A few years back, a Caribbean Airlines flight crashed while attempting a landing at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The plane missed its landing area on the runway and careened to the end of the airstrip where it split in two. There were no deaths, but quite a few persons were injured.
The passengers began to disembark from the crashed aircraft before the rescue teams arrived. Some of them made their way to the road which runs alongside the perimeter fence of the airport. One of them reported that a taxi driver charged her US$40 for the less than 1,000 metres from the crash site back to the terminal.
Imagine there is a crash and instead of lending a helping hand, some unscrupulous taxi drivers decided this was the occasion for a hustle.
In Guyana, the hustle is on. Kaieteur News did a fantastic piece of investigative journalism in uncovering the arrival of thousands of Haitians and what appears now to be an organised ring of moving them into and out of the country.
This had to have been going on for some time. Haitians had been arriving here in large numbers since 2016. Yet, no one said anything. Not the immigration or customs officers, not the hotels or guest houses at which they were saying, and definitely not the taxi drivers who were transporting these migrants around.
A reporter of Kaieteur News was actually threatened by one of the touts who provided transportation services for the Haitians. But no arrest has been made, and according to the reports, even the security at the airport and the police seemed extremely vexed that Kaieteur News was exposing the large numbers who were arriving, but whose departure remains unaccounted for.
They were annoyed because Kaieteur News was interfering with their hustle. Many of them are unconcerned about the possibility of their activities being part of a massive transnational smuggling ring. As far as they were concerned, this was a hustle and Kaieteur News was affecting business.
Guyana is a land of hustling. There are many Cubans who are coming here to shop. And most of them shop along Regent Street. And there was a time when some of them who were coming were not familiar with the amount charged for ‘short-drops’ by the hire cars. Some unscrupulous hire car drivers cashed in on this initial unfamiliarity by the Cubans and, when asked what was the cost for the short-drop, were massively overcharging them. This too is a familiar hustle in Guyana. There are some taxi drivers who are charging $500 to drop you a few corners.
The Cubans, like the Brazilians before them, are supporting the commercial sector. And this shows the possibility for shopping tourism. Guyana can attract shoppers from all over the Caribbean. But what is the sight that will greet them when they arrive? What they will see? Instead of an easy shopping experience, foreigners are confronted with the ugly sight of vendors with umbrellas and unsightly stands squatting and creating obstructions on the pavements. They are unfairly competing with the very businesses who have to pay rates and taxes, income taxes, electricity charges and salaries for workers. But the justification for them is that they too have a right to earn a living. In other words, they have a right to hustle.
The businesses in front of which they are squatting are also on a hustle. The number of Cuban shoppers – as distinct from Cuban arrivals – has decreased tremendously. Obviously, the Cubans now have to compete for places on the airlines with the Haitians, and this is driving up airfares. The flow of shoppers has slowed appreciably. And yet the stores on Regent Street are still opening on Sunday, but there is not the volume of sales to make them turn a profit.
They too are in a hustle. But why give them wrong, when right now the government is on its own hustle. It is saying that Cabinet will not resign. The Cabinet therefore has become part of the national culture of hustling. It is trying to keep going when it should have resigned.
Politicians are also into the hustle. They are hustling votes. They are making all kinds of promises to people in the hope that the people would fall for their hustle and vote for them. This is happening on both sides of the political divide.
Some members of the government do not believe that they will be reelected. Some public officials share the same opinion. And so they are making their own hustle – trying to extend their stay on the job – so as to have a good life after the elections.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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