EYEWITNESS: Independence…

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…in Guyana

For most of the PNC’s first go at running things in Guyana, they didn’t “big up” “Independence” much; Republic Day was their thing, with Mash as the centrepiece. You couldn’t really find fault with their rationale: At Independence, the Queen was still the Head of State via her proxy, the Governor General. What was the point of “independence” if — even nominally — you had to genuflect to the old order?

With the attainment of Republicanism, the country could do its own thing to really be independent. The question Pressie should’ve answered, in the estimation of your humble Eyewitness, was: How much had we actually become independent? And to the extent we have lapsed, it can’t all be dumped at the door of the PPP government, which was ousted two years ago.

Yes, they were there for 23 years; but, for more than half that time, they had to clean up the mess made by the PNC in its 28 years. There’s no point in prolonging the blame game, but the biggest albatross that weighed down our real independence was the debt the PNC had accumulated. And it wasn’t even the quantum of the debt — which had every man, woman and new-born babe owing $450,000 — it was the bankruptcy which pushed us into the clutches of the IMF.

So when the Government knocks the PPP, they should at least acknowledge the policies imposed by the IMF. Does anybody remember the latter organisation forbidding “cross subsidisation” of the Demerara Estates?

Anyhow, your Eyewitness would like to review some metrics by which a country can measure its “independence” in an admittedly interconnected world. Right up there is the economy, which the Government accepts should be able to deliver the “good life” to its citizens.

While the PPP moved us from the lowest category of a “highly indebted poor country” to a “high middle income country”, in real terms, this still left us at the bottom with Haiti. Every Guyanese knows to our cost, ain’t no “good life” @ US$335/month. Combined with our educational failures and life expectancy, these make our Human Development Index anything but “independent”. By most standards that count, we really haven’t moved past our living conditions at Independence.

Then there are the social indicators — which remind us that we still have astronomical levels of suicide, alcoholism, domestic violence; and depressing levels of migration in the face of Brexit and Trump; which tells us what ordinary folks really think of our “independence”. But the most glaring indictment is the number of them who also say they’d really like to be a colony of Britain.

Bring back the “white man” is not a cry of “Independent People”!!

…and actions

Another point that struck your Eyewitness about Pressie’s speech was, as usual, he hit all the right notes; but his actions belied his words. In another — and very important context — that disjuncture between works and action was noted by an outside analyst. Over in La Jolla, California, our oil find made us the cynosure of a lot of (oily?) eyes.

One “Control Risks” Senior Analyst, Raul Gallegos, pointed out that while the Government has certainly talked the talk on private enterprise re-protecting “private property”, creating a business-friendly environment; when it came to transparency, where it matters to Guyanese, like the terms of the Exxon contract, opacity reigns!

So while Pressie extolled “diversity”, where was the diversity in his appointments to heads of Government departments?? For that matter, where was the diversity in the National Awards he handed out on Independence Day??

In this environment, the sprinkling of non-PNC types honoured makes them tokens.

…awards

And speaking about National Awards, could someone explain what exactly did Ivelaw Griffith do to deserve one?? As opposed to, say, Ramjattan? Creating a “Cabinet” to govern UG?? Pulling off that fund raising caper in which he spent more than he garnered?

Or is just being an old YSM hand enough?

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