City chamber says fight against COVID-19 requires gov’t that has full confidence of the people

The state of Regent Street during the elections period. [iNews' Photo]
The state of Regent Street during the elections period

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI), today, said it is extremely concerned about the lengthy delay in the announcement of the March 2 elections results, which it said is affecting the country’s ability to effectively tackle the coronavirus pandemic due to the absence of a fully functioning government.

The following is a full statement by GCCI: 

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) is extremely concerned about the situation which besieges Guyana at this time – the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the lengthy delay in the announcement of the Election results.

The GCCI has undertaken independent modeling of the spread pandemic in Guyana. The Chamber’s model ascertains that there will 19,500 cases by the end of the first week in May. This is in tandem with the projections by the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) which projects approximately 20,000 cases by May 5th, 2020. It is with this pandemic and its magnitude in mind that the Chamber notes the need for Guyana having to spend a massive amount on the healthcare sector including, but not limited to, more on wages, new facilities and equipment as well as more on consumables.

As case numbers increase the Government will have to issue mandatory stay at home orders, which are far more restrictive, and which will shut down the Economy which was already in a slowdown due to caution around the Election. Subsequently, there will be perhaps once of the largest increases in the number of persons who are laid off from their jobs in recent history; one only has to look at the devastation done to our Tourism and Hospitality industry and extrapolate from there. Without fiscal stimulus to help at that time, the economic and social impacts will be devastating. It is noteworthy to mention that in order to have fiscal stimulus, we must have a fully functioning Finance Minister and Parliament convened; not a caretaker Finance Minister.

Therefore, the Chamber is resolute in its call for a speedy resolution to Election Crisis, which at this point can only end with a Recount. If this Election crisis is prolonged,  not put in place, then many Guyanese will die from lack of adequate healthcare to treat the virus, and thousands more will suffer from the economic impact. This can include starvation, especially in the city where people are less likely to grow their own food.

Further it seems as if the Election Result delays may be responsible for delays in Guyana accessing international funds to fight the virus. We cannot, as a country, insult the International Community on Social Media and then turn around and ask for their funds and think it will be handed to us ahead of other countries in need. The unique feature of this crisis is that the world is experiencing it simultaneously so there is a long line for international aid, we do not need to take actions to cause us to be placed at the back of the line.

The World Bank said that “Oil production is projected to boost GDP growth to unprecedented levels in 2020. While this could transform Guyana, there are risks, as illustrated by a still incomplete election outcome, and compounded by falling oil prices and the Covid-19 epidemic.” It is with this and our preceding points in mind that the business community urges to see a recount plan for 30 days or less, and see a Government in Place with the Full Confidence of the People so that all the tools in our Country’s arsenal can be brought to bear in the fight against COVID-19 including both fiscal policy and international loans so that the impact of the pandemic can be lessened and the loss of life reduced.