Dear Mr. Editor,
Mr. Editor, allow me the opportunity to again assure the citizens of Linden/Region 10 and, indeed, everyone else in Guyana that the PPP/C Administration has been working for the economic and social upliftment of Linden/Region 10 in no way less than, and in no way different from, the way that we work for other towns and regions. I feel obliged to seek this opportunity, having followed the sentiments, recently expressed by various political figures, as reported in articles appearing in the Stabroek News’ editions of Wednesday, January 22, 2014, entitled “Linden’s stalled development politically-engineered – Granger” and “Head of Linden economic committee steps down – Solomon chides President over lack of progress”, Wednesday, January 15, 2014, entitled “Lack of movement on Linden committees disappointing – Roopnaraine,” and today, Thursday, January 23, 2014, entitled “Linden to shut down on Saturday over barren agreements – Solomon.”
Mr. Editor, Linden has been growing. The prosperity, or lack thereof, the challenges, the successes and problems, the improvements visible in new buildings and vehicle ownership, are much the same in Linden as in other parts of Guyana. Linden is not stalled! The major constraint on Linden, which is in the hands of Mr. David Granger, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Mr. Solomon, is the politically-inspired, continual preaching to citizens of Linden that the PPP/C Government does not like the people of Linden/Region 10. As in other regions of Guyana, there are less prosperous areas and more prosperous areas, for example, the Amelia’s Ward extension, developed over the last 20 years is comparable to prosperous new developments like Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara.
Firstly, talking to the big things, the PPP/C Government inherited from the outgoing PNC Government a foreign-managed bauxite company that, if not made profitable, was to be shut down. When the international manager reported in 1994 that he could not see how to make LINMINE profitable, this Government did not comply but, changed from the shutting-down agreement of the earlier PNC Government, kept the bauxite company opened and kept on supporting the operations, both in Linden and Kwakwani, from the Treasury. Also, when the foreign owner of the operations at Aroaima offered to have the PPP/C Government take over or shut down Aroaima, we took it over. We provide where it matters, when it matters. We are not in the ‘shutting down’ business!
We were aware that these bauxite operations needed to be transformed into entities that would pay their way and sustain themselves over the long term. We knew how traumatic abrupt closure would be for the population in Linden/Region 10.
We provided more time as we worked to find foreign partners, with whom we would work, with whom these operations would make a good fit. We are gratified that we were able to attract BOSAI into Linden, and RUSAL into Berbice.
Be assured that the PPP/C would insist on the largest possible sustainable benefits from these foreign direct investors. At the same time, we must recall that when we owned and ran those operations, our costs were exceeding available market prices by up to 30%. We should recognize that there is no bonanza now in bauxite, only opportunity for work, hard work and work with great discipline. We have to put our all, and a little more, into our bauxite operations to keep them viable and able to carry a decent wage.
Allow me to recall that our past President, Mr. Bharat Jagdeo, then an officer in the Ministry of Finance, led a socio-economic study of Linden in about 1994, with a number of young economists, some of whom were sons and daughters of Linden.
This provided a basis for this PPP/C Government to seek another European Union intervention, to take Linden beyond bauxite, beyond being a bauxite town. We sought to have a number of infrastructure projects included – greatly upgraded roads to Ituni and Kwakwani and, also, Linden to Kimbia on the Berbice River. We had to settle for a people-changing project with monies included only for surveys and demonstrations of the infrastructure projects that we desired.
Allow me also to point again to this Government’s investments in Linden/Region 10 into schools, housing, roads, water and the hospitals. Already, in February 1967, the day on which Dr. Cheddi Jagan suffered a heart attack, I and then Minister of Education, the late Dr. Dale Bisnauth, had just returned to Georgetown from a full-day visit to Linden, where we toured 14 sites, mainly schools and one community building, all of which were being rehabilitated in a major way, or being built anew. We started early in Linden. Linden, today, is much larger than, and greatly improved from, where it was in 1992. Just travel around, all around, look, and see.
There is a lot that has been accomplished, perhaps not in an overly flashy way but in our PPP/C way that some may think of as a bit plodding – little by little, stage by stage, as evidenced in the history of the development of Amelia’s Ward.
We in the PPP/C have more right than anyone else, particularly Solomon and APNU, to be disappointed over the lack of mutual agreement and movement on the Linden committees. Our disappointment starts from the rejection, as well as the manner of rejection, of the agreement between us in budget talks of 2012, to begin a staged normalization of electricity provision in Linden, looking at merging the Linden area into the national grid over, say, a five-year period.
We could understand the people of Linden not welcoming the proposals, but a responsible APNU could have come back with a proposal to, say, delay the start from mid-2012 to the beginning of 2013. We understand that leaders cannot be too far ahead of their constituency, but leaders must lead or their constituency would be left in the past.
Concerning the agreements which settled the unrest in Linden, they froze electricity tariffs to where they were. The agreements stated that there would be no consideration of any increases until after the various Committee reports would have been received, studied and discussed. This position could not be more comfortable for the Regional Chairman and for APNU. The Government, this year in the 2014 Budget, is having to provide G$ 2,900 million for the Linden area, and another G$ 300 million for the Kwakwani Utilities Inc. The agreement has certainly not been barren.
Concerning the Television station, there is a huge difference between being given the equipment that it is claimed Green Construction gifted to the community in 1985, and being given a running TV station.
Throughout our twenty years, Linden/Region 10 has shared equitably in what our country has. A major job over the years has been working to develop trade with northern Brazil and to establish Guyana as the favoured place for Brazil to develop a northern port for north Brazil.
We have been advocating and advancing the paving of the Linden-Lethem road – the greatest problem is the history of the incidence of Linden and the existing road being shut down. The people of Linden must guard against being wound up to spite the PPP/C, but only in the end damaging their own better interests.
Mr. Editor, we of the PPP/C believe that the problems of Linden/Region 10 are politically engineered, not by the PPP/C, but by Granger, Solomon and others who preach continually about Linden and Region 10 being discriminated against because the people in Region 10 are different from, and do not vote for, the PPP/C.
Interestingly, some tell people in other areas, like Region 6, that we of the PPP/C take them for granted and that we are going all out for Region 10 so as to win it over. We go all out for everyone! We do all we can in an equitable way for everyone.
Mr. Editor, Readers, there could be nothing more deadening and self-fulfilling than the constant preaching that the Government is against the people of Linden/Region 10, thereby politically engineering the stalling of development. It takes away all sense of responsibility from the people of Linden, killing their initiative, ingenuity, and their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in-born in the people of Linden and Region 10, the same as in people everywhere.
To be successful these days, people say one has to add computer skills and IT to traditional skills. Remember some eight years ago, when bauxite workers in Linden were put on two months’ furlough.
This Government provided every worker with base pay, but only on attending introductory or improving courses in computers. And to be successful these days, one has to accept that he/she has to be competitive, and that he/she can be competitive. This is true for citizens of Linden/Region 10 and, indeed, for all Guyana.
I recall, during a debate in Parliament in about 1994, on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). Dr. Clive Thomas pointed out that our hourly labour rates were (then) the lowest in CARICOM. However, because of our low productivity and low quality, causing high reject work-rates and poor satisfaction and timeliness, the costs of our labour in units of our goods and services were among the highest in CARICOM. We were not likely to be competitive in the CSME.
Lowest hourly rates but highest labour costs! This is where our attention should be focused. This should be our common and shared battleground, focusing on learning, training and practicing, so that the productivity, quality, timeliness and cost of whatever we do, become much more competitive, providing us much more satisfaction and earning. I hoped then, and ever do, that there could be widespread focus on improving our productivity.
This is the battle that I hoped Dr. Thomas would have dedicated himself to, noting his standing with labour and many persons who might have been sceptical of such a message from the PPP/C.
Granger, Roopnaraine and Solomon have been teaching the people of Linden that their primary problem is the PPP/C Central Government. This is the political engineering that has been hobbling development in Linden/Region 10. This is the political engineering that the PPP/C has had to overcome. The PPP/C does not despair! We will always be in Linden. We will stay on the scene, welcoming fellow Guyanese citizens, whether one by one, or two by two.
There is no future in dwelling in the past. In these days, we have to be open and nimble, to change, to open to the world; cheerful and quick to make friends. These are not the qualities that Granger, Roopnaraine, Solomon and Norton are advocating and nurturing in Linden/Region 10. The road on which they are taking Linden/Region 10 leads to a dead-end. We would not leave our fellow citizens of Linden/Region 10 to such a fate. Whether on Saturday, Solomon and APNU are successful or not in shutting Linden/Region 10 down as they threaten, we of the PPP/C will always be around working to put things together for the good of the people of Linden/Region 10, and all Guyana.
Prime Minister of Guyana.