May 03, 2020 Editorial
“We were hearing from low- and moderate-income and minority communities that this was the best labour market they’d seen in their lifetime,” he said. “It is heartbreaking, frankly, to see that all threatened now” (New York Times, April 29). This speaker was described as “the world’s most important economic leader.” Dr. Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve is all of that and more, as he seeks to stabilize a violently rocking and leaking ship, through timely and inspiring leadership from the front. If only our political leaders would learn from stewards like him, strive to imitate him.
When a man way up there, like Chairman Powell, can empathize with the large army of smaller people suffering, and be moved to use a word like “heartbreaking” to describe their intensifying economic anguish, then that is the kind of leader that is desired. It is the kind that appreciates and cares for the tens of millions of workers in America forced out of the workforce and transformed into the grim statistics that keep increasing, that does not stop pounding with more ominous developments.
It is that “the damage virus containment efforts…could be especially painful for the most vulnerable.” This is particularly relevant to our wage scale workers, thousands of whom are out of pay and trapped in much misery here in Guyana. Whatever little they could have afforded before, managed on before, in the streakiest of existences, either has already vanished, or is almost totally depleted.
For all of its many pluses, Guyana’s suffering workers do not need to hear about democracy currently. Or who and which group offers the best prospect of better future governance. Or of all the distractions brought about by recount processes and arrangements, with limited and still lesser-equipped state structures in no position, due to budgetary stringencies, to extend the helping financial hand so desperately needed. What our growing battalions of minimum wage and moderate-income workers and their families need to hear prioritize right now is how they can afford to feed themselves, to pay expenses, and to face life with some smidgen of dignity.
Stated differently, all Guyanese, and particularly those at the bottom, need to know and desire to hear, is what programmes are being put in place by leaders to rescue them from their precarious predicament. They need food, the sustaining ingredients that buoy the lifeblood, that instill hope, that could provide the crutch that carries along from one bleak day to the next.
The heartbreaking plights of struggling citizens are what should occupy priority of place, the center of attention, in the minds and hearts of those brawling over power, those positioning for capitalizing on the riches of this land. Except that this is not to be. Not with elections consigning all else to the margins, with the lusts for power by venal politicians that condemns everyone to more hatreds and more divisions. This is what they fight over, what they use supporters and voters to make possible.
Where are our leaders now when we need them now? They are about GECOM and Caricom, while the same people who stood for them are told to tighten belt and brace for the worst. How contrasting is this to the timely and inspiring leadership of the American Federal Reserve Chair, Jerome Powell, who has committed the mighty powers of the Fed to “a whatever-it-takes response to the coronavirus crisis, slashing interest rates to near zero, rolling out a gigantic bond-buying programme to soothe troubled markets and setting up a series of emergency lending programmes to keep credit flowing to businesses and households.”
We pinpoint and zero-in on that mindset and still developing practice of “a whatever it takes response” and explore what it should and must mean here in Guyana and immediately. Our leaders, both coalition and opposition, should have the decency, the reasoning and compassion, and the wisdom, to put aside the bitter, acrimonious partisanship and pause-really focus-on where our fellow citizens are dangerously and hopelessly stranded at this hour that keeps getting darker by the day.
May came with a vengeance: curfew extended, government spending power under severe duress, and a month already lost to a recount process to nowhere. And all this, while an existential threat is present: it is financial, it is viral, it could be fatal.
There is sharp and settled uncertainly about the suspicious truths being shared regarding the whole story of Guyana’s coronavirus calamities. That has to be fixed through the confidence building and the uplifting. In broad swaths, there is the sense that the virus is being misused by slick political manipulators for self-serving interests. There is fear over the future, a confluence of hard, unmoving fears that are justified by the punishing realities of numerous frightening circumstances brought about by COVID-19, which cascade with remorseless force.
It is of reopening and restarting a shrunken and stalled economy, not with feet sprawled under different racial and political tents, but with a vision that says: we are in this thing together, the fallouts are felt together, and together we will have to work to overcome. For otherwise, a slow and painful resumption towards some level of normalcy will be seriously impaired. Normalcy in a time of chronic commercial sluggishness; normalcy in the barrenness of low or no demand; normalcy with a mountain of supply that has nowhere to go, because not many are buying. They are not buying due to the harsh reality that they cannot. They do not have what could be exchanged for much needed goods, they lack the means.
It is this acute cash shortage that stares at the many small businesses of the smaller in this society. There is no cushion, there is no protection, there is no vision as to how this catastrophe could be overcome. Our leaders have not presented any of those. They have not offered the cushion of a stimulus, the protection of extensions or temporary waivers that translate to some limited relief, some stirrings of hope. Guyanese businesses and families need the kind of local leadership that Dr. Powell has exemplified, like “setting up a series of emergency lending programmes to keep credit flowing to businesses and households.” Our president and opposition leader (and their circles) must cease confronting, stop fiddling, and be such personifications through executing together programmes that bring hope.
While citizens are losing every day (faith, strength, and their remaining life rafts), our leaders from the coalition and opposition emphasize winning (elections, power, and the prizes that enrich them and their own). When there are leaders such as these, there is nothing that could be labeled a country, other than in name only. For what Guyanese should understand and accept now is that they function as mere pawns-convenient, powerless, and helpless-to be maneuvered at the whims and fancies of their leaders.
Look at the history. Examine the current reality. At this hour, companies and citizens need “more support from all of us.” We do not need, cannot succeed with halfway measures, from less than half committed leaders, while more than half of the citizenry struggle to cope. Guyanese need inspiration now.
We at this paper call upon the president and opposition leader, and their respective teams, to find it somewhere in them to put the peoples of this nation before their own narrow interests. Do not harm us more, do not disappoint us yet again.
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