Eyewitness: Paying the Piper

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…and China

A blurb in the dailies caught your Eyewitness’s eye – the famous Ugandan Entebbe Airport (remember the movie of the daring Israeli rescue of hostages held by Palestinians there?) might end up in Chinese hands. The way the story is slanted seeks to blame the Chinese for lending the Ugandans US$207 million to modernise the airport (sounds familiar?!)? There’s the possibility that the airport may have to be handed over to the Chinese if the Ugandans can’t service the loan.

But why should the Chinese be blamed for this? The Ugandan loan was made in 2015 and by then, there were numerous reports of other countries taking cheap Chinese loans for developing infrastructure and ending up losing ownership. Weren’t the Ugandans who negotiated the loan grown-a55 men who knew what they were signing?? Reminds one of Raphael Trotman and the Exxon contract, doesn’t it?

Seems the fine print declares that in case of default, arbitration would be under Chinese auspices – and not the more well-known ones in the West. But, really, would a shift in the arbitration venue make a difference? Hey…you borrow money and if you don’t repay, there are consequences! At a personal level, it might range from a Mafia goon breaking your knee caps with a baseball bat to the more institutionalised one where you just lose your house to the bank holding your mortgage!! Heard of “foreclosures”??

It should be no secret that the Chinese – holding US$4 TRILLION in dollar denominated debts piled up by the Americans – are killing any number of birds with their “Belt and Road Initiative”. The latter funds infrastructure – long touted by the World Bank as critical for development but without coughing up the dough. The poor countries get the infrastructure and the Chinese get a means to ship in their goods – not to mention earning greater interest even at 2% than having their money sit at the Fed!

The Chinese also never hand over the money since it’s always Chinese companies that do the construction – and even bring in Chinese workers. Some of whom always remain to provide future soft power for the spreading Middle Kingdom!! The problem really lies with Third-World politicians who’ve forgotten several nuggets of folk wisdom. Like “Don’t hang yuh hat where yuh haan cyaan reach!! Meaning know ahead of time whether your cash flow will cover servicing the loan!!

But the offers are always too good to pass? There’s that other saying – “Wha’ sweeten mout’, does hu’t belly”!! Remember those Black Friday sales? The screaming ads were just hype to get you into the stores. The Chinese loans also have a price. Check the fine print!!
But we Guyanese know all of this, don’t we?

…and the Grim Reaper

Your Eyewitness knows it ain’t easy living under all the restraints and constraints imposed by the logic of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this has been going on since January 2020!! We all became accustomed to wearing masks and observing social distancing – plus causing a run on sanitiser! But with their gargantuan deep pockets, some of the rich countries – plus some others like India and Russia – were able to come up with vaccines that offered some hope of rolling back the tide.

But at what cost?!! FIVE MILLION, TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND dead and counting! Even our tiny Guyana is approaching 1000 fatalities. And spare a thought for our neighbour Trinidad with over 2000 deaths to achieve the dismal distinction of being the per capita number 1 in the world! But as if all of this wasn’t enough up comes the news that a new, far deadlier variant of the virus has appeared in South Africa and is spreading like wildfire.
Impose restrictions on incoming flights!

…for Christmas

Even more than Burnham’s de facto ban on flour and dhall, that on apples, grapes and walnuts were felt traumatically when Christmas rolled around.
Your Eyewitness always wondered what fruits Baby Jesus liked! Dates?