An estimated 300,000 Israelis of all economic classes and political stripes demonstrated on Saturday complaining about social justice and most importantly, the cost of living. These people said enough is enough. They marched in the streets. The plan is for a million-man march next month.
Unlike Guyana, Israel is a wealthy country with sound economic growth in the past few years and low unemployment. Like Guyana, Israel has massive wage disparities. A few control the wealth. Like Guyana, food prices have increased although Israel’s prices have increased at a smaller rate (approximately 13% since 2005). Many spend 50% or more of their salaries on rent or mortgages. You get the point. Wage inequality and the cost of living is a growing problem in Israel.
The really striking difference between Israel and Guyana is their respective peoples. This country has deeper political divisions than Guyana. And it has severe racial and ethnic problems too. But Israelis separated by race, ethnicity and politics have shown they know what is important; the ability to live a decent life at a decent cost of living. They are willing to cross deep divides for common causes. Israelis earn approximately US$30,000 each every year yet they decide that a 13% increase in food prices in 5 years is just too much. In Guyana, many are eating less or not eating at all (missing meals) because of a runaway cost of living yet they would vote for the same old thing to continue to starve themselves. I do not know of a people, no matter how divided, which will ever vote to starve itself or to economically punish itself like the Guyanese.
If Israelis can put aside all of their battles for thousands of years and focus on their own and their families’ betterment even when they have so much, what is stopping dirt poor people in Guyana from doing the same?
I guess we as a nation would rather remain apart and economically destroyed rather than together and economically stronger. I guess people see nothing wrong in going to a voting booth and picking the same misery again only to go out and pay $350 or more for a pound of chicken and then complain bitterly about the rising prices or resorting to buying just half a pound because that is all their limited money could afford. I know some people will ask, “what political and voting choice do I have?” The response is that there is more to political and voting life than the PNC and the PPP. People have to show the courage to try something different. If the past 5 years of PPP rule has driven cost of living through the roof and there is no evidence of it ever falling, why would people who are complaining left, right and centre go out and vote for it to continue? Yes, Donald Ramotar is too inexperienced and visionless to change this cost of living disaster we experience in Guyana. Because Donald Ramotar said he wouldn’t change anything much from the past 5 years. It so happens that during those five years under the political and economic management of the PPP and in particular Bharrat Jagdeo and Ashni Singh, Guyana experienced its worst cost of living increases in the past 19 years. Donald Ramotar is inheriting this headache. He wants to continue it and not change it. It does not make any sense to a rational person to tighten a noose around one’s neck. But this is a country where issues of race, ethnicity and political partisanship blind people’s judgement. Could what happened on Saturday in Israel ever occur in Guyana?