The government has embarked on a grueling road. It has taken on the thankless task of changing the course of the ship of state; immediately it has encountered stormy seas, underwater mines, and mutiny by the many well-heeled citizens/passengers, and a well-placed incumbent crew. It must stay the course however rough things get. A brief look at problem points follows.
Most have no use for taxes. The same can be said for rules and regulations, and their consistent application. It is the way citizens have conditioned themselves; it was the way things happened; and it is now near irreversible culture. There are huge swells of wrath and resistance to any changes-intended, announced, or implemented-to this pervasive modus vivendi. In a cash-intensive economy, massive wealth was flaunted and minimum dues (if any) paid. Whether evasion or laundering, it cannot be afforded; it cannot continue at pre-2015 levels. Thus, the government has to be unflinching and persevering; it must be evenhanded, too.
Behind the professional and commercial sanctimonies, there was the constant aiding and abetting through mutual back-scratching, which led to pocket filling for the white gloved, the white collar, and the self-appointed white knights rushing to rescue this country (and government) from itself. The stakes are high, the withdrawn stockpiles of a certain kind of cash are higher, and the boiling rage and resentments highest from those slowly being straitjacketed towards legitimate practices. The rage and resentments are indications of the edges of changes taking hold; government persistence is mandatory if only to register some degree of painstaking progress amidst sometimes necessary retreating and detouring. A hitherto cozy financial world has been rocked; now it must be turned on its head.
There ought to be no mistake, those who cry the loudest and longest about business decline and distressed profitability still have (unsurprisingly) lots of spare cash to throw around effortlessly as rich enticing gifts. Think six-figures; think multiple recipients. Though turnover is low and business is slow, there is plenty cash flow to fix, to own, and to manoeuvre to the detriment of the state and its progress. The government has no choice: it cannot back away. It is has to be committed to taking down and taking out and, therefore, send its own messages that it will not be trifled with and that this is for the long haul, as it focuses on other troubled places. There is little room for mistakes in 2018.
Among those other places, the Guyana Police Force has to shake up and step up; it is due for reengineering. This must be real reengineering and not the deodorizing of superficial reform. There is too much rottenness in large sections of its anatomy, particularly extremities. The GPF holds much in its hands; when it is unclean and unbalanced, then so goes much of the rest of society. The government has to preside over tighter sharper oversight at those levels (senior and junior) where the interests of citizens and justice are derailed. At the same time, the government should already have concluded that white collar investigations and crimes could benefit from some much needed skills and expertise. On this one, I say that foreign is mandatory; the expense would be justified. There are too many interested interfering parties in the domestic fold; there are too many lush relationships unofficial and believed unsuspected; there are too many cash caches ready to change hands; and there are too many on the receiving side inclined to take a dive. The government must manifest seriousness and wisdom in its stewardship, or it would be made to look foolish, if not impotent. There must be the awareness that it is going up against powerful entrenched forces; movement is bound to be slow, painfully slow.
Nevertheless, in 2018, this government has to exhibit movement up the learning curve, as well as growth gains in the more robust aspects of governance: openness, on-the-table, and old-fashioned straightforwardness all have to be guiding principles and defining characteristics. There cannot be anymore red herrings, blackout periods, or dark secrets. One slip and the sluices of credibility collapse. From my perspective, some positives have occurred, notwithstanding shootings in the foot; a lot more can be realized through clear communications and clean hands.
In all of its endeavors, once derived from principle, there should be remembrance of that very relevant cautionary note from Machiavelli’s The Prince: “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a creation of a new order of things. For better or worse, a new order of things is what is underway here in Guyana.