THE ISSUE IS ABOUT FAIRNESS
You get a sense of how difficult it is to run this country when you examine the controversy that has erupted over the proposal to reduce, not remove, the subsidies that are applied to electricity tariffs in Linden.
There are large numbers of persons in that area, some of whom are paying as low as $5 per kilowatt hour, who are against paying any increase whatsoever since they claim that there is 70 per cent unemployment and things are depressed in the community.
This is unreasonableness of the situation. Instead of proposing longer phasing in period, there is now the adamant demand that no increase must be charged.
Linden must think that it is extra special to Guyana that it can insist that the government does not have the right to increase electricity rates that are way below the national average.
And the leaders have the temerity to argue that things are bad in Linden. Well if things are bad in a community that is paying dog- cheap rates for electricity, they must be awful in the rest of the country which is paying three times what the people of Linden are paying.
The special status of Linden as a pampered community must cease. There are many homes in that mining town where lights are left burning 24/7 simply because the tariffs are being so heavily subsidized that the people can more than afford to pay for the consumption.
The increases being proposed by the government are not prohibitive. In fact, most of those who still cook on hotplates and have air-conditioning should still get by even with the increased electricity tariffs.
The issue has however moved beyond electricity and has become an issue of politics. It is about pressuring the government to allow the status quo to continue.
The combined opposition believes that it has power and therefore can press the government to do as it pleases. They are fooling themselves about their legislative power.
The opposition is attempting to provoke problems so as to gain political mileage. They want a confrontation with the government and they are using the electricity issue to provoke such a confrontation.
Those politicians who are saying that Linden should not pay a cent more in electricity tariffs are the same ones that reduced the subvention that the government was paying to the electricity company so as to pay for increased fuel costs.
They must now explain to the rest of the nation how it is that one community can enjoy paying $15 per kilowatt while the rest of the country pays three times that amount. This is surely an untenable situation solely on moral grounds. It is discrimination against the rest of the country and this discrimination must cease.
No one is asking for the people of Linden to be pressured. The government is also not pressuring the people of Linden. The electricity tariffs between Linden and the rest of the country are not going to be unified overnight. There is a plan for a phasing in of any reduction.
Neither is the subsidy going to be removed. It is only going to be reduced which means that even after the situation is rationalized at worst Linden will still be paying a lower tariff than the rest of the country.
But do not tell that to those politicians who are interested in using the people of Linden as pawns to get at the government.
Do not tell that to those parties who have their congresses and annual conferences this month. They have to be seen as putting fire under the feet of government because this will enhance their profile as they seek re-election to the executives of their parties.
While the protests have been taking place in Linden, the rest of the country has been looking on. Those looking on are saying that they also want to cook on hotplates and have air conditioning in their homes just like some of the people of Linden are enjoying because of the present low tariffs.
The people in the rest of the country are looking closely at what the opposition politicians are doing. They see how they are supporting the protests to not increase the present tariffs and the time will come when these same politicians will come to other parts of the country.
They will have to answer then as to why they must pay over $50 per kilowatt when Linden is paying $15 per kilowatt and in some instances as low as $ 5 per kilowatt.
This issue is about fairness, fairness to the rest of the country. Linden cannot continue to enjoy such freeness while the rest of the country is paying through their teeth.