By Leonard Gildarie
I am by no means a rich man. I care my clothes. I try to wash and service my car in a timely manner. I ensure my home is taken care of. I love my dogs. You don’t have to be working for a ton of money to enjoy the little things. I have learnt that not taking timely action is more costly.
In all I do, during the long hours, I give it my best shot. Sometimes my enthusiasm clashes with my colleagues, who believe I talk too much. I know of no other way than striving to deliver the best.
I could not help but reflect on this the past week, as four incidents highlighted the sorry plight that we face in Guyana when it comes to planning.
Let me make it clear. We are a relatively young country…only 53 years old. A handful of persons scatter the coastlands and dot our wide expanse of forests and waterways.
The delivery of services has always been a challenge. We have people who live in the hinterlands who contribute little in terms of taxes, but deliver a whopping boost to our foreign exchange via gold and forest-related activities. We are forced to fix roads and meet them halfway.
We struggled until the ‘90s to break our debt shackles. I learnt the word retrenchment in the ‘80s and it was spoken in hushed tones…a dreaded word. I learnt it meant someone lost their job. We had more money available in the early ‘90s, when the lending institutions became confident as a new government took office.
In the beginning, it was repairs, building capacity, and seeking to discover money for a number of transformative programmes.
From the 2000s especially, the corruption at the regional levels was rampant. From the engineers to the Clerks of Works to the Regional Executive Officers, the problem was systematic and pervasive in every corner.
How many times have we read reports of a Magistrate’s clerk charged for misappropriation? Or an overseer who skipped the country?
We know of engineers who drive Audis and SUVs that you know they can’t afford.
We have lost billions of dollars to corruption and collusion.
It appears the problem is refusing to go away. From police to Tender Boards, the anecdotal narratives have been surfacing. The whistleblowers are becoming more bold.
However, that is not the focus of our subject today.
Two Saturdays ago, a shocking incident occurred on the East Bank road at Agricola.
A truck driver, heading in the airport direction, inexplicably veered suddenly where a number of persons were seen standing at a median.
From the footage of security cameras, there seems to be no explanation. It happened so quickly.
A little girl was crushed as the truck rode up on the median.
The images and videos broke Guyana’s heart.
An angry community attacked the driver, throwing bottles and other objects, including rocks, while he was in the truck. Videos surfaced of a bloodied driver and missiles.
Traffic came to a standstill on both sides of the four-lane thoroughfare.
I understood even President David Granger was stranded at Eccles where he had attended a church event. I also heard tell of a few robberies, although these could not be confirmed.
What had me deeply alarmed was the traffic.
It is a frightening situation when we have arguably the busiest road in the country completely blocked. It leads to the airport and scores of villages along both sides of the river. It is a link to the hinterlands too, via the Linden/Soesdyke highway.
It is undoubtedly a huge security concern also. If police and other security forces are marooned, bad things can happen.
I am not even going to talk much about the fact that an ambulance too could not make it through for hours.
Less than 48 hours later, a truck broke down at Houston, again blocking traffic.
On Thursday, the “G3” complex at Diamond, which houses a gym, bar, insurance company, Western Union and even pharmacy, caught fire.
The one road that leads in and out of the Grove and Diamond housing schemes was blocked. Traffic was not flowing for almost an hour, drivers complained bitterly.
We lose man-hours, and we are not even talking about the wear and tear on vehicles. It is, as the boys would say, bare stress. We have no back door to escape from the fire in the kitchen.
There is one other situation that caught my attention too.
At Eccles, a retiree from overseas, complained he brought a new home in 2013. He wants to sell now. His home is behind a rice mill. In fact, mere feet away. His home has been damaged from the vibrations and the fact that the mill, which has been given permission, has taken over the reserve, and is affecting the drainage in the area.
The Central Housing and Planning Authority has admitted that attention has not been paid to zoning, and by extension there is no proper planning.
Who locates an upscale housing scheme next to an industrial site?
I raise this issue and the ones about road blockage to illustrate a simple point.
We will next year start receiving our oil proceeds. There will have to a clear idea what we want. We have to prioritise. We must work on that East Bank/East Coast road linkage. It will provide us with an alternative to the city. We also have to fast-track a new bridge across the Demerara River.
The daily grind in the traffic has been a major turnoff, and I am more than sure it affects the productivity, in a big way, of our people.
The electricity sector is the other area that should compel our attention. I don’t have to repeat the negatives from the current (no pun intended) situation.
We have a lot to think about. We have to ready ourselves.
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