I sit at the People’s Parliament on High Street opposite the National Assembly everyday and what I observe on the streets has stunned me even though I have been a social activist my entire life and have witnessed all the things I need to see in Guyana.
To see the level of poverty and mendicancy in this country simply lacerates your psyche. Poor people and destitute ones pass by every second. Now to an untrained mind, this would not be something unusual because poor people and homeless citizens exist all over the world. That is not the point. You have missed it badly if you argue that way.
I read a columnist in one of our dailies who wrote that he saw beggars in the US and Canada and there is corruption in the US so he doesn’t know why people do not focus on those sins in those countries. I would hope that Clive Thomas responds to that columnist because it is vital, almost priceless to educate young people on how you contextualize what you observe in life.
The economists in APNU, the AFC and persons like Christopher Ram should reply to this gentleman and discuss context because young minds need to know how you analyze corruption and poverty with the context of Guyana.
It needs no in depth training to know it is not the existence of corruption that one should be preoccupied with but how a country deals with its existence. One must be naive to think that the adverse effect of corruption is the same in every country.
The people who should know this better than others in the entire world are Guyanese. We live next to Jamaica and Trinidad where minor faults of public officials lead either to their dismissal or prosecution.
The US is certainly no angel in world politics. There are corrupt senators, politicians, etc. But you are certainly dishonest and indecent to think that these people are immune from the law and there is official protection for them as we see in Guyana. To insinuate that there is a similarity in how the US and Guyana treat corruption is to display immense subjective bias. We come now to beggars and poverty. One academic point is important before we do that.
When you treat social depravities in a country you must contextualize. Variables like levels of GNP, GDP, population strength, etc, must come into your analysis. Take a most commonsensical example.
If forty persons are shot dead on a campus in India or China, it would be almost zero percent of the population. There would be no national crisis. If that should happen in Guyana, with a population of just above 700,000 the entire nation would be thrown in deep depression. Every family would have a friend or relative who was among the victims. The point is exactly the same with corruption.
If an American senator pinches one million American dollars, in what substantial way would it affect spending in education or public infrastructure? The US with a population of 300 million has a national budget in the trillions. That very one million dollar sum in Guyana would devastate social spending. The context explains why.
We are poor and the national budget is limited. Surely that columnist must know that much more than a million American dollars have been siphoned off in corrupt transactions in Guyana.
I honestly do not want to belabour the point because I think it is too commonsensical to debate. The same with poverty. How many Torontonians are poor within the economy and population of Canada? Above I referred to the way countries deal with social ills. Here is an experience of mine. I had my post-graduate education in Canada. One day my wife and I were entering a popular store patronized by immigrants, “Honest Ed”.
One block before the store, two men approached us and begged me for money. Just as we were about to enter “Honest Ed”, two men came up to us in civilian clothes, showed us their police identification and asked us what we were told by the two persons.
We said that they asked for money. The police then approached the men. We did not wait to see what happened but it was obvious that it was an anti-begging operation to stop mendicants from harassing citizens.
The problem with Guyana which you do not find in Canada and the US is that too many talk-show hosts and opinion-writers are not trained in the social sciences and they dwell on complex subjects that call for such knowledge and analytical input.
But I guess this is the Guyana we live in.
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