One day in October, I went to the Pegasus to deliver a document to a Guyanese visiting for the Queen’s College reunion. I drove west on New Market Street, stopped at German’s to pick up some black pudding (yes, I still patronage Clinton Urling’s eatery; so reluctantly) and took Water Street to get to the Pegasus.
Given my route, I had to pass the Marriott Hotel to get to the Pegasus. I slowed up to look at this expensive construction and a sharp stab of sadness shook me. Billions of dollars went into a Marriott Hotel and the country’s only university is virtually dying. This is post-colonial madness. This is the effect of colonialism on the leaders of the Third World.
This misplacing of national priorities is an unforgivable sin. You would have thought that as the Third World grew older after Independence, the post-colonial leaders would have learnt their lesson about building majestic highways, sprawling state institutions, ultra-modern airports, when their economy could not have sustained such mammoth expenditure.
It was not that these infrastructures were irrelevant. On the contrary they were needed, but as the economy grew, these things would fall into place in time. This is the path places like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Mauritius, among others, took in the late fifties and sixties.
After industrialization, these infrastructural facilities were constructed. Today, countries like Singapore and Malaysia have high-rises and ultra-modern airports that rival any in the industrialized West. Their futuristic infrastructure is financed by their economy. Guyana has not moved away from mono-culture in its economy since the 19th century, and it explains why Guyana remains the second poorest nation in CARICOM and is listed among the poorest in the world.
Yesterday, it was rice and sugar. Today it is gold. From Jagdeo onwards, the government sees its money coming from selling a raw material, as it did more than one hundred years ago. When gold prices go down, the leaders get apoplexy.
On such a fragile economy, the PPP leadership built a Marriott with taxpayers’ money, while UG is going downward so fast that most people believe it will not survive another five years. The point is that Guyana should have a Marriott, but not at the expense of its only university, and that is what it is.
From where did this money come for a Marriott in a country that is not known at all in the world and therefore does not have substantial influx of people to sustain a Marriott? I seriously doubt President Obama can easily tell you where Guyana is. This is not an indictment of the geography knowledge of President Obama. It is a manifestation of the reality of the world. I do not know the name of the President of Tajikistan. Most people in the world don’t know what or where Tajikistan is.
Why a Marriott when the Princess Hotel at Providence is never even half-filled?
Not only is this post-colonial madness; the sheer weight of the immoral content of such a decision makes it an abuse of power that deserves criminal prosecution. In a country that has per capita the highest accident rate in the world, there is hardly a police station with a breathalyzer machine.
As a matter of policy, traffic police do not come to the scene of an accident with a breathalyzer when summoned; they simply don’t have the stuff at the station. In the midst of this primitiveness the public purse financed a Marriott Hotel.
The Marriott indecency gets into the realm of evil when you think of the skills that would be needed to run the hotel. President Jagdeo in 2010 said in a public interview that the Ministry of Works cannot secure the services of engineers, because the country hasn’t got them. Where is the Marriott going to get over two dozen particular skills that it needs? Not from the outside world.
The CARICOM Secretariat for over thirty-five years cannot secure its quota of non-Guyanese specialists. Caribbean nationals are not inclined to work here. The Marriott has been repeatedly advertising the same vacancies as recent as September.
Why was the Marriott born? It is a long story that had to do with Bharrat Jagdeo’s need for a legacy after he found out that he wasn’t going to have any great political or social achievement for which he could be remembered. The Berbice branch of UG never made it big. The Berbice Bridge was very cheap and ugly. So Jagdeo settled for the Marriott. But failure awaits this sordid, fictional, indecent legacy of Guyana’s worst leader.
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