The rich are being embraced at the expense of the poor

Dear Editor,

I have been a member of the PPP for about thirty years and of the PYO before that. I have functioned in various capacities and written prolifically against the PNC dictatorship and in defence of the PPP and the PPP/Civic government. The General Secretary has himself written to me and complimented me on my fine writing and stated that they would find it very difficult to refute what I write about.

Commencing some time ago I have spoken out against certain anti-working class positions of this government both on TV and in the press, and also in the Thursday column that I had in the Kaieteur News. I have spoken out against the swing of this government away from the underprivileged and the workers and its embrace of the rich at the expense of the poor. You find some of them hugging up those who were in the committee to re-elect Hoyte, while they ignore and marginalize stalwarts of the PPP.

Many of our ‘leaders’ have become part of and live like the ostentatious rich without any regrets as they turn their backs on the people that the party has pledged to represent. Essentially it has become a party of the rich as the President’s clique gains increasing hold over the party and over so many aspect of the governing structure.

We the members are partially to blame as unfortunately we vote at congress on a popularity contest rather than on a clear understanding of the performance, the interests of the candidate and their lack of connection to the grass roots of the party. We tend to fawn upon people who are presented to us as leaders, and also we sometimes believe them as they trample on the good name of others within the party who may be in a position to challenge their ambitions and who may be critical of them.

It is time that we all begin to look closely at what has been transpiring before our very eyes. Especially since the death of Cde Cheddi Jagan we have seen the drift away from his legacy; no more lean government, growing and endemic corruption, concessions of one kind or another to those businessmen who are friends, gifts of tax exemptions to the selected – in one instance it was not legal but it was granted and was retroactively passed into law subsequently. Look at the vulgar level of pension that has been voted for ex-presidents. It’s unreasonable, especially considering the austerity imposed on the workers.

The hurt I feel as I am forced to endorse the call by Andaiye in the SN dated Thursday, December 2, is worse than the victimization, the licks and the lock-ups I endured under the PNC. Andaiye called upon Donald Ramotar, the General Secretary of the PPP, to go around the country in disguise so as to recognize the deepening inequalities in Guyana.
As a person who has always been an advocate for the working people of this country and who has written against the fiscal austerity measures that have restricted the wages of the workers, I have come to recognize this deepening inequality, this blatant betrayal across the spectrum of the working people of this country; this blatant betrayal of the members and supporters of the PPP, most of whom are workers.

I have written and argued within the party that the private sector must be supported; that the private sector must be encouraged to be patriotic as they deal with the socially generated capital that is under their ownership and control. But I have also said that the private sector has serious limitations, economic and otherwise. What happens if the private sector for a number of reasons does not want to invest in certain areas? Does the state intervene to invest and create jobs, or does it leave the abandoned people to their fate?

I have written in support of Jagan’s position that we should have a trisectoral economy that also includes the state and cooperative sector. Cooperatives are a useful tool to help alleviate poverty and create economic benefits. This sector has not been given any sort of priority. In fact it was placed apparently on the back burner.

The ruling governmental elites do not want to hear about the state’s involvement in investments. I remember against serious opposition within the PPP and from myself and others on the board of the Guyana Cooperative Insurance Scheme that Mr Jagdeo pushed for its privatization. It was a profitable concern and made profits and paid millions in corporate taxes but it was privatized, and the new owners of the majority shares were given a magnanimous management contract that meant very little profits nearly no taxes and very little dividend to the NIS that held 44 per cent of the shares.
Today suddenly the President wants, against better sense and a lot of opposition, to invest in the Marriott Hotel.

Would it not be better to invest in agri-processing and generally in agriculture, and in upgrading the drainage system in so many areas that need it so as to put the farmers back on the land? The Minister is proud of the increase in non-traditional exports, speaks of grow more food. But where is the money to put the D&I in place? Look at the land schemes put in place by Jagan and ask what has this government has put in place to really facilitate the expansion and development of the agri-sector. The result is higher prices for agri-produce. Compound this with stagnating or lower purchasing power of the workers and you have persistent and growing poverty.

What is the state of the small rice farmers? Facing deep crisis; abandoned by the state; deeply indebted to the banks and living at subsistence level.

I also recognize that its roots are directly connected with the accession of Mr Jagdeo to the presidency of Guyana. He did not have the political experience and he was not in any way grounded with the grass roots and the general needs of the country and its people. He of course had his aspirations, his ambition to become President and so he played his cards well with the assistance of his mentor Mrs Jagan. His selection came as a shock and there was tremendous opposition to his candidacy at the regional members’ meetings that were called to discuss and decide on this matter.
There was no graciousness, and even Janet, the person who gave him the presidency on a platter was treated with contempt when she criticized the taking away of the ads from Stabroek News. President Jagdeo said that she was an ordinary citizen. Today we have seen the formation of a Jagdeo clique within the leadership of the PPP and the movement to outright capitalist policies without any real adjustments that would in a real way work in the interest of the vast majority of working people.

The PPP under the leadership of Cheddi Jagan recognized the need to defend and support local businessesmen. It recognised the need for foreign investments but it also acknowledged the need for the state to invest and for the development of a strong cooperative structure now more or less abandoned.

Yours faithfully,
Rajendra Bissessar

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