I understand that the economy of Guyana is not as healthy as it could be at this juncture. This in turn is having a negative impact on the minds of most Guyanese. The budget has created hardship through the expansion of VAT-able commodities, VAT on education, the increase in tolls and licensing fees, transportation (private and public) costs, not forgetting the parking meter fiasco which followed. Like me, many are bewildered. As a businessman, I see the pain in the private sector fraternity. The fear of losing lucrative investments is causing many former investors to hoard their money in the event of future hardship which is being peddled ever so often by experts and public officials. The flow of cash and the spending power of consumers is limited which adds to the financial crisis.
It is also known that people are frustrated with the Guyana Revenue Authority’s multiple audits and then their re-audits. Although it may not be necessary, it is frustrating and breaking the hearts of the people who are earning income for this country. It would appear that GRA has a mandate to target legal businesses and other entities (not always based on evidence) who comply with the tax system to achieve its financial targets. Meanwhile, the new migrant businesses are escaping cost by not paying VAT and other taxes. Hence there is a decrease in the collection of tax revenues by the GRA. However, it must be mentioned that GRA’s systems and procedures have begun flowing much more smoothly and efficiently since its new administration has been installed. In my opinion, this is to facilitate the proper legitimization of the private sector and to cause a significant hindrance to the money laundering system.
The closure of the sugar estates in my view is a significant decision that would have dire repercussions for decades to come. The communities that rely on these estates will suffer and stagnate more. I can most definitely understand the government’s vision in trying to save income by downsizing and closing the sugar estates. I believe that the aim is to phase out the sugar estates in a manner that coincides with the beginning of the flow of oil so as to cushion any blow to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The investment in sugar is an investment in thousands of lives. My advice to the government is to cease the closure of these estates, conduct multiple risk assessments on each estate and the neighbouring communities and make social and financial provisions for the challenges that will come. I envision that Guyanese living in the Upper Corentyne area will flock to Suriname and those in other areas will travel overseas. Let me ask, who are the thieves of the multi-millions of dollars in the sugar industry annually? The same people who will lose their jobs will go further into a life of external crime outside the borders of GuySuCo and elsewhere. Crime will in turn move to an unprecedented level although the petro dollars will replace the gap in national income.
I wish to politely inform the President, the Prime Minister, cabinet members and all members of parliament that they should listen to the hearts, will and mind of the people. This is not a critique of the government as I have no political affiliation and possess a free vote for whoever is best prepared to govern our land. So I wish to take this opportunity to call on President David Granger who has a good heart, a productive mind and great plans to listen to the cries of all sectors, despite representing the PNCR and the APNU parties. Further, I also believe that former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo truly loves his country and wishes for us to prosper, and so, if it means consultation, it should be pursued at all levels on all national issues. Both of them love their country despite having different visions. We must pursue communication with the aim of unity and at least community mindedness.
As a patriot who has invested all that he has in his country, I just wish for my country and its people to prosper; I desire that politicians cease using race as a means of obtaining votes in elections. I stand firm in belief that my partner, General Secretary of the Universal Peace Federation Guyana, Rev Ronald Mc Garrell and I, National Chairman of the UPF, Hajji Roshan Khan can do something to break the impasse and disrespect we see between the two major political parties. I urge fellow Guyanese to give peace a chance.
Even though we are in a period of pain and economic instability, we should remember that this is occurring worldwide (terrorist attacks, race and religious wars, refugee and immigration crisis, widening gap of inequality and developments in nuclear and chemical weaponry). We must not think that change will not come; it is inevitable. Let us work for a future that our coming generation will be proud of: ‘Let us cooperate for our country, let us cooperate for our land.’
Hajji Roshan Khan