“Capital towns”, exhibitions and (PNC) politics

Concerning Commissioner-General Statia

It really won’t matter— significantly – if any cynicism or sarcasm is detected as I attempt today to actually congratulate His Excellency on specific policy statements and actual programmes.

And I’m doing so as a concerned, hopeful, senior citizen … Not as a cabinet minister or loyal, diehard supporter or member of the People’s National Congress (PNC) — His Excellency’s own political behemoth, which I once promoted vigorously.

Just a few days ago, His Excellency was “on form” in Linden, a PNC-friendly community with which he was not always “in-sync”. But at its Town Week Grand Exhibition, the President was pointedly, aggressively inspirational.

Now he has been advocating—and has implemented – such initiatives as Regional Capital Towns, wherein every administrative region should boast at least one town with all the attendant administrative capabilities. Those towns should have from businesses to Central Government branch offices, to various institutions of State, and all such facilities to make travel to Georgetown for services, not compulsory.

Regions will all someday boast towns with full-fledged hospitals, police stations, even “independent” ministries, if the President’s policies are made to fructify. Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan is key to this ideal. Will he relinquish Central Government’s stranglehold? But are there capable officials in regions and “towns”? Where will the towns for Regions Three and Five be sited? What’s the Opposition’s role and influence in all this? Discuss…

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LFS Town, Exhibitions, Politics

Mackenzie, the one-time bauxite company town was renamed Linden to honour PNC founder-leader and President, Linden Forbes Sampson. The Berbicians and Demerarians there were ferociously PNC. Then China helped to make Linden’s bauxite prosperity diminish significantly. PPP anti-Linden neglect allegedly worsened then neutralized a vital region, in and of Guyana.

Now enter President Granger and his three-year-old administration. He, with much passion, outlined the strategies all capital towns should embrace. And he charged Linden with vitally specific tasks.

An abbreviated sampling: “Linden has the capability to advance and develop by leaps and bounds but it must first fulfil its mission as a ‘capital town’ by employing its human resources, exploiting its agricultural potential and by adding value to its raw materials to build a strong and resilient economy…”

Reminding that Region 10 encompasses all three main rivers, and borders six other regions, the President continued: “Linden is the powerhouse…driving this great region…this beautiful and bountiful region…you possess strategic advantages, natural resources— logs, bauxite, rich forests and mines… wildlife, fish, birds… an attractive environment…”

He alluded to the skilled human resources still available in Region 10 and charted a course for Linden to become “a beacon for commerce, industrial and manufacturing” enterprises.

This Linden exposition is one of the many that the Head of State has recommended for all the 10 regions to be “platforms of innovation” towards regional economic development—first envisaged by President H.D. Hoyte and T.A. Earle, the gentleman who demarcated those 10 regions.

These exhibitions invite His Excellency to register his meaningful presence throughout Guyana. Sometimes his motivational speeches hint at campaigning.  Well, that’s always the advantage of the incumbent. It’s “government” work, not electioneering for the upcoming Local Government polls. Even if the electorates in the “Capital Towns” are highly motivated and impressed. So there!

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Mr. Statia the Taxman Cometh

I think that it was just when I became a (very) young “pupil teacher” that they came up with the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) business. We youngsters were annoyed. The Government got to your paltry pay packet even before you saw it. We were no fans of Tax Chiefs.

But we learnt that among the most serious crimes in America were tax violations. You went to jail for that over there. The USA needs those taxes for development and all those lovely entitlements. In Guyana, there was a virtual “culture” and business of tax evasion.

My healthy fear of Tax Chiefs dissipated when I related to Mr Heyligar, Mr Basil Joseph and just a bit, to Mr Khurshid. After all, they were just nice professionals doing their vital job for the country. (Even as we witnessed young Customs Officers becoming quite financially comfortable overnight!)

Now, a very belated welcome to Godfrey Statia, the Tax Chief/ Commissioner General.

I first met him in the Burnham days, when leaving the country on government business. Mr Statia was one of the Tax Men who had to stamp your passport indicating “tax clearance” for you to take a few dollars out of the country. (In those days you were also expected to return all that you did not spend on the trip! Huh!)

Next thing I knew, Mr Statia married one of the country’s top Beauty Queens and disappeared to Florida (?) Now, the old hand of the old “Inland Revenue Department” is ‘back with a bang’.

There is hardly a day that the print media doesn’t carry a story about the Commissioner General, replete with his image. And boy, Statia’s tax plate is filled to capacity as he unearths mischief within and external to his office.

I’ll surely have to return to the increased roles of our Guyana Revenue Authority and the varied, sometimes dramatic, responsibilities of the seemingly indefatigable Godfrey Statia. But here are just a few examples of his workload: Tax evasion from fuel-smuggling; readying for taxing the new oil industry and fixing to eliminate opportunities for tax evasion in that sector; tax amnesty; improved tax collection strategies; motor licence scams; corruption in auctions; aviation sector and fuel importation “free-for-all”; court awards to GRA; heavy-duty vehicles scam; and exporters’ gripes about VAT.

What a partial list above. Where will Mr Statia find competent tax officials from? I suggest that public servants in training should be encouraged to specialize for Mr Statia’s sake. More to come.

Ponder please…

PM Moses’ DPI is reporting on the multi-millions about to be spent on hinterland communities. Who then would want to bring or “execute” hatred, contempt or disaffection for our Coalition?

Congrats to those ladies who make charcoal.

Delayed for years: The East Bank highway improvement; the CJIA expansion; the Brickdam Police Station lock-ups.

‘Til next week

(allanafenty@yahoo.com)

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