Apr 13, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – Reference is made to epistle of Lisa Budhu (Apr 4) highlighting some of the persistent problems of life in Black Bush Polder (BBP) and appealing to the First Lady (government really) for her (its) attention and assistance to help transform or improve life in the community. The letter is well-written, emotional, moving, and the description of her travails is hair-raising, giving me goose bumps. Tears flowed from my eyes every time I read it. It is the talk among so many chat groups and among so many with whom I conversed. I hope government responds to the needs of BBP and the Lisa Budhus of the world.
Regrettably, what Lisa narrated is a fair representation of the life of every youngster in Black Bush and of rural life throughout most of Guyana, particularly in Berbice. There are thousands of Lisa Budhus all over Guyana being denied opportunities to elevate themselves and with no government official or MP paying attention to or assisting them or listening to their cries and pleas. They are physically and mentally abused and there is virtually no one to commiserate with them. And there are sexual exploiters, some on government, prowling to prey upon them. I heard so many stories of sex demands, including from those who the Lisa Budhus voted for.
What an extraordinary and courageous young woman. As I travel around the country, I heard the same complaint in every village. Some lack the skills to write about the problems in their communities. Others are fearful of victimisation by the political elite if they speak out, and they plead upon me to write about problems in their communities. So they ‘bear am’ (the pains) hoping for better or for a visa to escape the country.
Just a few days before the letter was published, I was in Black Bush to conduct a survey on views of the budget. It is not a pretty site. I travelled far and wide in our country. Aside from the hinterland, BBP is probably the most neglected part of Guyana. In fact, some hinterland areas I visited are far more advanced and developed than BBP. The number of complaints of neglect I heard sickened the mind. I need psychological counselling just hearing them. And BBP and other outlying rural areas have no social workers or psychologists or development specialists to advise or console the Lisas of Guyana.
As I observed and analysed, putting on my sociologist and economist hats, in comparison with urban areas, BBP and other rural areas face serious multiple and complex socio-economic problems. They tend to have higher rates of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, school dropouts, and social problems like alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, drug abuse, and crime. Since Jagan died, the country has largely forgotten that Black Bush exits. Not much has changed since Jagan created BBP some sixty years ago. There is limited access to resources, and their culture is marginalised. There is lack of modern housing. There is no sewer. No garbage pick-up. Sanitation is poor or virtually non-existent; garbage is dumped all over, adding to woes. People suffer from all kinds of communicable health problems related to the environment. There are a lot of natural or non-communicable health issues with inadequate health centres and no hospital for admittance. Sick patients have to go a long distance to Port Mourant, Skeldon or New Amsterdam. And if specialists are needed, the sick have to journey to Georgetown, unaffordable trips for the poor working class. They have to endure increased costs of travelling to see a doctor or obtain medical and government service. They are left to their own devices.
The communities still experience perennial blackouts and interruption of pipe borne potable water. Crops are frequently flooded. Wi-Fi hardly works and as such no sustained internet service for long distance education. Joblessness is extremely high, exceeding 60%. Even before Covid, there was limited educational and job opportunities. BBP and Berbice get the least visits by ministers and government officials. They vote loyally – 98% for one party, but support for their travails is lacking. Their MP hardly ever visits them. In fact, most don’t ever know who their geographic MP is or what he or she looks like. Goods and services are very costly, perhaps the most expensive and highest cost of living area outside of the far corners of Guyana. Some goods are cost-prohibitive and people do without them. Children and adults walk bare feet, something unexpected in this age. Residents have to travel many hours to buy groceries or get to the fish market on the public road.
There is not much to do in Black Bush, in fact the whole of the Berbice, except farming that fetches low income. As Lisa penned, opportunities are very limited. There are kids wandering around or on the farm or at home during school days. Not much is done to tackle the problems of BBP, an area that is depressed and marginalised.
Relating to poor political representation, 75% of the MPs live in urban areas. 70% of the population lives in rural areas but only 25% of the MPs are from the rural communities. So inevitably, MPs hardly have time to attend to the needs or problems of rural constituents. Even rural MPs don’t care for the rural people.
Unlike BBP and rural villages, urban dwellers have access to everything, and they get priority to all services – Covid tests, vaccines, Wi-Fi, internet, long distance education, etc. The poor and the rural dwellers who voted 100% for their party get virtually nothing. They are treated with contempt and disdain by all governments.
In spite of all the adversities, the residents survive, except when they are not committing suicide – BBP has the highest suicide rate in the country and the world. They are a people of resilience and life will go on.
Indian Guyanese diaspora groups in America have sent handouts and helped with various community projects like modernising schools, providing supplies, upgrading mandirs and masjids, and giving handouts to the poor. Pandit Baya of NY and a group of mandir folks from Richmond Hill have done a lot of work over the last decade to help uplift BBP; but more needs to be done.
Government needs to plan and execute programs to alleviate social problems in BBP and rural areas. Government should consider establishing a training centre to provide technical skills to work on the oil fields or to manufacture products (garment, masks, PPE). Government should provide soft loans and grants to start businesses. A food canning or bottling industry is sorely needed. Government can also train and guide people to improve farming techniques and in operating businesses. Ministries of Trade, Agriculture, Industry, and Business must help to find markets for their products. As they told me, they await to see how President, Irfaan Ali, will be different from his predecessors.
May 06, 2021Team Alanis/Jason Choo-Wee-Nam/GCF 60-Mile Road Race By Franklin Wilson Kaieteur News – In another epic battle to the finish line between We Stand United Cycle Club’s Briton John and KFC Team...
May 06, 2021
May 06, 2021
May 06, 2021
May 06, 2021
May 06, 2021
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – US President, Joseph Biden’s address to a Joint Session of the US Congress... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]