions about a client should not be posed to the contractor.
The actions of the Guyana Government seem to be deeply rooted in the days when the country experimented with communism and socialism; when the government adorned itself with unsurpassed power; when it considered the people as the masses who were little better than the producing class.
Those days are no more; these are the days of democracy and of openness; the days when the government must account to the people or face their wrath at the polls. One may argue that old habits die hard, that over the years the governments have had things their own way. They did not have to account to the people for anything.
That is why it was embarrassing to hear the Chinese tell reporters that some of the questions they happened to be asking the foreign contractors should be directed to the government. The government has been so mum that in many cases, projects got underway before the nation was aware. Costs were arrived at and the nation paid.
Today the government must answer questions. It is this fear of answering the questions that is leading to the secrecy. We have learnt that the Chinese contractors have approached the government with many other offers, all of which they would fund.
There is the deep water harbour promised by the ruling party in its manifesto of the 2006 elections. The Chinese promised to construct it but the government is balking at the questions that would be asked by the press and the political opposition.
Similarly, there is the proposed road linking Brazil to coastal Guyana. The Chinese know the benefits but the government is not prepared to defend the cost to the politicians. This is the insecurity that has come from knowing of the dishonesty that surrounded previous projects.