Crime is the topical issue at this time. This past week a man slit his spouse’s throat and tried to kill himself. Then another attacked his wife and when she managed to escape, he torched the home.
Then there was the case of the missing man. It turned out that people had killed him and burned his body. The prime motive is believed to be a hit ordered by a relative.
Gunmen entered a home and robbed a man then proceeded to rape his wife. The shocking thing is that the invaders were people from the community. I know that in life your neighbours are your protectors. There was a time when criminals never operated in their community and they prevented like-minded criminals from committing crimes in the community.
But there are other issues that are equally important. One of them has to do with the advent of oil revenue. The nation cannot help but notice that preparations for first oil have been stepped up. The pace to begin pumping oil is almost frenetic.
There are implications. Already money is flowing and people are reaping the benefits. They may not be receiving larger pay packets, but suddenly there are people who are admitting that there are new jobs. Many young people have gained employment in industries that have sprung up around the oil production.
Indeed much more money will flow, contrary to what was touted a few short months ago. Back then people were incensed at the contract which seemed to offer Guyana much less than the country deserved for its oil.
But the government had other views. It began to work to establish what is called a Sovereign Wealth Fund to hold money that would otherwise flood the treasury and cause all manner of confusion in a country that is only accustomed to spending a certain level of money.
Trinidad rolled in oil money for years, to the extent that its nationals ceased to work. Indeed they turned up for work, but did the barest minimum. Existing industries were largely ignored and some even collapsed. Life was one great party.
Today with the bottom almost off the oil industry, a cruel situation has developed in the country. People are being killed like flies. It is the belief that gunmen are out for hire, so they accept targets for a fee. Nearly two hundred and fifty people have been killed in the twin-island republic for this year. This rate is threatening the 2008 figure of 550.
Guyana must be aware of these things, so the authorities are already planning to further develop the agricultural sector. It would entail establishing canneries after the government develops its power sector.
But there must be a vision. To avoid a rising illiteracy, there must be expenditure on education. Perhaps the time has come when teachers should become among the highest paid people in the country. The best would have to be attracted, even if it means bringing back those who left during the days when other countries were paying so much more.
We spent money on a top class hotel which at one stage threatened to be a white elephant, but which seems to be the main attraction around. Its beach front is now the target of party planners at a rental cost of one million dollars a shot. Its ballroom is almost always in use, and people are walking off the streets to eat in the restaurant.
Roads need proper surfaces and there is need for other infrastructure development. For example, there is talk in earnest of the new Demerara Harbour Bridge. There are the proposed new roads reaching south.
But for Guyana to really move into the upper middle income bracket, there must be major technological development. This past week Minister Cathy Hughes announced that all records would be digitized.
It is time wasting to expect people seeking records to have to wait until a clerk ploughs through some bulky, dusty books with fading writing. People must go back home and wait for a few days until the information is retrieved.
Money must be put into computerising all records. The time has come for our police to retrieve information on anything from their cars.
Sport is integral to national development. It is not be accident that Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Grenada have won Olympic medals, especially on the track. They put money into their sports programmes and they have developed their young people.
Even in football many countries are rated higher than Guyana, which pays little attention to sports, because of an absence of funds. The oil wealth should change all this.
Then there is housing. Indeed Guyana is spending a lot of money in this area. Trinidad did the same, even establishing a village in which no one lived. Guyana can do no such thing.
When one thinks about the needs of the country, one is left to wonder where to start. The frightening thing is that we may not have the skills to do many of the needed things. There is no room for the so-called cutlass carpenters.
Engineers are being produced, but they must perform at a higher level. We have seen engineers pass projects that collapse weeks after completion. This must change. Money must be spent to develop quality people and that would be no easy task, because we must first find the candidates, many of whom treat school shabbily.
In any case, I may be ahead of myself, except that we have little more than a year before things really begin to happen. I know we have development plans, but these were crafted when the funds were limited.
Perhaps our technicians are crafting a plan to properly spend the anticipated revenue. But observers expect to see a rise in corruption, because Third World leaders are not immune from making themselves too comfortable with the treasury.
There is always the jail, but then again, this country has not made it a habit of jailing corrupt leaders.
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