On behalf of the students of the University of Guyana (UG), I write to highlight the level of disdain and contempt with which the students are customarily treated. In doing so, I will use one example, out of the myriad instances available.
Since last semester, sometime around October/November 2011, the air-conditioning system in the UG Library has ceased working. Upon inquiry, I was informed that the UG Library roof was under repair, consequently, the air-conditioning system could not work – maybe because of some opening spaces in the roof through which the cold air could escape.
The students who used the library throughout the semester and, even more so, around exam periods were inconvenienced. After much protestation by the students, an inadequate number of fans were provided to minimize the discomforting heat resulting from the poorly ventilated building. Being understandable human beings, we endured the slightly ameliorated discomfort during our study periods in the library, thinking that in a couple of months or so the roof would have been completed and the air-conditioning system would have been ‘up and running’.
Approximately eight months have since elapsed, another exam period is upon us, and the roof seems to be nowhere near completion. As a matter of fact, the work on the roof has been stalled for some months now. And, from the look of things, we will be forced to endure the same discomforting conditions we endured last semester.
It might be necessary here to point out that the Ministry of Education assumes the responsibility for capital works at the University of Guyana, therefore, the contractor working on the roof of the UG Library is directly contracted by that Ministry.
University of Guyana Students’ Society
Fighting poverty: The PPP/C has consistently embraced the progressive approach to development
Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar made a passionate appeal in Washington for governments to do more to reduce the incidence of poverty and inequity in the region. Those remarks were made during an address to the Permanent Council of the OAS at its Headquarters. The poverty level in the region, with the possible exception of Haiti, though not considered to be the highest in the world, continues to be of major concern to politicians and policymakers.
The President took note of the critical importance of democracy to development and for overall peace and security in the region. As he correctly pointed out, there cannot be any debate on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean outside the context of our intolerable levels of poverty, when 57 million people or some 11 percent of our population live on less than one dollar a day and 23 percent exist daily on less than two dollars.
The call could not have been more relevant, given the high stagnation levels experienced by several countries in the region following the economic and financial crisis which engulfed some of the leading economies including the United States, a key player on hemispheric issues. That country had been particularly hit by a stinging financial and economic crisis, which has had a rippling effect on peripheral economies in terms of foreign exchange inflows and trade imbalances.
One consequence of this has been a significant re-alignment of aid and trade from traditional partners to other economic players on the world stage, most notably China, which over the years has been showing enhanced attention to the region by way of trade and aid, including financial assistance to some of the countries that are experiencing severe financial difficulties.
Historically, the United States has regarded Latin America and the Caribbean as its “backyard’ and viewed any attempt by foreign powers to penetrate the region economically or ideologically as an “interference” in its domestic affairs. This was particularly so during the days of the Cold War, when a number of countries in the region, including Guyana, saw a subversion of their democracy out of fear of ‘communism.’
Jamaica is perhaps the most affected country in the English-speaking Caribbean, with a high debt burden which is consuming the bulk of its revenues by way of debt repayments and interest payments. The situation is not dissimilar to what obtained during the days of the former PNC administration, when the servicing of our debt burden was consuming over 90% of our revenues. Due to prudent financial management and good governance, the country managed to reduce the debt burden to manageable proportions, thanks to generous debt write- offs and rescheduling of payments by international financial institutions and friendly countries.
With the end of the Cold War and disintegration of the Socialist Bloc, communism was no longer seen as an enemy to be confronted diplomatically or, if needed, militarily. This however does not mean that the region has been relegated to the political backwater as far as the United States is concerned. There is still Cuba to contend with, which until today, the United States has vehemently opposed membership to the OAS, despite calls from the vast majority of member states for Cuba’s admission. The United States continues with its decades-old trade embargo against that country, despite opposition from most countries in the hemisphere and beyond.
The economic and political clout enjoyed by the United States has diminished to a significant degree, due to a combination of its own domestic financial woes and the rise of other economic powers most notably China which, as mentioned earlier, is becoming an increasingly important player in the economic and diplomatic arena of the region. Indeed, were it not for the high demand for raw materials and other commodities to fuel its high economic growth rates and the relatively cheap exports of a wide range of consumer goods from China, many developing countries would have found themselves in a far worse situation.
Then there is Brazil, now considered an economic powerhouse having recently overtaken Britain as the sixth largest economy in the world. Brazil, along with China, India, Russia, South Africa and Turkey are now creating economic waves globally, which poses a serious threat to United States hegemony not only in the region, but in the world at large. Politically, Venezuela under Chavez is regarded as a “rogue” state in Latin America, a situation made even worse by the left-wing tendencies of some other member states, in particular Ecuador, under current President Correa.
The world has become a global village. In other words, no country is isolated from the economic shocks emanating from any of the key economic players. The current crisis being experienced in the Eurozone economies is playing out not only at the economic level but politically as well, as manifested in the poor showing of rightist and pro-austerity parties in several countries. There is now a new mode of thinking which says that there can be no real development which fails to put people at the centre of the entire process. The PPP/C has consistently embraced this approach to development, one that has found resonance with progressive humanity throughout the world.
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