The Government of Guyana, through its star, writer, producer and director, Minister Winston Jordan, must be congratulated for the delivery to a dumbstruck audience of Guyanese what can only be dubbed a Monty Python budget. Those who were expecting the Holy Grail ended up with And Now for Something Completely Different. This 2018 budget is not only completely different, it is so surreal that it could be a real Flying Circus, a standing one. Already the once packed house of hopeful Guyanese has emptied in a rush for the exits.
As if to underscore this point, the army of local critics is dumbstruck, too; a meagre wordlessness has been the conspicuous result, a frail patter here and there. They try without success to find meaty obstacles in which to sink their teeth; they all come up empty-mouthed and sucking for air, none the better for their exertions. There is only the jarring clash of naked molars and nothing in between. The Minister rendered them powerless when in real Shakespearean fashion, he presented the equivalent of fair is foul and foul is fair. I recall that Macbeth did lose his perch, as well as his head, too.
Speaking for myself, I look at this budget and the usual much scrutinized suspects, such as jobs, investment climate, and tourism, among others, are all missing in action. In the regular Guyanese tradition, these burning issues all took an early and extended Christmas holiday starting since that now fateful last Monday in November. It promises to be a yearlong holiday all of next year, and perhaps beyond. This budget is so lacking in energy and spark that it makes the GPL look like a shiny Christmas tree. If Guyanese were expecting a broad welcoming tree under which to shelter, they did get a tree, save that it has neither leaves nor branch to stave off financial pneumonia. It is nothing to sneeze about.
In all of this, and much of what has been left untouched, there is the delirium of Monty Python and the satire of ‘Yes, Minister’ wrapped in one. And like that irrepressible British matron of TV hilarity, Hyacinth Bucket, I see our own Mr Jordan doing his best imitation of ‘Keeping up Appearances.’ The problem is that, except for the mining sector, few Guyanese are laughing. Instead, Guyanese are bored to tears; boring is acceptable, even relevant at times, but the Minister should at least have given citizens something on which to brace, if only to keep them occupied. I mean this budget is forgettable in its lack of vigour and vitality and vision. This was the budget that should not be.
Still, the government must be given credit for being no Scrooge. After all, it did earmark the princely sum of $500 more monthly for those who could use such a bonanza. The question is this: use the addition for what? I suppose it could cover half of a Chinese takeaway, or a phone card, or a pound of tomatoes at current prices. The problem is that there would not be enough change left to return home on motorized public transportation. I guess that would have to take place the hard way: on foot.
I do think, however, that I detect a method to this madness. If the 2018 budget was intended to shift the attention and concerns of struggling Guyanese to North Korea, West Indies cricket, or the Trump tax plan, then I must acknowledge that it succeeded handsomely. The reality is that Guyanese from all walks of life have to live here with this budget. Clearly, it is back to clutching at straws and hoping for the best. I wonder what Santa has in his bag of tricks…
Yes, that is how rough things have become.