Guyana is home to a multitude of people from all over the world. More recently, the Chinese have been making an impact on the social landscape. They own businesses, operate in the goldfields, and some even own properties.
Recently, there have been a slew of reports of how the Chinese treat foreigners. For starters, foreigners cannot own property in China. There is also talk of racism, something that seems to be common the world over where there is a clash of black people with other races.
A walk along the business area would reveal a large presence of Chinese. Regent Street, which once featured large Guyanese businesses now has Chinese to the extent that they are causing a serious impact on the local businesses.
The Guyanese businessmen complain that business is slow, but a look at the Chinese stores would reveal a large presence of shoppers. It is common knowledge that the influx of Cubans with their hard currency is actually causing the Chinese businesses to boom.
Such is the case, that the Central Bank is moving to clampdown on this source of foreign currency. And this all started when the Chinese came and offered the local businessmen money that they could not refuse. So the locals turned over their stores. Today, many are expressing regret, although they pocket the Chinese money.
Should Guyana change the laws prohibiting Chinese from owning property in Guyana? If China does the same to foreigners, then they should expect likewise. However, this is not the case. The view is that the Chinese acquire cheap goods and could therefore undersell the Guyanese.
These days one sees men with large guns outside some of the Chinese stores. This suggests that the business is so good that there is need for protection. At the same time, Guyanese who enter these stores speak of being made to feel uncomfortable.
I would be incensed if a foreigner attempts to make me feel uncomfortable in my own country. This past week as I was on holiday, I read about a Chinese hairdresser in Brooklyn beating a black woman with a broom. This happening in Brooklyn is almost unthinkable.
I said to myself that this assaulted woman should have dealt a severe beating to her attacker. I just could not imagine a Chinese woman beating a black woman in Brooklyn and others standing by merely as observers.
It happened once in Guyana and people attacked the Chinese. The police came in and arrested the Chinese. On the internet, I saw a Chinese man punching a woman in the face because the man dared to challenge her child of shoplifting. The man was arrested but not beaten by the spectators.
On one occasion, a Chinese embassy official visited Kaieteur News. He was angry about an allegation that the embassy was importing goods for the Chinese community and enjoying duty free concessions. This official was so angry that during the conversation he asked whether Kaieteur News is picking on the Chinese. “Is it because you think we are weak?”
I hear these things and wonder how it is that the Chinese can be so aggressive in another country when visitors are allowed no such privilege in China.
There was the Chinese company, BaiShanLin, that exploited the resources of Guyana. That company took, courtesy of the Jagdeo administration, and left nothing in return. In the end, the Granger administration terminated the lease arrangement.
I doubt that the Chinese pay their fair share of taxes. If the Cubans pay in hard currency, the government has no way of knowing how much sale is made and how much money is collected.
The Guyana Revenue Authority should be making routine investigations of these business places. There should be audits. It would not be a bad thing for the police immigration officers to check on whether some of the foreigners working in these establishments have work permits.
The truth is that we are a very laid back people and more often than not, we are made to pay for our laid back position. Our people would not be allowed to behave in the same manner in that foreign country.
Of course, there are other nationalities who are making an impact on the local landscape. The Brazilians have already taken possession of swaths of Georgetown. Some places look like little Brazil, because the Brazilians actually acquired assets.
There are Brazilian churches operating in Guyana.
However, they are not as clannish as the Chinese. They mingle with the local population and share some common things. For example, during the recent FIFA World Cup Guyanese were almost all Brazilian supporters. There were Guyanese driving around with the Brazilian flag attached to their cars and motorcycles.
Many wore the jerseys, much to the approval of the resident Brazilians. Perhaps because Brazil is a neighbour we tend to be more accommodating. The language barrier seems not to be a deterrent. It is not the same with the Chinese. They tend to be clannish, intent on keeping outsiders from their ranks.
Of interest is the fact that the Chinese Government is bent on extending its reach across the Caribbean. It reached out to Guyana with money to the extent that there is now the expansion of the East Coast Demerara roadway. The Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion project is being undertaken with Chinese money.
We constructed the now dead Skeldon Sugar Factory with Chinese money and more recently, the Marriott Hotel with Chinese labour and with initial Chinese money. We are indebted to China.
We reached out for the One Laptop project at a hefty cost of US$27 million. That project saw many non-functioning computers being injected. At one time there was talk of Haier, a Chinese electric company, setting up an office in Guyana. And I wonder which Guyanese company can open its doors in China.
Kaieteur News has been highlighting some of the effects of too much Chinese money. In Sri Lanka a port built with Chinese money is now Chinese property because the Sri Lankans simply could not repay.
It has been discovered that the same thing has happened in Malaysia, to the point that the new government has halted some of the projects, accusing the previous administration of corrupt dealings with the Chinese.
Just recently, Guyana signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Government and caused some consternation. There is fear that Guyana is selling itself to the Chinese.
Jamaica recently clamped down on a large Chinese business that dealt in counterfeit goods. We know that there are a lot of counterfeit goods in Guyana, but there is no move to take them off the market. The question therefore arises, “Is Guyana beholden to the Chinese?”
At the same time oil is coming. Rest assured that on the heels of the oil there will be another influx of Chinese.
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