I have never and will never accept the argument that poverty is the root cause of crime. There may be high levels of crime in poor communities, but this is association not causation.
I have known extremely poor individuals, many of whom went hungry for days, who never took to crime. I have known people who have more than they need and have been involved in crime. Yet you never hear anyone saying that having wealth is a source of crime.
I believe that those who commit crimes do so because they believe that there is a strong likelihood that they can get away. And once that risk of escaping punishment is increased, crime rates will fall.
There is open support in some instances for criminals. There are persons in the society who actually view criminals as role models. There are some women who love to boast about their men friends who are criminals. Unless these sorts of values are crushed, crime will fester.
If those who commit crimes are more easily ostracized socially, and if they are more likely to be arrested and punished, crime will reduce appreciably. It boils down to moral sanctions and law enforcement.
There is no reason to steal and rob others, even if you are jobless. This is Guyana, and there is always someone who will be prepared to give you a meal until you can do better. I therefore do not accept the proposition that because young people are not obtaining jobs in the country, this is the reason for them stealing.
I will, however, accept the proposition that the wealth of this country is skewed in favour of a few. When Cheddi Jagan first returned to office in 1992, he discovered to his dismay that 5% of the population owed 70% of the lands. He set about trying to convince large landowners to give up some of their concessions and give it up to small farmers.
In the gold industry, there are all categories of miners – small, medium and large-scale. A few large, foreign-owned companies extract hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold each year. They export this gold. And they create a few hundred jobs to placate the population that their investment is good for the country.
When they leave, as the owners of OMAI did, the country is no better off. There is no class transformation. The poor remain poor; the workers remain workers.
There are few local miners who possess large numbers of concessions beyond what any one person should be allowed. After all, how many mining concessions should one man have when there are poor persons who also want to mine for gold and cannot obtain lands.
I agree that we need to look at the bigger picture of how our wealth is handed out to a few foreign companies. Right now, most of Guyana’s wealth is in the hands of foreigners, from bauxite to gold and now to oil and gas.
The oil deal which the government signed with Exxon Mobil effectively hands Guyana’s oil wealth to Exxon. The oil multinational will get the hog’s share of the oil wealth. It will make its shareholders richer while shortchanging Guyanese.
These oil companies do not deal in millions. They deal in billions, and when they strike a deal, they will get billions. It is sad that our negotiators approved a deal which deprived the country of US$55B. That US$55B is going right into the pockets of Exxon’s overseas shareholders.
And in case you do not know what that means, let me tell you. It means every single man, woman and child has been robbed of G$15M each.
I do not know about you, but with me and Big Aunty alone, that works out to G$30M in my household alone. And you still want me to vote on 2nd March 2020?
(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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