One of the most urgent problems facing Guyana is the exponential rise in crime in recent times.
The root of the problem lies with the APNU+AFC regime. Their government policies and practices are principally responsible for the growing crime rate.
In the first instance the regime’s management of the economy has been very, very poor. As a result, it has damaged the productive sector and crippled wealth creation. Indeed the regime’s policies have created unemployment, poverty and a great slowdown of the economy as a whole.
The most serious mistake that this regime has made so far was to close sugar estates. Part of the massive crime wave is directly related to this folly.
It is not just that at least five thousand sugar workers have lost their jobs. That is the immediate and direct impact. However, the poor performance of businesses is due to the fall in the purchasing power of people as a whole.
Some confine the argument of the effect of the closure to the villages where those estates operated. However, the impact is much wider, the whole country is impacted.
Foreign exchange earned by sugar has been drastically reduced. Availability has become much less. That has the tendency of putting pressure on the exchange rate.
A few days ago DDL announced that it has to import molasses to produce rum because of the inability of Guysuco to supply.
This means that a considerable amount of foreign exchange would be used. This would push up DDL’s cost of production and can impact on its competitiveness on the international market. It is the use of foreign currency that could have been avoided had the estates not been closed.
The other danger is that DDL may not be able to earn the same level of foreign currency as when it got supplies from Guysuco. That can impact on foreign currency availability as well. In other words it is a net loss for our country.
Sugar workers are not the only ones who have lost jobs. Government’s incompetence has resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of workers in the forestry sector. Barama is practically closed and Bai Shan Lin was forced out of business.
The loss of employment is not only direct but indirect as well. Small loggers are suffering greatly. The earning capacity of hundreds of families is affected.
Hundreds of workers have lost their jobs in the fishery sector recently. That, no doubt, was because of the incompetence of the regime in losing some markets in the US.
Apart from the economic reasons other factors are in play. The message by the regime on crime has created two disturbing trends. On the one hand criminals seem to believe that they have a lot of sympathy in the regime. I was told of a situation that occurred in Eccles about a year ago.
Two criminals who robbed a pedestrian on the road were apprehended by public-spirited citizens. One of them declared “don’t hit me, you heard what uncle Granger said.” That tells a tale that the criminals feel that they have support at the very top of the regime.
On the other hand the police officers have become very tentative in dealing with criminals. They seem to be afraid that in any confrontation with the criminals they may become the object for slander, attacks and without any support.
Moreover, when people, including criminals observe some of the crimes, like the massive looting of L. Seepersaud Maraj and Sons in the Stabroek Market, they would no doubt come to the conclusion that high level collaboration is taking place, between criminals and persons in authority.
Another example is the attitude of the officials to some crimes. For instance, the ship that was held with illegal fuel, the authorities seem to have tried very hard to hide this from the public. When it could no longer be hidden the full penalties were not applied. This obviously sends a signal to criminals that the regime tolerates these things.
The level of corruption is undoubtedly contributing to this spike in crime as well.
The consequences of the escalating crime situation are very serious, however.
With the closing of estates larceny has become widespread. Break and enter in homes and small businesses is taking a toll on the population. People, particularly small shop keepers in the villages, are living in great fear. They lack protection and are regularly violated.
More serious is the rise in praedial larceny. Farmers throughout the country, but more particularly on the coast, are being frustrated by the high amount of losses caused by theft. This is most discouraging and frustrating to farmers. To compound that, they are exasperated by the inaction of the police in dealing with these crimes. When they report they are often just dismissed as nuisances.
The regime needs to get serious in dealing with crime and criminals. They need to encourage and support the crime fighters in the Police Force. They must get tough on crime.