I was in Barbados in the late ʼ80s when they were experiencing a massive financial problem. The IMF was knocking at their door and the Erskine Sandiford government had to retrench loads of public servants to stave off a dollar devaluation. In the mid ʼ90s I was at university in Trinidad when the Patrick Manning administration was facing their financial meltdown. I was living in Michigan during the 2007-09 financial meltdown associated with the USA housing market. Many persons were being sent home and businesses were closing. People were losing their homes and the American stock market was in a free fall.
Editor, in none of those cases did I observe what I am observing now, that Guyana is facing its own financial crisis. Everywhere I turn, the remarks are consistent, as though rehearsed: “Let the drugs flow.”
It is believed that prior to May 2015, Guyana had a parallel economy. Many attribute the large buildings, the influx of automobiles and the huge developmental expansions, to the drug underworld. It is believed that this new administration is hampering the drug trade.
Ask most Guyanese and they all have a story as to the affordability of many of those massive structures – finished and stalled – that dot the skyline of Georgetown. It is a public secret that most Guyanese think that the funding of those edifices was only possible through ill-gotten gains. But now that things are financially tightening up in Guyana, there are those who are clamouring for things to go back to the days “when the drugs were flowing.”
And what is very telling about the clarion calls for a return to the “old days”, is that the calls are also coming from religious people. There are practising church, mosque and temple goers who are saying that Guyana needs a financial shot in the arm, and that if drugs is what it takes, then “let it flow!”
When I hear those remarks I cringe, for it is obvious that those calling for the “drugs to flow” do not understand the magnitude of the horrors that drugs cause. Drugs turn women into prostitutes and men into junkies. Drugs eat away at one’s brain cells and retard people for life. Drugs create a violent culture where many of the victims are viciously murdered. Drugs negatively affect the academic performances of huge portions of some communities.
However, when these facts are highlighted, the common remark is that the drugs are only flowing through Guyana. The notion is that they are shipped out to other developed countries and the responsibility is on them. The destruction that those countries face as a result of the drug trade seems not to bother those wishing for the return of “old days”. And when it is highlighted that Guyana has not been spared, as is obvious from our ever-growing ‘junkie’ population, the flippant response is that, “they are only collateral damage”.
I work with the homeless and the addicts, many of whom are parents. Those who trivialize the effects of drugs would talk differently if they were ever to be subjected to their ravenous effects. When once you get hooked, it is almost impossible to redeem your life! The resultant effects are the devastation and destruction of the affected family.
Indeed it would be unfair to lay the dire economic situation squarely on the doorstep of this administration. A cursory observation of Guyana’s current plight would show that sugar is dead; rice took a hit from the failed PetroCaribe Venezuelan deal, gold prices are taking a beating and the protracted dry spell was a nightmare for both our natural resources and farming. In other words, the economic realities facing Guyana were predestined to happen, no matter who had won the 2015 elections.
However, these facts do not resonate with the masses. Perception is reality and the perception is that Guyana had a parallel economy of drug money before 2015 and things were rolling along. Now they feel that the country has all but ground to a halt.
Having said that, I would like to be a fly on the wall of the Granger administration’s cabinet meetings. I would really like to know what they discuss in their war-room. What plans do they have for kick-starting the Guyana economy? It seems as if no one other than the insiders seem to know what plans are in train for the development of this country.
The Granger administration has four solid years to pull something out of their hat that will significantly stimulate this economy. And they had better reveal it soon because the word on the street is, come 2020, even some of those who like the coalition will hold their noses and vote their pocket books. Even some religious people.
Pastor Wendell P Jeffrey
Practical Christianity Ministries