The poor growing old in Guyana

Our new C-O-P: First choice?

-When going on strike these days…

Seeing the aged security guard sound asleep at her post the other night, then wondering about the reflexes of a very, very “matured” taxi driver provoked me to re-cycle the following thoughts, last repeated four years ago.

But first, know that some societies actually define “old-age”; others have varying criteria to decide retirement age – that cut-off chronological number which is chosen either because the worker is deemed as no longer mentally/physically fit or to afford able juniors their rightful chance to earn opportunities for deserved promotion.

Secondly, whether it’s the Army, the Police Service or private corporation, some brains and experience are retired so prematurely that if those skills are wasted at home the retirees soon “rust” and become ill and accumulated years of ability and experience are wasted.

But this repetition has to do with the sustained plight of those thousands of working-class workers now in dubious “retirement”. What are the accessible safety nets? What standards exist at Old Folks Retirement facilities? [Just this Tuesday I visited a dear 80-plus friend now resident at an East Coast Demerara “Nursing Home” of high standards; oh but the cost!]


Just who is “old”, “senior”?

I caution that defining just who is “elderly”, “senior citizen” or “old” is not as simple as that might appear.

That’s because there are significant historical, cultural and legal concepts of the old in various societies and cultures. Where life-expectancy is much longer – China, Tibet, Russia – and where there is less disease and war, an eighty-year-old is just beginning to be considered “old”. Some societies find ways to benefit from the skills and wisdom of maturity. Hence their planning and budgets cater appropriately for citizens’ golden years. So what’s the position in our good old Guyana?

As usual, we boast all the legalistic, even constitutional trappings; ambitious politicians can indicate myriad plans and lofty intentions. But “on-the-ground” actualities? Yes, at the national level, the abused National Insurance Scheme (NIS) tries to cope with its paid up pensioners. But flaws and frustrations abound even as both parties could be guilty.

Ask any working-class retiree or pensioner about the work and benefits from our National Commission for the Elderly. It’s a desirable Constitutional Body with the requisite noble and practical objectives. I’m sure it operates but what does it do!? Guyanese elderly know not.

An eminent retired jurist heads it (?) Again I urge him to advocate for such things as subsidies for water, transportation, health care, electricity, improved public retirement/geriatric homes and hospices, specific employment for experienced and fit over-60’s/70’s, consultants to advise on NIS and even private pension/medical schemes. Be an active, activist Commission for our elderly.

Give reality to those wonderful theoretical Constitutional provisions at Article 24, 149(B) and 213. Working-class seniors deserve dignity after lifetime contributions!


Hail our new Police Commissioner

 Even amongst our more cynical a new Police Commissioner motivates, however briefly, renewed hope. Hope for reformation and inspired leadership which might seep down to the ranks on the road.

His Excellency has tasked Commissioner Leslie with reform; H.E. expects his fit-and-proper pick to deliver. Frankly Speaking does His Excellency have a full list of the negatives any new commissioner has to confront? Will His Excellency provide the COP with the tools – transportation, technology, training ops, expert human resource support for his choice to succeed? We must hope so and scrutinise the new Commissioner’s approaches. He succeeds – we’re safer!

One naughty source tells me that Leslie was not first choice. Doesn’t matter now. Let’s support. I recall two things about the new Commissioner who was once shunted away in favour of one Blanhum: when Crime Chief, his home was burgled by bandits and to me – Commissioner James knows the English Language more than most in the force. Success to you Sir!


When unions call strikes

It’s a bit hazy but I seem to recall that very early in 1993, three months into his presidency, Dr Cheddi Jagan requested an expert panel – (including Dr Clive Thomas??) – to advise/show him where to get the finance from to improve Public Servants’ salaries. Could any of you recall that?

Anyhow, it occurs to me that when a union makes demands these days it should employ its own credible experts to show the employer where money could be available (from).

The political Opposition is now advising His Excellency that his administration could find money to satisfy the teachers’ demands. Did they do it when in government? Then again, a government would never want to be dictated to. It wants to manage and govern its own programmes and priorities.

Oh, and any serious union calling a strike must mobilise strike relief!

Let’s all ponder…

Should the mother who provided her remanded son with cannabis in tennis rolls be herself jailed? Or is she a loving mother?

I want the new Police Commissioner to interact with all new recruits. And pay surprise visits to small stations.

Komal Chand quoted the grand advertisements selling the estates and wondered why they are being sold in the first place. Simple – government wants out!

Would the Georgetown City Council and Minister Bulkan ever consider privatising the Le Repentir Cemetery?

’Til next week!


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