BARRIERS, BLACKMAIL & BLACKLIST
GUYANA is about to celebrate our 48th Independence Anniversary and it is bitter-sweet for me. We are a young nation still and we are still a far way from realising all of our hopes and aspirations. We remain a proud nation, one which has achieved much amidst great challenges. Our future beckons with opportunities and the prognosis is a nation that is bravely moving in a trajectory of social and economic prosperity, just as our ancestors dreamt and just as we continue to dream today. The destiny of Peace, Progress and Prosperity is being made a sweet reality for our beautiful country.
But I am saddened by another constant and bitter reality: an Opposition that is determined to place barriers and to offer blackmail and blacklisting as their sinister gift to our proud people. As we celebrate our 48th anniversary, the Opposition parties are engaged in an orgy of disgusting roadblocks to stop and reverse development in our country.
As we prepare to celebrate our 48th anniversary, I see the sweet success of our achievement. The PPP/C Government will, in another month, eagerly release Guyana’s half year economic growth which will reveal that Guyana is set to achieve a growth rate of over 5%. Guyana is setting a pace of development that will see a 9th successful year of growth and 18 out of the last 22 years. As long as we remain on the same path, Guyana will record a 10th and then an 11th successive GDP growth in our 50th year of independence in 2016.
This year, we will also release data that will show reduced poverty and increased life expectancy. A living standard survey will show more people living in their own homes, owning private vehicles, more homes with telephones and comfort utilities like computers, refrigerators, washing machines, TVs and so on. Guyana is a country that bravely moves forward to the tune ‘onwards, upwards may we ever go’. It is a country that is creating better lives for more and more people.
It is a country where children of ordinary and poor families are becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, managers, business people and entrepreneurs. More Guyanese own their own business. More Guyanese are traveling for vacation. More of them are seeking recreation and vacation in different parts of Guyana and overseas.
But our tremendous progress as a nation is also as a result of overcoming great challenges from people and circumstances that placed mighty barriers in front of us. The great odds we had to overcome did not daunt us and we must be proud of our achievements. Yet our achievements must not deter us from realising that Guyana could have been even further along on the trajectory of development. We face considerable problems still. There are still too many of our sisters and brothers living below the poverty line and our infrastructure still needs modernisation and expansion.
Our pace of development has been slowed down by mighty and unnecessary barriers, a bitter reminder that our journey since independence has been filled with agony too. First, we lost 28 years because of a PNC-led dictatorship and thuggery. No one deny anymore that from 1964 Guyana struggled through almost three decades under an illegitimate, dictatorial PNC administration because they kept themselves in power through rigged elections. No one deny anymore that it was an administration that was brutal in treating with people who openly opposed it and that people died because they dared opposed the PNC administration. No one deny anymore that unless you had a PNC party card, you could not get a job, no matter what your qualifications.
The present Commission of Inquiry into the death of Walter Rodney is a stark reminder of the tyranny that remains an ugly legacy of the PNC between 1964 and 1992. The murder of Father Darke, Kaoma, Vincent Teekah and several other people stand as a dark reflection of what our people and our country endured in the first years of our post-independence history.
The under-development of Guyana after independence stands also as a consequential legacy of a PNC which wrestled power away from the PPP and which ruled with an iron fist through the 28 years they were in power. While they ruled with an iron fist to keep the population in check, they took full and absolute control of the media and took control of the economy. They destroyed Guyana’s economy, education and health system.
Guyana’s GDP was lower in 1992 at about US$250 per capita than it was in 1964. Rice, sugar and bauxite which were Guyana’s economic pillars in 1964 had collapsed by 1992. Guyana’s meager infrastructure in 1964 was further eroded by 1992. Worst, Guyana was among the most indebted nation on earth by 1992, with a debt greater than 700% of its GDP.
Since 1992, we have done a remarkable job of putting Guyana back on track, transforming a bitter journey into a sweet journey. Our development trajectory is upwards. Guyana’s GDP is now more than US$3,600 per capita. Our debt ratio is only about 45% of GDP. Only Trinidad and Tobago has a debt ratio that is as low as Guyana’s in CARICOM. Our education system has recovered and a country that not once between 1975 and 1992 had a top performer at CXC has topped CARICOM 7 out of the last 8 years. Our health system has been restored and life expectancy which was stagnant at about 60 is now more than 70 years.
But our struggle and our bold upwards social and economic trajectory is still under constant threat of various kinds of barriers, blackmail and blacklisting, sponsored by APNU and AFC. In a few days from now, Guyana will be blacklisted because the same old PNC (now calling itself APNU), aided and abetted by the AFC and WPA, refuse to join the Government in passing the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill. They have come up with one reason after another, including trying to blackmail the Government.
The PNC and AFC blocked a bill that tried to equalise the environmental tax on bottles and plastic containers for beverages produced in Guyana and in CARICOM countries, even though the government begged them that should we not do so we risk being fined by the Caribbean Court of Justice. They claimed we are fooling people about the risk. Today, Guyana has to pay almost $1.2B in fines.
Everyone agrees that Guyana must develop a tourist industry in order to accelerate our development. Everyone also agrees that we must have a 5-star hotel and an international standard airport. PNC leaders once said so. Check budget debates before 2010 and you will find the evidence. Mr. Moses Nagamottoo and Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan said so when they were with the PPP. International experts say we must have a 5-star hotel and a modern airport if we want a tourist industry.
Yet APNU, AFC and WPA now are opposed to the Marriott Hotel and the expansion and modernisation of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. It is not that they have discovered that there is anything wrong with such development, but because they know these are initiatives that will accelerate Guyana’s development. They have decided that they must maximize barriers to delay these projects as much as possible to ensure Guyana’s development is stifled.
Everyone in Guyana now and in the past agreed that hydro-electricity is a pre-requisite for accelerated economic and social development. Dr Cheddi Jagan spoke about this before 1960. Forbes Burnham not only spoke about it, but told the Guyanese workers that they must give up pay increases so that he could build a hydro-electric plant. Now that the PPP has made it possible, APNU and the AFC have combined forces to block the Amaila project, unnecessarily delaying the realisation of cheap and reliable hydro-electricity for all Guyana.
They are desperately trying to stop the Specialty Hospital, the Amerindian Development Fund, the Corentyne River Bridge, the Deep Water Harbour on the Berbice River, a new Demerara Harbour Bridge, the Cunha Canal, new highways, hinterland roads, hinterland hospitals and schools, the ‘One Laptop Per Family’ programme, solar panel for people in areas without electricity and projects that will make better lives for thousands of people everywhere in Guyana..
All of these wicked shenanigans are designed for one thing – stop development in Guyana and scare away investors. Threatening investors is not restricted to international investors, but any local business or professional who does not cooperate with APNU and AFC is targeted. Poor Mr. Ron Webster, a successful businessman and true Guyanese, was molested as a ‘soup drinker’ before his death. When Kit Nascimento praises the Government for something good, he is called a soup drinker. Ask Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo or any other business person who speaks out, not in support of the government, but in support of any project they see as good for Guyana, about the ridicule they are subjected to. The PNC’s DNA of intimidation is vividly on display by APNU every day in our country and no one is immune.
Odinga Lumumba, Bishop Juan Edghill and Rev. Kwame Gilbert are ‘house slaves’ because as Afro-Guyanese they chose to work with the PPP to bring greater development to our country. Their DNA is one that must ridicule and intimidate people.
The truth is that APNU and AFC are on a mission, not a mission to make Guyana better, but a mission to ensure that development is stalled. They will put up as many barriers as possible in their ugly assault on our nation to reverse development because this is the only way they see they can gain power to continue what happened in Guyana between 1964 and 1992. They will use blackmail to stall our development and they will invite and promote international blacklisting in order to achieve their gruesome goals.
Mr. David Granger, Mr. Ramjattan, APNU and the AFC have no interest in Guyana; their only interest is power, at any cost. But in their desperate push to stop the PPP, they hurt Guyana and all Guyanese.
As we celebrate our 48th Independence anniversary, let us unite to stop those who brought shame and agony on our people once before from hurting us and brining more calamity on our people and our nation. We stand against APNU and AFC to protect our gains and to continue our development, to ensure that our rights are preserved and our freedom blossoms into a future of unlimited possibility and prosperity.
Even as I reflect on our country’s bitter-sweet journey, I wish all my Guyanese brothers and sisters a Happy Independence Anniversary. As long as we remain committed to the goal of a Guyana that provides equal opportunity and better lives for all, we can stop those who will accept under-development because they want power.
(By Dr. Leslie Ramsammy)