The required competitive local content is just not there

Dear Editor,

The next time I hear or read those two words “local content” I am certain that I will be unable to resist an uncontrollable urge to vomit.  Whether local or foreign, the people calling for more of that should be put away for life without parole and for the good of this country.  Though well-intentioned, the contributors so insisting are not in touch with domestic realities and mindsets.  In my own words, local content talk is pure hogwash, and I am not apologizing for this position.

For starters, a considerable number of Guyanese workers (Guyanese on the whole) have neither a sense of, nor any interest in matters related to time.  There is this total disregard for punctuality.  Also, whenever they get there, there is a pronounced disinclination to contribute by getting on with the job at hand, which only compounds a poor situation.  “Like yuh come fuh dun wuk” is a familiar hymn with a well-populated choir.  Local work ethic is horrendous for the most part; personal and professional ethics a thorough reflection of the cultural deformities flourishing.  Who can work with such people?  Who can they work for, not excluding family and friends? What work can they do, be such in the home, yard, or official confines?

Those who do arrive at the workplace with some sense of alacrity and purpose, whether entry level clerks or highly paid contractors or senior officers, do not place any premium on word given, deadlines to be honoured, and deliverables waiting for fulfillment.  It is shoddiness and crassness almost all over where contractors can only contract contagious diseases for content; manufacturers deliver substandard product; and media workers lie and exaggerate.  It is simply business as usual.  The local reaction is telling: so what is the problem, buster?  Of course, it should be obvious by now that the problem resides with the one doing the paying, overseeing, and demanding; the one who is conscientious.  This is local content in the incorrigible pantheon of the disfigured and pathetic.

Guyanese workers shift clock and calendar repeatedly and nonchalantly without any qualm or contrition; there is no embarrassment.  This is another entitlement; perhaps a sacred Guyanese right, where the typical Guyanese worker has no sense of personal honour or dignity through the decency to deliver something.  Anything!  One more time: which company would want to have such dubious characters on board?  Would Exxon?  I should say not.  This casual, undisturbed, tomorrow is another day mentality so prevalent might be fit and proper for regular domestic affairs.  From the perspective of international companies and personal experience, it will not do, will not be tolerated with a foot in the door.  Foreign companies are well aware of the severe deficits in the Guyanese workforce, and the realities of the local job market.  They can-and will-be ruthless through bloodless weeding out of the hopeless, the pretenders, and the jokers.  In the old days, kings dealt summarily with jokers who failed to deliver laughs; there would have been an oversupply of caps here: too many heads rolled.  The same penalty should apply, too, to those clamouring for this patented farce about local content, which is clearly an employer hazard.

A former presidential adviser had it right: there is local content of significance as is encapsulated by “middlemen.”  It is slowly burgeoning in scale but limited to establishment presences.  This formidable bloc reiterates the longstanding plutocratic hegemonies in such areas as waterfront real estate, drydocking and ship chandlery, transportation, stevedoring, and the like.  Such middlemen are well-placed and sit pretty; they are the only legitimate claimants to this much bandied about business focusing on local content.  It is a quietly richly rewarding business.

In fairness, it must be noted that there are a few Guyanese who actually work and contribute, who take great pride in their work product, both in terms of quantity and quality, as well as consistency.  People do not have to wait on them or clean up after them.  Finding them is a big part of the problem because they are so few; and it must be remembered that hiring and success cannot be trial and error projects.  Worker attitude, worker promise, and worker performance all have to measure up from the inception in very demanding circumstances.

In sum, whether the focus is on quality or integrity or reliability or delivery, it quickly becomes painfully undeniable that the required competitive local content is just not there.  It is pure hogwash. 

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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