The $16b owed to city is a serious indictment of these commercial defaulters

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article titled, `M&CC, City Chamber seal cooperation pact’ (SN May 4).  That is nice.

First, I congratulate the leaders of the M&CC and the GCCI for breaking ground and getting to this early childhood stage.  I trust that the accompanying photograph of smiling faces will grow wider in the months ahead.  The test would be execution in the seven areas identified in that MoU.  A lot of good intentions; a lot of good could come.  There is waiting.  Now I must go beyond the happy smiles and happy talk.

I had to step back and inhale sharply.  That is 16 billion dollars in arrears, if I can still read.  Sixteen billion!  And a mere 140 of those commercial defaulters responsible.  I am sure that, at the risk of slight exaggeration, if I were to owe 16 dollars, City Hall people would either be arranging to put me in lockdown, or running me out of town in an instant.  Using that same 140 number of commercial deadbeats that are allowed to run the municipality ragged as basis, I believe that may be an amount greater per defaulter, than the per capita debt of this country (accumulated by all governments over many years) to all foreign lenders.  No wonder the M&CC is running on empty and into the ground; those scofflaws are running the place.  Notwithstanding the emerging bonhomie with the GCCI, I have one hard demand: publish their names.  Plaster them all over the town from airport to seaport and all those backtrack ports, too, through which much business is done.

Third, when delinquents don’t pay the following occurs on an ongoing basis: potholes are not filled; drains are not cleared; garbage is not removed timely; vendors are not paid.  There is no cash.  Sixteen billion is a lot of unreachable and untouchable cash.  Sixteen billion should be to the eternal shame and damnation of those overseers at City Hall, who either did nothing, or too little, or colluded with cheating businesses to defraud citizens; they also destroyed whatever quality of life there was and to which all residents and users of the capital are entitled. 

Fourth, I invite the few honest citizens still around: look at these domestic carpetbaggers sucking city and nation, and the venal official scoundrels who aid and abet them: They are against parking (to any other citizens); against honouring rates (to City Hall); against transmitting VAT collected (to the GRA).  They are against rules, against regulations, against processes and enforcements, and against any law that applies to them.  To be fair, they are for some laws, but only those ones that they see as fit for them and proper for them to observe. 

Editor, get me straight: I think that there are good people involved in these rackets; they mean well.  Just that there has been some slight straying, some long-condoned errors in judgement, some lapses of character.  Like Mae West, they drifted.  Character and reputation have no numbers attached; can’t put in bank account, can’t buy another building or dredge.  Or pay off a government or opposition power; or make a handsome (well-received) campaign contribution.  No accounting.  No traceability, too.

Sixth, and on a kinder note, that MoU should be guardedly welcomed.  It is a good start.  Still, I say that the honourable Chamber leaders (I know one, maybe two of such) must do more; there is a lot of wrongdoing to reverse and bad seed to purge.  It has to give up some people.  It cannot continue to operate on both sides of the street, as though its members represent a parade of taxpaying, law-abiding saints.  Most of them belong in enclosed spaces.  In olden times, there was a thing called debtors prison.  Too much dirty business; and not by Guyanese standards, but international.  I appeal to the good senses of the honest commercial chamber people: Think!

Because if there is insistence on condoning violators (broadest interpretation), then there will be way less business.  Because if there is outside sanctioning, then nobody is collecting.  Not sales.  Not profits.  Not rates and taxes.  Of course, there would be the reality of that unique blue-ribbon award: blacklisting.  And that means no container traffic; not even at less than five thousand a head.  One more time: think.

Last, all those wise-guy businesspeople, City Hall collectors, and Chamber of Commerce protectors, I have one message remaining: if push come to shove, then all that cash owed, concealed, and privately accumulated would mean nothing.  Depreciation.  Get real.  Get clean.  Get right and get bright.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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