The Story within the Story…
By Leonard Gildarie
Kaieteur News – As the days go by, and as the world struggles to maneuver the treacherous pathway of unstable rocks in the raging waters of 2020, our flanks have been woefully exposed by a pandemic that runs rampant.
The digital divide between the coastlands and outlying regions have underscored how much of a hole our one telephone company that had the monopoly has placed us in. We have almost 180,000 students in the public education system, according to the Ministry of Education. It is virtually impossible to give each a tablet or laptop at this time. At US$100 each, because of economies of scale benefits, buying more see costs of acquisition go down. Assuming we even have a supplier for 180,000 laptops, it will cost us about $4B at US$100 apiece. Not much money considering the critical importance of the devices.
But we are saddled with unstable internet. On the coastlands, E-Networks are evening up things, thought the going is slow. It is unbelievable and unacceptable that GTT, the supposed big brother, would have dragged its feet and the rest of the Guyana by not understanding that they would have made so much money and at the same time develop this country had they really put their shoulders to the wheel. Today, Guyana is ruing its inaction in not demanding more from GTT. The company has left a bad taste in the mouths of the people of Guyana and would regret not moving quickly, when it had the opportunity to consolidate its stakes in Guyana.
The push by the new administration was an aggressive one for the reopening of schools. There have been reports of infections in dorms at the President’s College, and in Bartica, where teachers and students alike were infected with the coronavirus.
The burning question would always be…did we move too fast?
It would be difficult to answer.
The virus is unlike anything that has challenged us for the past 50 years. Unless, of course, we consider 911 in the US and the way it has changed the travelling dynamics when it comes to security.
As we consider and continue to chew on the GTT legacy, let us be clear that that situation has brought the spotlight down on the role of our regulators.
We cannot hope to become a first world country unless we insist that our watchers at the gate understand and fulfill their mandates.
In Guyana, the framers of our Constitution, the laws of Guyana, have installed a number of safeguards for our people. I will name a few – the Guyana Elections Commission, the Audit Office, the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, the Services Commission, Director of Public Prosecutions, Human Rights Commission, Indigenous People’s Commission, Office of the Ombudsman, Public Procurement Commission the Rights of Child Commission, the Judicial Service Commission and the Women and Gender Equality Commission.
There are also commissions to protect police ranks and public servants.
I got a bet. Maybe more than half of Guyana don’t understand the workings of these bodies. A few probably never heard of them.
The fact is they receive billions of dollars annually. In fact, GECOM as the manager of elections in Guyana and issuer of national identification cards received up to $9B for the recent fiasco we had back in March. In 2018, and there are updated figures, 16 Constitutional agencies received $13B from the National Treasury to run their organizations.
Here is the kicker. How many of you know what they did?
GECOM, yes. PUC, yes. Audit Office, yes. Parliament Office, yes.
The Local Government Commission and others must start pulling their weights.
The Integrity Commission, where art thou?
In the US, the Internal Revenue Service is feared. Don’t owe the tax people. Stars like Wesley Snipes paid the price.
In Guyana, the Constitutional bodies have far-reaching powers that they seem not to know how to wield.
Yet we keep plugging hundreds of millions of dollars into them.
In the last few days, I saw the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) announcing a public forum for mid-December to discuss ethnic relations in Guyana.
They have invited the President and Opposition Leader to make remarks. The cynics will say that the horses have already bolted through the open gates.
However, it is a start to address a critical issue. We do have an ethnic relations issue – at least at the political level.
The PUC has been coming out more with its public forums. But consumers, judging from the complaints, have a long way to go before we can boast that we have reached that level of being in the first world category.
The fact is that we have got to prod our people to start being more proactive.
Don’t wait for situations to occur before we react. Too often, that is the case in Guyana.
This country needs strong people to build watchdogs bodies to lookout for those without a voice and of course, be the little brother and sister to our Constitutional bodies.
We saw this past week the visit of a prince from the United Arab Emirates. It is not because we are nice people. We have something to offer. The investors are coming.
They should not see us as weaklings. Our people are capable of rising to the challenge.
The moment we have prepared ourselves for is upon us.
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