The pleasant, honest woman who works as housekeeper at my home applied to the Ministry of Housing more than 10 years ago for a house lot. Two Wednesdays ago, she took the day off from work, having received a notice to attend the ministry to process that application. Determined to shortcut the inevitable administrative delays, she arrived at the ministry at 5.30am. There was already a crowd of anxious applicants standing in line to “see the Minister.” At 6am, an official from the ministry informed the crowd that the Minister would see only the first 100 applicants. My housekeeper was not among the chosen. Disappointed, she telephoned me at 6.30am to say that she would be coming to work.
The following Wednesday, she tried again, this time travelling in the small hours of the morning to get to the ministry at 2.30am. This time, she found attached to the building of the ministry a handwritten note that the Minister was not available to see applicants that day. This time, it was more difficult for her to contain her sense of frustration.
Every reasonable Guyanese will acknowledge that this government’s Housing Development Scheme has been its most resounding success. Thousands of ex-tenants and ex-squatters are now proud home owners as a result of the scheme’s success over the years. However, the present Minister of Housing is neither the architect of the scheme nor the author of its success. That credit goes to his predecessors in office; he is recently arrived on the scene. Instead, the experience which the public including my housekeeper has of the ministry under his watch includes the humiliation of long lines, bureaucratic inefficiency and administrative callousness, and the loss of self respect and dignity. He therefore should not be surprised by the rancour which is generated among the working class public from the sight of his smug, well-fed countenance playing politics on television, complacently preaching the government gospel and telling people how much good his ministry is doing.
I wonder if President Bharrat Jagdeo had to line up at 5.30 in the morning when he applied for his house lot at Sparendaam. Some are indeed more equal than others.
My housekeeper, who is Indo-Guyanese, has said she will not vote PPP this election, since “these people aint got feelings.”
Perhaps, the Minister’s contribution as the newcomer at the Housing Ministry could be to streamline the administrative process so that the applicants who are summoned before him are not herded like cattle and made to feel like beggars for alms. If he implements a system which affords them respect, the public will thank him for it.
(Name and address provided)