There is no limit to what the mind can conceive. Fantasies are experienced daily by many if not most people. It is easy to daydream about the things we wish for. And it is a coping mechanism to deal with harsh realities.
Dreams about acquiring wealth have motivated many to work assiduously. And, now, with our imminent oil industry, there is a flow of optimism.
The suggestion by Professor Clive Thomas that every Guyanese household should receive cash payouts has started a conversation. While many have welcomed the suggestion, others are skeptical. It has once again reminded us that most of our citizens are poor though Guyana has always been rich. The conditions to acquire wealth have always existed here. It suggests that the children of this land were never meant to just exist but live meaningfully.
But what has hindered more people from acquiring wealth here? Many would say it has been poor governance since we acquired independence in 1966. Others would say that it is the people who have not realised their power. Some people are lazy and have grown accustomed to relying on handouts. Others are unskilled or uneducated. Whatever the facts are, most of our citizens are poor and not because they choose not to work, but simply because they do not earn enough.
We are in a time when dreams of breaking the cycle of poverty are greater than ever before.
In the midst of million-dollar dreams, however, our reality is that oil wealth is not a reality just yet. In the midst of million dollar dreams, we must think beyond our selfish desires and not dismiss the fact that there are great risks involved in the oil industry. We hope that there will never be an oil spill, which can have devastating consequences on marine life while polluting the environment. We hope that most of the wealth will not leave these shores. We hope that the greed some of our leaders have often demonstrated will not hinder the benefits to the people.
Dreams mean nothing if we do not snap out of our slumber and make them a reality. Dreams mean nothing if the basics conditions to start constructing the conceptions of our minds do not exist.
While some people inherit wealth, others work to create their wealth. For some of us, life is a gamble. We put in our bet and hope for a win.
We exist in a world where material possessions can indicate one’s wealth. It is the reason many poor people spend on name brands or go beyond their means to follow the latest trends. It is the reason many would spend their money on trivial things rather that use it to fulfill their basics needs. It is their way of announcing to the world that they too are worthy; it is a façade, though often the people who notice are the ones who are in similar situations to them. They compete among themselves to showcase temporary gains, meanwhile the cycle keeps them imprisoned. They live in the moment while tomorrow’s survival is a mystery. But maybe there is some value in existing that way since none of us are promised tomorrow. There is no amount of money in this world that can buy us immortality.
Some of the wealthiest people in the world do not live a life of excess. Warren Buffet, for example, who has a net worth of $84.7 billion, has lived in the same house since 1958. It is a five-bedroom house, which he bought for $31,500. Meanwhile there are many people who are worth far less, who own a number of homes though they cannot live in all at once; a number of cars all of which they cannot drive at once; clothes and shoes, some they may wear only once or never at all. Such examples expose the imbalances of the world. While one man may not own a cup, another man throws cups away every day.
We all have heard the saying ‘Money does not buy happiness.’ We have seen examples of very wealthy people who would have ended their lives, because they were not happy. Evidence that peace of mind, knowing that one belongs, feeling loved and appreciated are perhaps the most important aspects of man’s survival. As individuals, we each have to decide how we will make the best of this life experience, whether we are wealthy or not. The first step to freedom is knowing who we are and that is something money cannot buy.
But, of course, we also exist in an age where life demands that even to meet our basic needs, money is necessary. Without money, most of us cannot survive. Tell a person who has nothing that money cannot buy happiness and they will probably laugh in your face.
The discovery of oil has brought colour to the dreams of many Guyanese. It has put a spotlight on our country and many foreigners, besides the ones already here, are making plans for their share. While we anticipate the great changes that will occur, it is also worrisome to imagine that our culture can become one where greed is the motivating factor in our way of life.
But there are those Guyanese who are so poor that all they want is enough to meet the basics needs. The dreams of those people are not built in hopes of fancy homes, cars and travel. It is they who came to mind about when I read the suggestion made by Professor Thomas about cash payouts.
To alleviate and eventually eradicate poverty in this country, however, there has to be a long-term plan. The Sovereign Wealth Fund indicates the right thinking. And the voices have been heard in support of improving our education, healthcare and infrastructure.
Maybe cash transfers to citizens in the beginning could be a part of that plan, but it has the potential to bring about both negative and positive results. Many people who suddenly acquire large sums of cash do not know how to invest it. As aforementioned, conditioned to believe that material possessions are the vehicle through which they can prove their worth, these people may spend blindly on things they do not need. It is the reason many lotto winners go broke.
But it also has the potential to motivate people to work harder to maintain a lifestyle that money affords. It has the possibility to bring cheer to the hopeless and may save the lives of those who would have reached end of their road.
Mechanisms must be put in place to make sure that every Guyanese can earn a living wage. There must be no excuse for man or woman to say that they cannot survive here.
For many, those their million-dollar dreams may be eventually realised.