EYEWITNESS: Holding on…


…to bitter (bauxite) myths

One of the constants of politics in divided states is the cultivation, nursing and retention of myths of persecution and oppression by the “other”. This tendency, of course, helps immeasurably to create the divisions in the first place!! Given the opportunity – or creating the opportunity – it becomes a case of “payback time” when the shoe is on the other foot, or the cutlass is in the other hand!!

Like all myths, there’s always at least a grain of truth at the centre, but that truth is always burnished and augmented to bring home the “point” in a way that even the most “hard-headed” can understand; and be aroused.

Take the case of the bauxite industry, and, more to the point, the bauxite workers. Marxists talk about the “working class” of the developed countries being a “labour aristocracy” because of their vastly better wages and working conditions than those in the Third World.
In Guyana, up to the time when Burnham nationalised the Bauxite Industry in 1970, Bauxite workers were our very own “labour aristocracy” – compared to all other Guyanese workers – but especially sugar workers. They were all African, after the 1964 ethnic cleansing.

However, a decade after nationalisation, the PNC, under Burnham’s direct involvement, had brought the industry to its knees. By 1992, when the PPP took over, the Industry was producing just one-third of its optimum production. The Alumina Plant – which added value to the bauxite and justified free electricity to all of Linden – had long been shuttered, and its workers sent into the streets by the PNC.

When Desmond Hoyte called in the IMF to bail out Guyana from the debt albatross bequeathed by the PNC, one of that entity’s demands was that the Bauxite Industry be privatised. Hoyte had already given away the Berbice bauxite operations to ALCOA for a song, without even the need to pay taxes or shipping fees etc. It was a blueprint for Trotman’s Exxon oil contract!! Inheriting this snafu in 1992– especially with ALCOA playing hardball and threatening to walk away — the PPP obviously had to make some hard decisions based on the triage principle: sacrificing some parts for the survival of the whole.

And that’s the kernel of truth African-Guyanese activists like Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds have stubbornly nurtured to beat the PPP over the head as “racists” – especially when they contrapose the PPP’s supposed pandering to the sugar industry and sugar workers who’re their supporters and Indian to boot. It is rarely, if ever, mentioned that the PPP kept the PNC-imposed draconian sugar levy that sucked all profits from the sugar industry.
During the same years, they kept bauxite alive on life support funded by that levy.

…to old shibboleths

There are some interesting economic statistics this newspaper’s been mining from the year-end reports the Finance Ministry has to issue. Dragged, kicking and screaming, Minister Jordan’s been forced to concede the economy’s growth has been inexorably shrinking, contrary to the rosy projections he appears impelled to issue at Budget Time.

But that, of course, is more tragic than interesting. What’s interesting is the revelation that there are even more taxes being collected – especially from individual and corporate income taxes — even as economic growth is headed south!! Why that’s interesting is because it’s contrary to the advice of economists from every school out there – from the Keynesians to the New Monetary Theorists! Very simply put, one way to revive the economy is to place more money in the pockets of consumers and businesses – who can then inject it directly into the economy!!

Now the Finance Minister will say the increased revenues are due to better tax collections. But duh!! Why hasn’t he proposed and implemented income tax cuts??

 …to Marx

It’s Karl Marx’s 200th birthday. Your Eyewitness thinks it’s rather serendipitous that Cheddi Jagan, his most faithful follower, just had his 100th birthday commemorated.

Marx had a statue donated by China to his home town, while Jagan has some stamps issued by the PNC Government to his relatives.


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