The President’s New Year message reflects a loss of reality

Dear Editor,

I read the New Year message of President Granger in the press. I understand that as a politician and leader of his party he would try to put his administration in some good light.  However, I did not expect to come to the conclusion that the APNU+AFC has lost touch with reality.

His remarks that his government was, “promoting the good life for all…” is only partially true. It is a fact that the elite created by this administration is enjoying a very good life indeed. They have given themselves a huge increase in salaries and the percentage increase in allowances is massive, often far more than the month’s salary of the average police officer, teacher and nurse.

We also see the style in which they move around in huge convoys of shiny Prados.

It is this good life that they are enjoying that has made them immune to the real situation in the country and the growing suffering of the Guyanese people. His claim that his regime is “pursuing economic prosperity…” sounds extremely hollow. Nowhere do we see any evidence of this.

In fact, in less than three years, production in most sectors has plummeted. The most startling is the sugar industry.  Production in 2017 was a paltry 138,000 tons of sugar. In the rice sector, the situation is deteriorating.  In many other areas production is falling constantly.

One of the reasons for this decline is the very many taxes imposed on persons and businesses in the productive sector. People planting kitchen gardens are being harassed for taxes, persons with donkey carts have to pay licence fees. All of this is eating into their meagre income.

Instead of job creation this regime has caused thousands of jobs to be lost. Instead of hiring managers to administer GuySuCo, the APNU+AFC regime hired liquidators to shut the sugar industry down. In addition, it has imposed another layer of elites with persons in their eighties and nineties on the industry. Each one of those pensioners is raking in more than one million dollars per month. The Board has increased their fees by hundreds of percentage points.  All this imposed on an industry to kill it instead of reviving production.

Many small loggers have been forced out of the business due to the anti-Chinese hysteria promoted and encouraged by both APNU+AFC while in and out of office. In the meantime, Barama’s operations have been greatly downsized with hundreds of workers walking the roads with nothing to do.

The President seems ostrich-like having his head buried deep in the sand or the mudflat, when he said his government is “…reducing divisions and maximizing cohesion…”  Its recruitment policy is clearly biased against Indian Guyanese. Indo-Guyanese are discriminated against in almost every government-run institution. A good example of this discriminatory policy is what is now taking place in sugar.  In January of 2015, the government of India had committed to helping Guyana to build a new ferry to ply the Georgetown-Mabaruma route;  to establish a modern IT Park, the most advanced in the region; a road to connect the East Coast with the East Bank highway; and soft loans to recapitalize the sugar industry. This regime has accepted all but the recapitalization of the sugar industry. Why?

The only credible answer is because the majority of workers and people that directly and indirectly depend on the sugar industry are Indian Guyanese. This decision will have serious consequences for the whole country and all our people. Contrast that with the fact that billions of dollars are spent to subsidise electricity in Linden, while they stubbornly refuse to invest in an industry that can be revived and made profitable and employ thousands of persons.

So far, the APNU+AFC regime has not given the Amerindian villages a single square inch of land, not even a blade of grass. The talk of social cohesion is obviously an empty slogan.

The President boasted about raising minimum wage, old age pensions and social security.  However, what the regime did could be likened to giving blood with one hand and extracting more it from the other hand simultaneously. What he did not mention was the fact that by applying Value Added Tax (VAT) on more than one hundred essential items the PPP/C government zero-rated, he has, in real terms, reduced the standard of living for low-income people.

Moreover, the APNU+AFC regime has also removed the subsidies on electricity and water and placed VAT on them as well. They have stopped the $10,000 Because We Care programme that ensured our children attended school. Clearly, therefore, this regime has actually taken away the ‘good life’ that this group of citizens had enjoyed under the PPP/Civic administration. The gap between rich and poor has now become a gulf.

The President also spoke about security and protecting our citizens. Well, the grave economic situation that his regime has created has led to a big upsurge in crime. The crimes are economic crimes. The whole population is targeted. No one is safe, maybe with the exception of the elite that have huge security with them.

Coupled with that is the move to de-professionalize the police. The removals and transfers are clearly being done in a discriminatory way. This regime is not interested in professionalism. They want blind loyalty to the APNU. (The AFC has little or no support). That has now become the main qualification.  Crime is actually spiralling out of control in the meantime.

The President spoke about upholding the dignity of our institutions. Yet it is his regime that is undermining our institutions, including our Constitution. He himself has shown scant regard for the Chief Justice describing her decision as her opinion.  It is the President who rejected a list of eighteen persons of high standing in our society garnered after the widest consultations with civil society, for the post of Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission. By so doing he has devalued that institution and has created the doubts about our national elections.

It is his Speaker of the National Assembly who is daily bringing that institution into disrepute with rulings that are unfair and totally biased against the opposition. He is destroying debates and discussions in that august body. He makes no pretence of being impartial.

It is this regime that daily violates the Constitution in relation to procurements, appointments and dismissals from our public service. The President has it in his power to change these things but has not seen it fit to do so.

Finally, the regime has displayed a high degree of philistinism as they desecrate our national monuments, painting them green, the colour of this party. Is this the President’s understanding of a green economy? These are symbols of the mindset ‘Paramountcy of the Party’. The President should know that those acts are leading to more and more alienation and not cohesion.

Clearly, the New Year message holds out no hope.  It actually reflects a loss of reality by the regime.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

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