WPA’s proposal was intended to deal with the immediate need for relief to those currently suffering

Dear Editor,

Clive Thomas and the WPA claim that Guyana has the resources to save the poor from their lot!

Jesus:

Surely you’re not saying we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling, look at the good things you’ve got! Think while you still have me, move while you still need me. You’ll be lost and you’ll be sorry when I’m gone! (Jesus Christ Superstar – movie)

Dr. Clive Thomas, a co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance has proposed that the Guyana government provide a cash disbursement to the poor of Guyana in the immediate future. This proposal was grounded on the fact that Guyana has enormous oil resources at its disposal which will be available in material terms come 2020. The country has already received several million dollars from entities with vested interest in the oil economy, money that has not been accounted for in any transparent manner. This non-accountability of the money received was supposedly fronted to assist stakeholders in ensuring accountability for the enormous wealth that the oil resources supposedly will benefit the Guyanese people.

In making the case that we have the resources to save the poor from their lot, the WPA is interested in lightening the burden of the working poor and the structurally unemployed, victims of historical developments that can be called “acts of god.” In a likewise manner, the oil resources can be seen in the same light, as an “act of god.”

What has been a real shocker is the response from some quarters that assistance to the working poor and structurally unemployed amounts to a handout to parasitic elements in the society, or in a more thinly-veiled form of the same argument, that it will breed a class of professional beggars or hangers-on. This is a rather unfortunate development.

It is a known fact that unemployment in the Caribbean region hovers in the 30-40 percent. It is a known fact that remittances from abroad has played a major role in sustaining body and soul of the poor and structurally unemployed in these territories. Now everything seems to be flipped on its head, making it appear as if Guyanese were simply lazy and not engaged in eking out a living under horrendous conditions not of their own making.

The very people who were exhorted to “Eat Less, Sleep Less, Work More” and to “Produce or Perish”, the very people who suffered long lines in a quest for basic foodstuff as the country’s economy collapsed and foreign exchange became non-existent, the very people whose parents and children fled the country with $200 Guyana currency – these people are now seen as being parasitic, or potentially lazy awaiting hand-outs from government.

While the WPA’s proposal deals with a limited subset of Guyanese, those currently living in Guyana under horrendous conditions, thereby undercutting any argument that would seek to delay the immediate relief to those badly in need of it, there is no doubt that there are many areas that represent shades of grey that will have to be dealt with in the long term. The WPA’s proposal was intended to deal with the immediate need for relief to those currently suffering, and not to allow the broader philosophical and political questions to obscure this urgent matter. It asked the simple question, as to whether ‘we have the resources to save the poor from their lot.’

We have demanded of people to make sacrifices for the national good when the nation’s coffers were empty. It would seem to be common sense that people should be given immediate relief when the resources are there to raise their standard of living.

The answer is quite simple – we do have the resources to fulfill this task in the immediate future. Now the question is whether we have the political will to do so.

The WPA is exercising its political will in this direction.

Yours faithfully,

Rohit Kanhai

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