By Leonard Gildarie
Kaieteur News – It is a given fact that challenges for government are different from country to country across the globe.
For example, the hurdles of governing in the Middle East where water is an issue would be different from Guyana and Suriname where rivers and freshwater courses are plentiful.
Water is life in especially Saudi Arabia because cities are built around it.
It is almost like oil. Yes, that valuable.
In Guyana, the vast terrain of forests and waterways have locked in communities, some accessible by boats, others by planes. A number of them can only be reached via ATVs.
That accessibility has been proving a major problem when it comes to delivering services like telephone, medical and even policing capacity.
We have a major problem with our borders with Venezuela and Brazil.
There are thousands of miles of unmanned borders. Some parts of it are crossable on foot because of low water levels. It is virtually impossible to man the borders there 24/7.
As I write yesterday, the community of Kwebanna, Region One, has gone on a shut-down.
In one month, that little border area community has seen more than 50 COVID-19 cases being recorded.
The shut-down for two weeks would see no one being allowed to come or go, at least… without permission.
I am worried about food and medical supplies for this community. It is a situation that is being told repeatedly of other communities.
The point is that Guyana has a unique situation that has challenged consecutive administrations.
The country is 83,000 square miles with a mere 700,000 persons.
Though filled with gold and diamonds in the hinterlands, it is difficult with corrupt mines officers and too few boots on the ground to monitor.
We have persons slipping in and out, maybe with the blessings of the authorities on the borders, with the number of COVID-19 cases just rising and rising.
The question that begs to be asked is how many in the hinterlands who are infected are slipping to the coastlands.
That answer can tell us a story about where a major weakness to our COVID-19 measures may lie.
It may not be just because our people were careless.
This government, under Irfaan Ali, has some unenviable tasks. It has to shepherd this divided country, fresh from one of the most troubled elections in the globe for this year, through the pandemic.
It has started making changes, included cash to citizens, reduction of taxes and incentives to businesses.
Just last week, one of the most frustrating of roadblocks was removed.
Yes, we are talking about the troubles at the commercial banks.
A few years ago, under pressure from the international community, Guyana passed new laws to tackle money laundering and other financial crimes that could be used to fund illegal activities including terrorism.
Part of those laws mandate host countries to ensure that its financial institutions should know their customers and measures should be in place to reduce the risks.
Customers, by the thousands, were written to by the commercial banks to update their accounts by producing fresh copies of the identification cards or passports.
The banks started paying attention to transactions which looked suspicion. Large, unusual deposits and withdrawals triggered reports to the financial authorities.
The collateral damage from the stringent checks were pensioners and low-salaried workers.
Pensioners were being asked about source of income. How many pensioners have a source of income that comes from a business?
The fact is, Guyana had no choice regards those laws. We lost a major corresponding bank…Bank of America.
Guyana had to scramble to find new corresponding banks or face a halt to our trading and imports because we could not send or receive money.
The fact is, the host countries have to ensure that the financial transactions all come from legit sources.
Small amounts that come from pensions are predictable and the bankers should have categorized these transactions.
For Guyana, it was a tough pill to swallow.
Guyanese were bitterly complaining about difficulties in maintaining and opening accounts.
I don’t transact much business for home. I simply don’t have the time. I don’t have lots of bills coming in my name. All I have is the internet bill and even that comes in my email.
It is a pain when I am asked for a proof of my address.
For many low-incomers, the pain saw many of them unable to open or maintain bank accounts.
It of course hampered efforts by government to move to a cashless era, and reduce crowds at the post offices.
The Bank of Guyana appears to have found the timings right, especially with an aggressive government in place, to reduce some of the red tapes.
I like the fact that persons can now submit their driver’s licence as a form of identification and proof of address.
In a circular to financial institutions, the Bank of Guyana, as regulator, made it clear where customers are low-risk and known to the banks, they are not required to submit documents every year…rather this was revised to seven years.
I raise these issues to point out the very obvious.
Countries around the world will have their own challenges…from geographical to political ones.
Measures and solutions have to be adopted and tailored to suit the situation, while still meeting international requirements.
As a country, we have to take the initiative, keep our thinking caps on and adjust.
Sitting still is not an option.
Rather, every situation…be it the schools’ reopening dilemma, to financial bailouts, the answers have to be adjusted to cater for our local terrain, if you will.
It calls for smart thinking.
We need to dig deep.
(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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