Dr. Clive Thomas has been writing for decades about the Phantom/Underground/Parallel Economy in Guyana. Enumerating some fantastical numbers such as those penned in Stabroek News publication dated February 16, 2017 and captioned “SARU Defends Assets Recovery Bill – says country was bleeding $313 Billion per annum” and captioned in Kaieteur News on the same date as “Guyana was losing over $300B annually through corruption under PPP.” In addition to the Kaieteur News caption, the Guyana Chronicle headline article on the same date is: “$306B stolen per year under PPP …SARU says uncovered massive scale of corruption.”
The GY$313 Billion the country is supposedly losing per annum is sourced from undefined metrics, with numbers that are unverifiable. The substance of the reporting relates with varying numbers that re: “the nation was losing $28-$35Billion each year through procurement fraud. In relation to capital flight, the nation was losing $90 Billion every year. Furthermore, the underground economy caused the nation to lose $188 billion per year… adding up to a grand total of $313 billion per year, which is a conservative figure”.
It is unfortunate that the emergence of SARU has adversely affected the efforts by our Honourable Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordon, who is trying mightily to set our economic ship on course for improved economic growth. Instead, the imminence of SARA, among other factors, has our commercial banks unable to provide on demand, United States Dollars (USD) to its clients, who have USD accounts. Basic wire transfers, from as little as US$500, have to go into bank trays for processing that can take over a week to process. During the “wait” period, if the exchange rate weakens, the customer has to pay more for the USD, if the transfer is ever made.
The general thrust of the post May 2015 government is to spend an extraordinary amount of time and money to set up a so called “apparatus of anti-corruption” units, led by the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU). Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the bill never becomes an Act. If it does, it will in my opinion, reduce the GDP per capita and the growth of the Guyanese economy and permit inhumane acts. We are creating a monster with powers that no politician of any party ought not to have as their creature to obey the bidding of the party in power.
The folly of the “underground economy” analysis (it is reasonable to assume that a thorough analysis was done) is the complete lack of a comparative analysis as to what obtains in other countries, be it Trinidad, Jamaica or the USA, with regards to procurement fraud, capital flight and the underground economy. One cannot justify the numbers supplied by Professor Thomas without context.
If the USA Empire cannot keep drugs to any discernable degree from entering the country since the “war on drugs started’, it is foolhardy to think that Guyana, with its wide-open and unprotected borders and airways can impact drug smuggling and the use of Guyana as a drug transshipment country in any significant way.
Another black polar bear argument by Dr. Thomas or SARU (the two seem undistinguishable) is that “The Guyana population is eager to see the country’s assets recovered”. My question for those on the SARU bandwagon is: where is the starting point for the recovery of assets? Is it from the first rigged election in 1968 that sustained through to 1991 in post independent Guyana? It should be easy to make a case for property transfers, whether by deed, gift, sale or discounted sale to be recovered that took place over the rigged election period. Of course, leases could also be revoked for reasons of lack of legality, during the 1968 to 1991 period.
The unfree and unfair elections that Dr. Thomas struggled to expose, whether as leader of the University of Guyana, Ratoon group and/or as a co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance, when he protested vehemently against the authors of the rigged elections. Be it the rigged elections in 1968, 1973, 1980, 1985 or the 1978 referendum that birthed us with the infamous 1980 Constitution of Guyana.
The words of Dr. Walter Rodney, the Guyanese born and world renowned historian, activist intellectual, politician and brother of the working class, who embraced multiracialism, and with whom Professor Thomas struggled alongside for free and fair elections are notable here. I will flow up this missive with a subsequent one
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