Sep 24, 2022 Letters
The news on Guyana is how well this country is doing. As things stand, this country is among the fastest growing economies globally, with similar Gross Domestic Product numbers continually being revised upwards. It is a case of good, then better, and finalizing at the best of the best. Our national economic figures are glittering. This says that Guyanese must be sitting on top of the world.
But are we, really? Are Guyanese living those glowing numbers in their daily lives? Somebody must be in cashing in, so who are they, and from which sections of society do they belong? To say differently, are all citizens benefiting? Or is the reality more of who is on the inside of all the lavish sharing, and who is dumped to the outside, locked out, and left to stew in this time of statistical plenty?
These are some of the questions, and the burning issues embedded in them, that I table today. It is not about economic theory, but of reality. It is not about paper statistics, or textbook contexts of purchasing power, demand and supply, inflation, unemployment, or such. It is about how Guyanese citizens outside of political inner circles, beyond the connected private sector, not among leadership priorities are forced to scrape the bottom to eke out a miserly existence. Briefly, this has to do with the index of the human condition. I remind everyone that Guyana is at the top of the global heap whenever its economic numbers are mentioned.
The cost of living now equates to the cost of starving for many Guyanese. This same cost of living mirrors the cost of suffering, contributes to a state akin to the cost of dying in Guyana. We are the fastest and strongest and healthiest on paper, but many of our people are grappling with living sluggishly, weakly, and painfully. Against this backdrop, the PPP Government boasts about how many billions go into national development (infrastructure). Leaving massive ongoing corruptions aside, it would have inspired to see the same emphasis on human development, progressing side by side with infrastructural development. As I read this, such a vision and emphasis would mean less millions available to steal. So, the poor, outcasts, and bottom-feeders drift, must find ways to cope, in this fastest in everything that relates to economic prosperity.
A living wage would help, and as defined sensibly. The poor, struggling minimum wagers would be able to deal with basics in a dignified manner. This is reasonable, given Guyana is the brightest globally. Yet, there is stubborn balking at paying public servants a decent wage. Livable again, and what amounts to a human rights problem, all elements considered. Since the PPP Government view public servants as being of the enemy PNC camp, human rights died, which features in leaders’ obstinate refusal to ease their fate. A living wage would make a difference.
Naturally, this sets the bar for the private sector. Plus, it is the floor, which foreigners coming to capitalize here would have to start from, pinching profits. Both local private sector and foreign operators still make out handsomely, but public servants and others are able to see their way. Yes, there are fears of inflationary pressures; but many Guyanese live with the daily gnawing reality of fear for the next meal, fear over the next rent bill, and fear about the next utility bill, medicine bill, and lessons bill.
In confirmation, a report noted that “39% of Guyanese intensely deprived of basic needs -UN 2022 Report” (KN September 10). I hope that no PPP Minister tries to twist that into the falsehood of a 2020 report, hence making it a PNC failure. Disagreement may occur over public servants pay transformed into a human rights issue, but the same couldn’t be made of a United Nations report. We are talking of basic needs and 2 out of 5 Guyanese are laboring. Always remember that this is in the fastest growing economy anywhere, with the biggest GDP at 56%. GDP around the mid-single-digit range is considered healthy. We have a GDP 10 times better, and 40% of our fellow citizens are on their knees.
I find myself thinking of who have been helped, and who have been hurt by the knife twisted repeatedly into wounded expectations. I must be sharp, risk of sharing the scorching. Farmers have been helped (largely Indians); Fisherfolk got a strong hand (mainly Indians); and sugar workers have been massively cushioned (primarily Indians). I am glad for these brothers in their dire hour. I would be just as glad to see the same compassionate hearts and helping hands extended to public servants. They are mainly African Guyanese brothers and sisters, and they also count as humans. They are in pain, they exist with distress, and they are being victimized, pulverized, and marginalized in their anguish.
I close with this commonsense thought. It could be that a significant segment of that 39% of Guyanese living without being able to meet basic needs are largely of African Guyanese extraction. We have a runaway economy with soaring numbers, but we have a rundown set of people being deliberately run into the ground.
Exxon has to put up a sign board across the Demerara Harbour Bridge to tell Guyanese what % of revenue we are getting from the Stabroek Block!
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