Guyana has achieved forty-eight years of Independence. We are quickly creeping up to half a century. Take any textbook on the history of any country in the world and you will see what is achieved in fifty years. At the rate Guyana is going, there is absolutely no reason to believe that when we reach fifty, there will be any improvement in the life of this country
Let us say within two years, there is a new government; the population’s disenchantment will be horrible because the retrogression is so enormous that the take-off period will need decades. Just one example will suffice. If on the 50th year of Independence, there is a new government, there is no way within fifteen years, if it stays in government, that a new administration can even attempt to put UG half way through what a normal university should be. The funds to resuscitate UG will be so demanding that competition from other sectors will cause UG to do without many types of resources. And that is within fifteen years.
On this anniversary of Independence what worries me the most, much more than our primitive conditions, is the acceptance and praise for a horribly poor and backward country by major sections of our society. I can understand the fear people have of criticizing their government. I can understand praise for a terrible government by its citizens if the country is enjoying great moments of wealth as Russia under Putin, Venezuela in the first five years of Chávez, etc, but in Guyana there is no wealth going around (except the extravagance and ostentation of a very tiny elite), and poverty and primitiveness are ubiquitous.
Why would any citizen continue to see Guyana as a positive place and devote eulogies to it? Even if there are pockets of wealthy people, they themselves must be revolted to see what Georgetown is. Make no mistake: the appearance of Georgetown is something you only see in a science fiction movie.
Is there a citizen living in this country on the 48th year of Independence to make a case for national achievement and national development since 1966 when you look at Georgetown? The capital city is an indicator that after 48 years of sovereignty, this country has failed. No capital city anywhere in the world looks like this. I saw a photograph of an alleyway clogged up in Bosnia during the floods last week and what those people were clearing was equivalent to a baby stroller compared to Guyana. If you show those Bosnians what we have in our alleyways they wouldn’t believe this is a country on the map.
It takes a nakedly, depraved and repellant mind to look at the national cemetery of Guyana after 48 years of Independence and say that this country has achieved progress since 1966. Again I say if you are an extraordinarily wealthy Guyanese living here, at some point it must lacerate your psyche to see how terribly primitive we are as a nation after 48 years of Independence. You may earn great wealth from your investments but could you be happy with the country you see around you? I would like any of the super-rich Guyanese to tell me if they respect Guyana for what it is after 48 years of the ending of colonial rule.
We hardly manufacture anything for export. Before 1966, we exported rice, sugar, gold, fish, bauxite and a few agricultural products like peppers and fruits. We do exactly the same thing almost fifty years after Independence. Many of the laws British Guiana had at the beginning of the 20th century are still the laws of Guyana even though the world has scrapped similar legislation and has moved on.
Forty-eight years after Independence, we cannot get traffic signals to work. I return to the wealthy folks of Guyana. Rich people drive vehicles in this country. What happens when a rich man or woman is slowing up at a junction where the signals don’t work, and a foolish driver hits them. Surely, traffic signals would have helped. Do you know the large numbers of accidents that occur at junctions where the signals do not work? My point here is that even if Guyana’s poverty doesn’t bother you because you are wealthy, you can still lose your life because of the staggering and incredible backwardness of this land. Forty-eight years after Independence, almost ninety per cent of the streets of this entire country have no stop signs, or if they do they are faded at the junctions where two streets meet. Guyana must be the only country in the world where the major one-ways have no signs. Church Street, Charlotte Street, Wellington Street, North Road – just to name a few – have no signs to inform strangers to Georgetown that these roadways are one-way. I saw a Mercedes Benz packed with Chinese people driving at a fast rate going the wrong way into Wellington Street.
They turned north into Wellington while travelling east on Robb Street. They just didn’t know it was a one-way and there was no sign to inform them.