Lethem is on the decline

Dear Editor,

Lethem is on its way in becoming one huge run-down town. The Chinese are slowly pulling out of Lethem and Guyana as a whole. You should know by now that the Chinese were able to import container upon container of goods free of duties. This encouraged them to remain in Lethem.  Many of them built huge stores in Lethem and focused on the Brazilian market. Today they no longer can, and they are required to pay duties like every other Guyanese.  The area is one of the worst places for investing in Guyana. Besides being a transit point for visitors from Brazil, Lethem has virtually nothing ‒ no gold, no rice, no fish. There are no facilities for young people, and hardly any jobs.  A lot of illegal immigrants or ‘garimperos’  from Brazil used to travel between Guyana and Brazil, and  they used to overnight in the hotels at Lethem, hence contributing a lot to Lethem, but that has gone down by approximately 70 per cent, thanks to the new government exercising stronger control of our borders. It is also a known fact that the Brazilians who come to Guyana do not support Guyanese businesses. Like the Chinese, they trade amongst themselves. They sell our gold to their own people.  It is also not easy for Brazilians to come to Guyana and rent claims from the locals these days.

The residents of Lethem have very little or no protection. Lethem is landlocked, and unlike villages on the coastland, the disposal of waste is a major problem.  Can Rodeo and St Ignatius Heritage Month, the only two Guyanese events that are popular in Lethem, sustain Lethem? Who goes to these events? Certainly not people with maple leaves and greenbacks. A lot of businessmen with wife and family on the coastal regions of Guyana frequent Lethem and sexually exploit young Amerindian girls. Several businessmen from the coast who have businesses in Lethem have a girl in Lethem, far away from their wives. Do not be tricked into believing that Lethem is similar to Bartica. Bartica offers easy river access to many areas that are rich in minerals; Lethem is a dusty town with no natural resources.

When the price of gold was high, a couple of auto dealers quickly set up outlets in Lethem. Today the few vehicles they have there on display are covered with dust. ‘Garimperos’ are not coming to Georgetown and making cash purchases of CAT excavators, so these excavators would be sitting as white elephants for a very long time to come. There is nothing the coalition could do to bring happiness to the business community of Lethem, so let us do not flog a dead horse; let us not play politics. A few businessmen are calling on the government to spend billions on an all-weather road to Lethem, but the benefits are not likely to be too much at this point in time, and limited resources should continue to be poured into farmland that is likely to yield greater output in areas with a higher population concentration.

When one wants to invest in an area, the first thing that needs to be done is a feasibility study ‒ the population, the income per capita, the infrastructure. Once these things are in order, then one can go ahead and invest, but to invest and wait on these things to improve, well you are in for a long wait. The Lethem Industrial Site ‒ what are they going to manufacture there? Nature is reclaiming the streets of the Coldingen Industrial Site and parts of Eccles, so think about Lethem.

 

Yours faithfully,

Fazal Gafoor

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