Linden may be destroying its future
There is an admonition that bears remembering today, even as the Lindeners maintain their protest that began with their objection to the electricity hike announced by the government in the wake of the removal of a part of the $3 billion subsidy to Linden.
What may have sparked the objection is the timing of the announcement. It came after the parliamentary opposition had moved to cut the budget and in the process, cut $1 billion from the allocation to Guyana Power and Light Company. Immediately the government cut a similar amount from the Linden subsidy.
Immediately the people of Linden mounted a series of meetings and protests. This current protest was planned to last five days. However, rash police action that saw the death of three people has now elevated this protest to a war against the government.
The people of Linden recognize the importance of the community as the gateway to the interior where the goldfields are the other operations that contribute significantly to the national treasury exist. With gold fetching a very high price, Guyana was enjoying a windfall that more than compensated for the heightened fuel imports.
Further, its producers of food commodities such as chicken, pork and green vegetables were enjoying a boon. Things had reached the stage where pork and chicken had been priced almost out of the reach of the ordinary man. There seemed to be no limit to how much the people in the hinterland were consuming.
It was Minister Robert Persaud who said that there were about 30,000 people operating in the hinterland, particularly in the goldfields. If this number is accurate then there are more people in the goldfields than in all of Linden, including Wismar.
Now movement of food, fuel and personnel has ground to a halt. The government is losing revenue from gold and timber sales, employment opportunities are being lost and future development plans are being threatened.
The people of Linden are hurting themselves. Already they have forced a drastic reduction in the professional medical staff. All the Chinese doctors have left the Mackenzie Hospital and the Cubans would have left by now. This is not a case of these people taking a political position. Rather, it is the country trying to get its nationals out of harm’s way.
A call centre in the town that employed many Lindeners has closed its doors. People who say that they do not have jobs have placed themselves out of jobs. Those who work in the interior have also joined the ranks of the unemployed.
But the most significant fallout from what is happening could be a project that could radically transform Linden. The Brazilians are bringing a road to Port Georgetown because it is easier to ship their produce to any foreign destination and the most available port is located in Georgetown.
The road would pass through Linden and it does not take a lot of imagination to see the mining community being a booming trucking stop. Shops would spring up and from souvenir items to clothing could find their way into Brazil.
As the situation stands, the Brazilians may be having second thoughts of bringing the road through Linden. If they do not then the already economically challenged community would be severely affected. Jobs that would have been created would disappear and the community could find itself worse off than before.
The bauxite company which is the major employer in the community is all but closed and it goes without saying that more people are on the breadline. The Chinese do not need Guyana and they say that they can do without the headache. With their money they could take their business elsewhere.
Perhaps the government is aware that the Lindeners are digging their grave and is allowing them to do so. But then again, the people of Linden only have the one weapon to challenge the government and they have used it to good effect. They have won a suspension of the electricity tariff but for them a suspension is not enough.
It may be a wise thing for them to halt their protest at this point before anything untoward happens. They already know how they can hurt economic activities. In the same way if they feel that the tariffs may be reintroduced they can return to protest.