THE PROTESTS IN LINDEN HAVE DONE MORE HARM THAN GOOD
It was so good to learn that the people of Linden will rebuild the school that was destroyed by fire during protests last week. The community has reportedly taken the decision to begin to clear the rubble and to rebuild the school with their own resources.
And to think that the argument was being made that Linden was in such dire economic straits that they could not afford to pay a phased increase in tariffs because some 70% of the workforce was said to be unemployed. Yet the resources are now going to be found to rebuild a school that houses just over eight hundred students.
To build a school to house such large numbers and to equip it is going to cost in excess of three hundred million dollars. The region is however going to find the funds to rebuild the school, without, it would seem, requiring any help from the government.
The work is not likely to be finished in time for the coming school year. This therefore means that despite the plans that are going to be undertaken to rebuild the school, there is going to be significant inconvenience to parents since the children will have to be placed elsewhere in the interim.
It is hoped that while the region is rebuilding the school, they will also pay for the rebuilding of the other structures that were destroyed by arsonists, and which have left in their wake billions of dollars in damage and many placed on the breadline. The roads and bridges that were barricaded have suffered some amount of damage and it is hoped that those who were behind these unlawful actions would come forward and help to repair these structures where such repairs are needed.
All this destruction should not have happened. In the first place these protests were ill-advised and more so based on the unreasonable posture that the people could not afford to pay a cent more.
There was absolutely no need for protests, since the government has always shown a willingness to negotiate, and as we have seen, it is negotiations and not protests that bore fruit. The protests should have only been undertaken after negotiations had been exhausted. There was little attempt at negotiating with the government. Instead, protests actions were rushed, and descended into unlawful acts when roads and bridges were blocked.
After three protesters were killed, the situation became inflamed and great damage was inflicted on the town. The protests have hurt Linden, which will never be able to recover from the fallout.
For one, new investment is likely to dry up for Linden. There is no way that investors are going to be rushing to invest in Linden given the ease with which the protesters were able to shut the town down on the most specious of grounds: that they could not pay a cent more given the dire economic circumstances.
The future of the town is therefore likely to revolve around the fortunes of the bauxite industry, just like it did in the past. But given what took place and the losses suffered, it is doubtful, despite the assurances given by the investors in the bauxite industry, that they are going to expand beyond their present limits.
There was a plan to build a smelter, but given the political risks involved, the investors are likely to be very circumspect. In short, the people of Linden have shot themselves in the feet and will not be able to attract the sort of investor interest as they would have before the protests began.
However, with the resolve that is being shown by the regional administration, perhaps things can be turned around. After all, if the region can mobilize the resources to rebuild the school that was burnt down, then it can perhaps be able to encourage some investors to take up the slack by those who will now no longer be so keen.
The prospects are not good. Linden was an important transit route to the interior of Guyana. During the protests, some regions suffered badly and the mining sector was one of the victims. Alternative routes were being considered by the miners, and the pressure is likely to build for there to be alternatives to transiting through Linden. Those investors who were forced to leave idle their multi-million-dollar investments in the areas which were shut down because of the protests are not going to be keen on Linden as a permanent route for access to their mining camps.
Once alternatives can be found, Linden will lose out. And for this, it only has the protests to blame, because these protests have harmed the future of the mining town.