We are at the end of 2017. It was a very difficult year for most people in Guyana. The complaints that things are tough are coming from all classes and strata in the society. It is a year that the vast majority will remember for the difficulties and hardships which resulted from a corrupt, inept and incompetent regime.
The most outstanding is the heartless and obvious prejudicial decision to begin the process of closing down the sugar industry. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs. This is already having a big impact in the sugar communities. That is expected to spread throughout the country in the new year.
That decision was totally unnecessary and ill-advised. Investing in the restructuring of sugar, bringing more revenue streams into play, would pay very handsome dividends to the country as a whole. Sugar can still make a major contribution to the economy and the welfare of our people.
The loss of income by such a large body of persons is bound to have far-reaching effects on several sectors of the economy. Purchasing power has already fallen sharply and our earning of foreign currency will be greatly affected, all of which will impact on the whole society. It can have a negative impact on the exchange rate.
However, it is not only the sugar workers who have been damaged by this seemingly uncaring regime. Earlier, we saw that many workers in the timber industry had been thrown on the breadline. Barama has downgraded its operations sharply. Moreover, the attack on Chinese businesses has left many small timber operators in the upper Berbice and Demerara rivers in serious trouble. Even more were cast onto the breadline.
Other workers are being driven from their jobs because of the slowdown in business activities.
Many small businesses have had to shut shop. The larger establishments have also experienced a drag in their transactions. Many have had to lay off workers because of the lack of sales. Others have found more creative ways to keep their workers. They have resorted to cutting the amount of days available for work and are rotating their work force. While this is commendable, it is still leading to loss of income thus a fall in purchasing power and less business.
The impact has forced business people to import less. This means that the collection of custom duties will not meet its optimum.
In their desperate grab for cash this regime is also contributing to the general slowdown by poor decisions. It appears that the APNU+AFC regime see all business people as dishonest. That is why they are forcing a one hundred per cent examination of containers. This is causing great delays in processing and a loss of income to the government, the business community and workers. It is also encouraging bribery once again and the greasing of hands to keep the system moving. Added to that is the impact of the more than two hundred tax measures that have been introduced. These are acting as a brake to businesses and reducing the disposable income of employees.
Even pensioners have seen their purchasing power falling as the concessions which they enjoyed from the PPP/C administration, including assistance with electricity and water bills, have been removed. Added to that all these things attract taxes, mainly value added taxes. Moreover, this regime has put value added tax on all the basic items that the PPP/C administration had exempted when it introduced VAT. Their real pension has, therefore, been effectively reduced.
In the meantime, the APNU+AFC regime seems unable to come up with any plans or projects that would create new employment.
The only ideas that have emerged is the President telling the people to make cook-up rice, pepper-sauce, plantain chips, etc. With the best intentions, as if this would solve anything!
While the regime’s policies have led to a great slowdown, the regime continues to build a huge bureaucracy that is consuming a much larger part of our GDP. The cost of government has gone up sharply, by many times. The elite are enjoying huge salaries and quite a bit is spent on images. Repainting buildings in green, buying very expensive vehicles, big convoys, etc, are all prestige things that absorb resources instead of creating wealth.
In addition to the bulging bureaucracy is the massive corruption from top to the bottom. The drug bond is costing our hard-pressed taxpayers a massive twelve and a half million dollars per month; the sole sourcing of goods, mainly drugs, has sent up government expenses hugely, while shortages are once more making their appearance. This can be seen at hospitals and clinics throughout the country. The settling of cases is also costing billions of dollars.
The fact that the regime hid from the public the US$18M collected as a signing bonus speaks volumes. They did not put the money in the Consolidated Fund, nor did they place it in the accounts of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission where legitimately it could be placed. Instead, it was placed in a secret bank account.
The only reason that the disastrous policies of the regime have not had their full impact is because of the very healthy financial and economic situation that the PPP/C administration had left. Our country had the highest reserves in its history, built up by the PPP/C. The economy was resilient. That could be seen by the fact that in the face of the worst international economic and financial crises in living memory the PPP/C kept the economy growing by 4.5% to 5% per annum. Moreover, at a time when the APNU and AFC, enjoying a one seat majority in Parliament and did everything to sabotage the efforts of the PPP/C administration, the economy continued to grow. Our people had a much better life.
Those two parties did everything to sabotage progress while in opposition. In government, they have failed miserably. The outgoing year will be remembered for the rapid deterioration in our economy and social life.