Feb 23, 2021 Letters
I am watching on at the flurry of commerce, current and gearing up, in motion for delivery in Guyana, and I am transported from the Wall Street casino of Georgetown to the Wall Street of Lower Manhattan and over three decades ago. What I see and envision unfolding here is a bona fide Predators’ Ball, and with all the singular extravagances sure to become part of Guyanese legend.
In this local Predators’ Ball, the politicians-government and opposition-are set to make the biggest financial killings. Those who were not in a position to get before, will get now; those venal political leaders and inner circles that were and are not satisfied with what they got earlier (think 23 years followed by 5) will ensure that they grab more than enough to satisfy their unimaginable greed, their incomparable appetites for money, the people’s money. There are those billions borrowed and to be put to work. I start with a billion only, which is fast becoming an everyday figure thrown around with increasing frequency.
A billion squeezed for the now traditional, and now accepted, 10% political surcharge (possibly increased to 15 or 20% to adjust for cost of living) to partake in government projects reaps a bonanza for the interested and willing; we have no shortage of them in PPP and coalition circles. Guyanese ought not to fool themselves: some in the coalition share in the grand financial bacchanals. That 10% minimum from a billion to be paid from the top, to have a chance to do government business is a cool hundred million; now multiply by the numerous contracts and there would be billions in pillage. In due course, cost overruns will add to the pile from the mutually rewarding cash claw back arrangements. Government contractors, mainly PPP luminaries, will get to drink and dance (and collect their prizes) to their hearts’ content, just like they did in Mike Milken’s carnivals. For those who need the education, Guyana has its own predatory Michael Milken, and he is from a more cunning training and hunting ground than the once well-named Drexel Burnham Lambert. Bald head, beady eyes, and grubby paws are part of the attire, just like big Mike who got 10 years in the slammer. But like the American Mike, the Guyanese one is also revered by many here. As all of this come to pass, the little people not invited to the financial festivities (Guyana’s predators’ ball) will get COVID-19 cash, Old Age Pension increase, VAT decrease, gasoline decrease, and they had better settle for that and some more bird droppings (sign of coming good luck), and be contented. They can kiss goodbye to any thoughts of that million-dollar payday, on which I disagreed with former president, David Granger, since regular citizens could get revolutionary ideas on greater possibilities. It is, however, just too much for this government predators to consider, since it would shorten their share.
Editor, the predators already line up to attend Guyana’s ball. None who is worth his salt wants to miss the black tie, cummerbund and sash, oil extravaganza; the bounties that are guaranteed for the taking. Just like the ones in the 1980s with their junk bonds and leveraged buyouts that made a killing, and all who escaped the hangman’s noose of being made to account for their corrupting contributions; they included attorneys, accountants, and auditors then, and are the same here today. They number in the waves of businesses to come under the umbrella of that joint Guyana/American body that have every interest in seizing the rich opportunities available here. Fortune 500 companies, venture capitalists, vulture capitalists, portfolio and investment managers, gamblers and wildcatters will all make their way to Guyana’s predators’ ball. The name of the game on this wide-open oil frontier is financial fun in the sun.
We are well-positioned to be taken advantage of: a devilishly clever and corrupt cohort of politicians from leaders all the way down; a compromised and corrupt private sector; a still more compromised professional and civil society class. Self-help is the order of the day, as well as conversion of foreign currency and to the Guyanese commercial culture. The people can take care of themselves; they better had. The opening notes of Guyana’s predators’ ball began during our elections, the orchestra is set to soar from now. It is time for the oil cow and cash cow and captive cow that is Guyana to be milked and dry. Remember, I said so.
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