The country is stuck. At 134 out of 190 in the ease of doing business that is not far from the bottom of the barrel. By approximation that is in the last 30 percent. Those places are frowned upon, feared, and known to be among the foulest for doing business.
There has been much talk, most of it well-intentioned, about local content. It is meant to be encouraging, reassuring to Guyanese workers and Guyanese businesses that they deserve a genuine shot in the rich, ruthless oil game.
Most likely, the focus is on private enterprise and the struggle for it–institutions and individuals–to get a fair share of the national prize that draws so many from elsewhere.
However, there is this reality: local content is more than private enterprise. This is because, public agencies and public services are also of local content. Local content quality, local content delivery, and local content sustainability. Regardless of which agency is involved, and no matter how small or powerful, public services are an intrinsic aspect of local content, and they stand as testimony of what we have, how we are, and the levels at which we function. This is not foreign, none of it is.
Guyanese petitioners of all walks are themselves very familiar–too familiar, and for the wrong reasons–with the unsatisfactory state of effort, knowhow, red tape, brass face, and dirt standards, which prevail in one government agency after another. Words like dispiriting and appalling and infuriating come easily. For there is the greatest of hesitancies, the most unruffled casualness to move things along, to provide answers, even to point out the right department or the right person to get something done.
Commercial activity that should be part of routine gets bogged down by the whims and moods of those behind the counter, those hiding behind the veils of ‘unavailable’ or ‘in a meeting’ or ‘out to lunch.’ The latter might be a perpetual state, even though these days there is nothing liquid about such lengthy disappearances.
For, too often, these are the pegs of some sort in gaping holes. Calling these misfits pegs is an insult to the wooden or properties of pig iron. Supplicants are passed from hand to hand and place to place.
Passing the buck is the fashionable phrase of choice. Sending upstairs and across the road (if lucky) and another time is the pendulum that swings back and forth unceasingly.
A former head of the Georgetown Chamber questioned why certain permits cannot be under a single roof. It is a good question. Unlike the Guyanese Constitution, neither escalation to the CCJ for an interpretation that is found embraceable nor a four-year stint at the London School of Economics to bone up on what is called for is necessary.
But, truth be told, this is part of the ongoing bureaucratic racketeering. Let this fact be faced: if the process is made too straightforward and seamless, then chaos results. As in spiraling volume, followed by the demand for speed, succeeded by narrowing responsibility and associated blame for failure to one house and one set of people.
From the cagey perspectives of bureaucrats, this just will not do. It is time to raise that specter, which brings understanding, rushed conceding: unionising.
Thus, lesser and older evils persist under the radar, with few disturbed, other than the heavily agitated, but resigned, citizenry. Here is a truism: it is an old government trick, part of the universal deceptions of the ways of states, to spread the gravy around, by finding jobs for the loyal boys and girls, and loading up with pretenders and the incompetence that comes with such. It can be-have been-murderous for citizens forced to beg to get by, or to give alms to move forward.
Just so that all are on the same page, alms is a kind word for bribery, the gratuity that assures continuity. Suddenly, 134 out of 190 is not such a dismal placement after all, given widespread local perceptions and endemic domestic circumstances. Locals will curse and cry, they crumble, too. Foreigners are not locals. They will kick butt, knock many heads. A terrible stink is the usual result. If we can’t hear, we will feel.
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