March 23, 2017

Has the President just awoken from his slumber?

Dear Editor,

What happened? Did President David Granger suddenly wake up and become Columbus number two, that he and his administration now discover that he “…believed the rates are high and that there should have been certain parking exemptions from the inception…”

Also, he said, “We do feel that the contract is burdensome…” Why only now?

What did he do with the reports from his two Ministers – Finance and Legal Affairs? He received those reports several months ago. Did he read them at all and note their recommendations?

Anyway, I’m positive that those reports and the recommendations were discussed at Cabinet, but they took a gamble, relying on the loyalty of their own supporters, ie, the kit and kin, for them to remain quiet by all means possible with the rest of the population.

Note that the President said, “…pay your taxes and let the city run properly and WE won’t have to resort to these measures…”

Now, where did the ‘WE’ come from, especially if he and his Cabinet were not part of the entire process?

Anyone who believes that Minister Ronald Bulkan signed on for the parking meters to become operational on his own, needs his/her head examined.

How can any Minister sign on to something on behalf of the government without the blessings of the President and his Cabinet? Just like the Drug Bond, which Minister George Norton eventually confessed, was a Cabinet’s decision.

I do congratulate everyone who has and will continue to protest. The effectiveness of those demonstrations are the real reasons for the Government and the Mayor and City Council waking up and trying to cover up their blunders, with the Government mouth-pieces claiming they are now looking into the wellbeing of the citizens of this dear land.

What really jolted them into action is not just the size of the demonstrations, but the unity of all the demonstrators. This is their real headache and President now telling us about the ‘Terror Clause.’

The parking meters have to be scrapped. We have to remain united, for in unity lies strength. This ‘Terror Clause’ has nothing to do with us. As citizens we were never informed or consulted.

Therefore, let those who were involved and signed on to it, let them pay, be it the Government of the ‘Gang of Four’. Those ‘green monsters’ have to go; we are already under too much financial burdens.

Let them go after those who are not paying taxes to raise revenues.

Yours sincerely,

Chandra Shekar Azad


Reports of US immigration raids in Queens for illegals

Dear Editor,

Newspapers are reporting that Federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Agents of Homeland Security raided restaurants, stores and other job sites in Elmhurst and other parts of Queens. There are also rumours that ICE agents raided Liberty Avenue, Richmond Hill (dubbed Little Guyana) last week though this has not been confirmed.

The reports from raids in Queens say hundreds were picked up. And it is not clear if any out of status Guyanese immigrants were picked up and in custody and the nature of their violations. Trinis and Jamaicans were arrested. Rumours of the raids swept through the tight Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Trini communities of Queens where tens of thousands of Indian Guyanese and Trinis are settled. Queens is home to tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, including thousands of Indo-Caribbeans. These immigrants contribute billions of US dollars in productivity; they engage in low level and low paying jobs (like picking fruits and vegetables, staffing restaurants, stacking shelves of groceries or vegetable stands, and factory work) that “regular or native” Americans refuse. The illegals live among their ethnic communities to blend in and avoid attention. Because of their physical appearance and generally thought to be non-Americans, minority communities like Indians, Hispanics and Arabs are targeted for ICE raids.  As community leaders and immigration advocates note, Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians are easily distinguishable from other groups and are often mistaken for Middle Eastern Arabs or Hispanics; their communities are targeted for ICE raids to check on immigration status.

ICE agents have been raiding immigrant communities all across the US since Donald Trump was sworn in as President a month ago. The new President issued an executive order for the arrest and deportation of illegal (undocumented) immigrants. In addition, the President issued a travel ban on immigrants (including those with green cards and visas) from seven Islamic countries. Already the Caribbean immigrant community is on edge in the wake of Trump’s travel ban. The raids, travel ban, detention, and denial of boarding of aircrafts bound for the US have left Guyanese and other immigrant communities worried and confused about Trump’s immigration policy. Elected officials and community leaders say the raids in New York, and particularly so in Richmond Hill, have created tremendous amount of fear among immigrants regardless of status. Officials note that immigrants who committed minor offences including evading transportation fears run the risk of being arrested and their record made available to ICE for pick up and deportation. However, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said the city will not turn over illegal immigrants to ICE and that anyone arrested or in public schools will not be asked about their status. Community leaders from Richmond Hill were interviewed on NY TV 1 about recent raids. The raids in various parts of Queens were condemned by all community leaders, immigration lawyers and politicians.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram


High drama in city streets as officials continue clamping vehicles

…despite court order placing a hold on paid parking


A vehicle clamped on Tuesday despite the court order

A vehicle clamped on Tuesday despite the court order

Officials from the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and Smart City Solutions (SCS) strutted through the capital city on Tuesday, booting vehicles despite a court order which placed a hold on the paid parking project.

However, this is not the first time the M&CC has flouted a court order; back in May 2006, Town Clerk Royston King spearheaded the destruction the famous ‘Dread Shop’, located at Russell Square in Stabroek, Georgetown – a business which has been in existence for some 48 years, despite an injunction in the courts.

It was high drama on Water Street on Tuesday when SCS officials attempted to clamp the vehicles of persons who parked in the area without paying.

But in some cases, the citizens put up a fight and resisted the clamping of their vehicles.

In one instance, a female driver argued with the SCS official and refused to allow him to clamp her car, which resulted in a heated exchange of words.

The High Court on February 16 granted an order which legal luminaries interpreted to mean that the paid parking project is suspended until the legal proceedings are resolved.

The writ had stated, among other things, that, “an order nisi of certiorari be and is hereby granted to quash the decision of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown to enter into an agreement on or around 13 May, 2016”.

The respondents also have to show cause against all the orders made by the Chief Justice to quash their decision to enter into the contract, which has already caused weekly mass protests in front of City Hall.

Their day in court is set for February 27, before Justice Brassington Reynolds. Should they fail to comply, the document noted, they will be held in contempt of court.

However, Mayor Patricia Chase Green and the Town Clerk had already signalled their intention to breach the court order.During a pre-recorded press conference at the National Communications Network (NCN), the Mayor announced that the parking meter project would continue as normal. Their intentions have been heavily criticised by lawyers from the lobby group Movement Against Parking Meters as well as former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.

Nandlall had argued that if the city were to continue implementing the project or force anyone to pay for parking before the hearing, this would be tantamount to violating a court order.

He explained that when that “order nisi” is issued, it puts the particular decision, which it imputes, upon hold until the respondents show or does not show cause. If the other side succeeds in showing cause why the order should not be made absolute, then the order nisi is discharged.

However, he noted that if the respondents do fail to show cause, then the order nisi is upheld and made absolute, thus quashing the decision.

“What that means, therefore, is that until the case is concluded, the decision (in this case) the parking meter contract and its implementation has been put on hold by the order nisi.”

Impact on business

Meanwhile, the calls for the termination of the Parking Meter Project continue to escalate and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is the latest entity to reiterate those demands.

In a statement on Tuesday, the GCCI said it is irresponsible for the M&CC to continue with the metered system due to a lack of transparency during the implementation process, a lack of adherence to public procurement procedures, and the absence of feasibility studies and citizen consultations.

“The M&CC should remember that one of the most important qualities that citizens seek in elected officials is transparency and any attempts to bulldoze the populace with opaque contracts will not garner support, especially not from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce,” the body noted.

The Chamber said it received numerous complaints from its membership regarding the metered system and its negative effect on customer traffic and sales.

“We are concerned that conditions will worsen if the metered system remains in operation,” GCCI said.

Nonetheless, the Chamber said it supports the efforts to engage in public-private partnerships for the purpose of raising revenue for the city, but emphasised that it does not support the flawed and in some cases, potentially illegal methods that the M&CC has employed in doing so.

But time and again, the M&CC gang assured that the project is above board and that there is nothing secretive or illegal about the deal.

Following a few days of protest against the Parking Meter Project and protracted intervention from the central government, the authorities at City Hall decided to review the rate structure.

A new rate structure was announced but citizens continue to reject the initiative.

Stakeholders are arguing that the reduced fees do not address the problems of lack of inclusivity and the rampant corruption believed to be involved in the arrangement.


In support of a referendum on Constitutional changes

Dear Editor,

This has reference to a recent news item on the Privy Council Brexit ruling by the UK Supreme Court.  In the UK, there was a referendum. The UK Supreme Court ruled that Parliamentary approval is also required for Brexit.

The Guyana Court of Appeals (led by the Chancellor) is expected to hand down its ruling on the government’s appeal of the decision by the High Court (Judge Ian Chang, Ret’d) declaring presidential term limits unconstitutional.

The CJ ruled that changes to the constitution pertaining to rights must be done by referendum and not parliament alone; peoples rights are supreme. I am in favour of term limits. But I also firmly support the idea that the peoples’ rights are stronger and they should give their assent to any constitution or amendments to it.

The Burnham constitution was not approved by the people in a free and fair referendum. Why not grant the people that vote in a referendum as happened in England with Brexit or in Scotland? The country needs constitutional reform. But it must be done legally through a referendum.

The Burnham constitution was the product of a rigged referendum. Judge Chang made a wise ruling mandating a referendum on constitutional changes although I would have preferred a referendum on the entire constitution. Chancellor Chang’s appeal court should empower the people by affirming that ruling.

Related to the Guyana case is the one recently engaged by the British Privy Council on the legality of the procedure “to Brexit”. There was a court challenge, filed ironically by a Guyanese Briton, on whether the UK can break from EU without parliamentary approval. The Highest Court ruled that parliament must give its assent also to what is known as the Brexit vote and cabinet approval.

Guyana’s system of governance is different from the UK. In UK, the parliament is sovereign and supreme over the people unlike in Guyana. In Guyana, parliament cannot act alone in restricting people’s rights or decide on how people will be governed. In the UK, the people choose representatives – under its first past the post representative democracy– to govern them and act for them in a parliament. Thus, the members of parliament in UK can speak on behalf of the people because each represents a constituency.

In Guyana, the parliament is not sovereign and is not a representative body with constituent representatives; we have a PR system in which the party represents the people. Thus, the Members of Parliament cannot speak on behalf of the population on an important matter like restricting voters’ choices in an election. This must be done by referendum. The fact that the constitution was imposed on the population without their assent, a referendum becomes all the more imperative and moral.

It is about time that the politicians give voters an opportunity to voice their view on the Burnham constitution. The politicians say they are in favour of term limits and people empowerment. Instead of a court challenge to the Chief Judge’s ruling endorsing a referendum, why not put the Burnham constitution and all its amendments to a vote? Better yet, why not ask the people to choose between the amended Burnham constitution and the independence constitution of 1966? Why are politicians afraid of the voices of the people?

Yours faithfully

Vishnu Bisram


How can the Govt apply VAT on private education in Guyana?

Dear Editor,

The importance of education cannot be stressed enough. We know that education is the key to the future, the key to success and the key to this country’s growth. I can’t understand therefore how it is even possible to consider taxing such a crucial service, or indeed a service like private health care for that matter. Unfortunately the damage has already been done and I am concerned for my future and those of my colleagues who are in the private education system.

A merit good is one which has positive side effects when consumed and education is surely the epitome of such a good, indeed, it is the key. Those agencies that have this vision at heart and who provide supplementary opportunities for education should not have to bear the burden of this VAT. They need to be encouraged to continue and to expand their vision for it will only benefit the entire country when even more capable minds are sent into society.

Furthermore, the incidence of this tax on private education will be passed on to the consumers who are already making sacrifices to send their children to these private schools. I am fully aware that there is public education available but, without a doubt, it has many challenges.

Tens of Thousands of public education consumers are clearly not satisfied with public education alone since the majority of them send their children to private lessons. I understand that there are very fortunate people who send their children to private schools and can easily afford it but there are as many others who are humble and have hard-working parents, that I can tell you from first-hand experience, sacrifice a lot to give their child the best opportunities. This tax imposition does not cater for these people.

Economic theory states that if the price of a substitute goes up (private education fees rise due to taxation) the demand for the other good increases (more people demanding public education). There will be an increase in demand for public education which may well outstrip the capacity of the already overburdened education sector, thereby causing poorer quality of education to all of our citizens. How will the Government be ready to deal with this? Private education provides quality, supplemental services which include quality computer laboratories, air conditioned class rooms, ample playground and yard space and, most importantly,  excellent teaching. There are few public schools that meet some of these standards and, it can be argued, that the majority lack most of these traits of quality education.

Public education only offers Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) examinations. Some private schools give the important opportunity to write exams like GCE, ABE and SATs. These are all far more internationally preferred and recognised examinations that give students a better opportunity to compete on the international stage. Once this new VAT tax is applied, those middle class families that want their children to write these exclusive examinations will be confined to CXC/CAPE examinations.

I can only hope that my opinion is heard and valued by someone who has the power and vision to see beyond, short-term, Government revenue, and who understands and appreciates the crucial contribution that quality education can play in building a better Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Othniel Lewis

Nations 6th Form College


The APNU/AFC regime is driving Guyana along the same destructive road the PNC took

Dear Editor,

It appears that the Granger regime is determined to show that Burnham’s policies were correct and they could work in our country. From the inception of this Government, it picked up from where the People’s National Congress (PNC) left off and has been hastily implementing many measures that are a throwback to the worst days of the PNC regime.

Last week, the Government finally admitted that there is a significant shortage of foreign currency in the market. That, of course, has been known for a while and was repeatedly stated by the commercial banks and business people much earlier.

This was not a surprise. What was surprising, however, was the announced measures to deal with the situation. The regime said it would put in place arrangements to regulate and control the foreign currency supply. Later, the Bank of Guyana directed the banks and cambios of the rates they must buy and sell for.

This immediately raised red flags of a time past when this was done and the consequences of such actions, which were very destructive. There was a time when persons travelling aboard had to seek permission from the Bank of Guyana to take foreign currency out of the country. A person was limited to US$15. That was then stamped at the back of one’s passport.

The control of foreign currency led to the creation of a parallel economy. America Street became the place where a lot of buying and selling of foreign currency took place. The business was so ‘bright’ there that the street was renamed “Wall Street” by the public.

Of course, we have had many unpleasant incidents there. Police often raided the place to seize foreign currency. Vendors, and even stores were raided; clothing and other items were seized, because even if persons produced receipts for their purchase, they could not say where they got the foreign currency to make their purchases. They, therefore, suffered many heavy losses.

Most of those items seized were sold at Guyana Stores, which was then Government-owned.

The foreign currency seized went to the coffers of the regime.

Many business persons were charged and hauled before the courts. Many small vendors were jailed for having banned goods, for example, wheat flour, split peas, potatoes, etc. Some were jailed for selling goods above the officially controlled price, sometimes, only by a small amount.

Even some lawyers who tried to send money out of the country to pay for their children’s education were hauled before the courts. In these conditions, bribery and corruption became rampant.

Those persons old enough would also recall the long lines for very basic food and household items. One had to have had ‘contacts’ to get toilet paper among other essential items.

Production suffered greatly, too, as replacement parts for machinery and equipment were hard to come by.

In these difficult times, people suffered greatly, not only from the shortages and the high prices, but from the loss of dignity. People were made into criminals if they had bread and roti in their possession.

Extreme malnutrition resulted, as Guyana was visited by illnesses such as ‘beriberi’. This, of course, came about due to lack of nourishment.

Now, this regime, in its quest to prove Burnham right, is driving us along the same destructive road the PNC took.

Recall President Granger’s recent statement on the programme ‘Public Interest’. Responding to his Government’s poor record on job creation, he urged that people make pepper-sauce and cassava chips and sell!

This is the job creation policy of the regime? The results would not be different. Indeed, it cannot be different.

The Private Sector has already stated its opposition to this measure of Government controlling the flow of foreign currency. Other democratic forces in the society must also make their voices heard.

The PNC-led A Partnership for National Unity regime has clearly not learnt anything from their past mistakes. We must stop this decline now.


Donald Ramotar


Constitutional reform in Guyana should be taken seriously

Dear Editor,

In welcoming the recent interest of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in constitutional reform, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) hopes that it will serve to revitalise domestic interest on the issue. As a civic organisation that emerged in response to the infamous Referendum of 1978, which sought to legitimise the current Constitution and, as an active participant in multiple subsequent coalitions and initiatives to redress its baleful effects, the GHRA has been disturbed by the seemingly ambivalent commitment of the APNU/AFC coalition Government to constitutional reform.

The overriding challenge to a successful constitutional reform process historically, has been the lack of political will on the part of the leadership of all major parties, rather than any substantive constitutional issue.

Despite a relationship characterised for decades by disagreements of every description, one area of enduring common ground between the two major parties has been their resistance to reforms which would democratise political power. In the context of this historical resistance, the want of purpose and lack of enthusiasm demonstrated in the APNU/AFC coalition’s statements on constitutional reform are discouraging.

Had reform of the Constitution not been stipulated in the Herdmanston Accord in 1998 it would not have taken place. The timid reform process of 1997 had settled the matter as far as the major parties were concerned. Even with this international mandate, however, the reform process of 1999-2000 was frustrated by the major parties. A good public consultation process with strong civic involvement was subsequently decimated by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee, followed by unanimous approval of political parties too anxious to get to the next elections to even read the Bills properly. The Reynolds reforms to the electoral system were kicked into the long grass and a sensible approach to Human Rights side-lined in favour of the bizarre concoction of ‘Rights Commissions’ the country is now saddled with.

An important lesson for any future process of constitutional reform is to ensure that extra-Parliamentary influences – civic, business and faith-based – be sustained throughout the process. This recommendation is not unmindful of the need for Parliamentary approval as the final stage of the process, but is calling for imaginative ways of ring-fencing the process against any cynical party political manoeuvring.

Constitution-making in Guyana must address three issues: Nation-building, State-building, and Integrity-building.

Nation-building encompasses, firstly, the rights of citizens and the values by which we want the State to be governed. The second part of Nation-building seeks to make socio-economic rights justiciable. Without this essential feature, the concept of all citizens having equal rights will always be frustrated by the limitations posed by majoritarian politics in ethnically diverse societies. Justifiability, socio-economic rights are preferable as a response to ethnic diversity, than prioritising communal units above individual citizenship.

Rather than politicising ethnicity, the GHRA recommends an intensively participatory approach that works towards acknowledging differences but accommodates them within an over-arching framework of being Guyanese. The constitutional reform process must start from the premise that, while respecting culture and language differences, we are all Guyanese who come to public affairs primarily as Guyanese citizens.

State-building needs to address institutional mechanisms by which the values established under Nation-building are to be delivered. Each institution – Parliament, the Judiciary and the Presidency – must be constantly reminded of their responsibilities to citizens.

Promoting Integrity and accountability of all those elected to public office is vital. In the past we have never paid sufficient attention to the destructive potential of corruption and have paid a price in terms of the low esteem in which politics and politicians are held. Integrity must be emphasised to counter the ever present lure of corruption. For this reason, a strong code against corruption is a constitutional priority. For too long politicians have been motivated by greed, rather than service and this has to be eradicated.

The GHRA is requesting the APNU/AFC coalition to clear the air on what it hopes to achieve from the current constitutional reform initiative. For our part, the GHRA strongly supports a broad-based, adequately-resourced consultative process under the management of a multi-stakeholder committee with a time-table that envisages implementation of major reforms.


Executive Committee

Guyana HumanRights Association

Youths who voted for APNU/AFC were hoping for a change

Dear Editor,
I am responding to a letter in another publication captioned ‘Give the coalition Government a chance to perform’. The writer tried to convince me to do as was stated in the caption, but it seemed that even the writer was afraid to pronounce it. The main idea was a quote from someone on CN Sharma’s Voice of the People!
I hate it when fellow supporters of the Coalition try to justify what is happening or reassure ourselves that the ‘change’ is yet to come. I remember the President and the Prime Minister asking us to be patient, when at the end of the first 100 days many of what was promised in the manifesto for the first 100 days were not achieved.
May 2015 was the first time I had voted in my life, not that I was not eligible in the previous election, but I could not find a party that truly looked like it cared for the people. In the election fever, I made a decision which I thought was the right one, helping to put this Government into Office.
We voted change for a reason, why must the author write about Lacunar Amnesia? Is that his/her excuse for the Government’s mess ups so far? If it is, then for myself and many more (who do not have a party membership status), voting for the Coalition was a great deception! Forget about the dark days! Let us talk about this ‘change’! Are we saying that the 50 per cent increase Ministers are enjoying, the multimillion-dollar Jubilee Park (which has only hosted one activity per year so far), and the drug bond scandal are acceptable? Was the real change the reduction in VAT? Well if so, then here’s some news. All the taxes we are now paying after Budget 2017 make that reduction look like something in the distant past. Why do we have to pay VAT on water and light? On medication?On communication data? Everywhere I turn, I pay VAT.
So tell me now, what about this parking meter fiasco? Was this another of the ‘change’ the Government had in mind? And don’t tell me that it is the M&CC’s business and not the Government’s. Who has to make it legal? Why can’t the Government that I helped to put into Office listen to the plea of the citizens and do something? It can’t be that the President or the Prime Minister, or any of the many Vice Presidents are afraid of Chase-Green and King! Why must billions of hard-earned Guyanese dollars go into the pockets of some Mexican millionaires?
Let me remind the author that it was undoubtedly the youths of this country that had put the Government in Office. Many of us only knew of the rule of the PPP, and all of us wanted out. We are not suffering from Lacunar Amnesia, we are looking for the change! What a foolish thing to say! To compound matters even more, the writer quoted from the Bible! Are you telling me that you are comparing the Government to God and us, the people, to Israel? I am sure you have offended God because he will never ignore, persecute and rob his people the way the Government is doing. That fever I had during the election is beginning to burn again.
Wilbert Moore

Churches should provide strong leadership on parking meter issue

I am a frequent viewer of Catholic Media Guyana’s Facebook page because of the many informative posts of activities around the Diocese and bits of knowledge shared on the Catholic faith.
However, I was enraged when I saw that the foundation was laid for a parking meter to be installed directly in front of the Cathedral. My feelings about the parking meter are far beyond the obvious fact that our City is allowing itself to be ripped-off by a foreign company.

parking meter 2
More so, the deal was struck without adequate consultation with those who would have to bear the cost of such a burdensome means of revenue for the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of Georgetown. The issue here is way more profound than these obvious problems that are not even being addressed.
In a very beautiful way, the preamble of our nation’s Constitution states, “We, the Guyanese people, proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forbearers, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation, proclaim this Constitution in order to: Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making, in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community, based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights and the rules of law.”
It is clear from this excerpt that the parking meter issue is not in keeping with what our Constitution outlines. There was no concerted effort and broad-based participation in the decision-making process and, in fact, the whole parking meter issue is a total disregard for democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
My understanding of Catholic social teaching is that at the heart of this teaching is the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. This is where the church must, through words, prayer and deeds, show compassion for and be in solidarity with such persons. Catholics are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.
Where policies from institutions like the M&CC putting mechanisms in place that hinder people from freely practicing their faith, could this not be considered an attack on religious freedom? On special feast days, like Ash Wednesday, First Friday, and even at funerals where the parking facilities in the Cathedral compound are inadequate, do we now have to pay the local government G$200 or more to celebrate our sacraments and other liturgical celebrations? Is there not a case here for us to consider this an attack on religious freedom?
A mechanism such as the high-priced parking meter system, which is being introduced, is a means of social exclusion and is insensitive, and may even be unethical.
Jesus himself in the gospel expelled those who turned the temple into a means of exploiting people, especially the poor.
Additionally, our country’s Constitution states that Guyana is a sovereign state in transition from capitalism to socialism; however, it seems as though this State of ours, now more than ever, is on a trajectory to capitalism only.
It would appear that the Guyanese people’s role is to serve the system, when it is the system that should be serving the people.
It is when issues like these raise their head that the church should speak, especially through it leaders. I am of the firm belief that people are very willing to support any system once they can recognise and feel the benefits of that system in their lives.
I urge the church and its leaders, as well as the Justice and Peace Commission of the church to not pass on this opportunity to provide strong leadership in an issue such as this and to be in solidarity with all Guyanese.

Gibion Moonsammy

Bullyism and regulations to control are not the answer

Dear Editor,
It would be negligent of me to let another example of poor public policy under the Granger administration pass by without offering my remarks. The Guyana Chronicle, on February 2, 2017, reported that Finance Minister Winston Jordan informed the Cabinet about the “disequilibrium (imbalance) in the foreign exchange market” and offered as a policy response, more regulations and guidelines to ensure that “exporters repatriate their export earnings to the banking system”.
Knowing that such badly designed exchange control policy in the past was one of the main reasons that contributed to Guyana’s state of un-credit worthiness in the international community under the Burnham regime, one wonders, why are we back here?
Minister Jordan claimed he was cutting teeth in the Finance Ministry in those dark days of the early 1980’s and thus he, more than any, ought to have been aware of the foolhardiness of that strategy then and now. If this is his policy response, I am shocked because he clearly wasted his years in the Finance Ministry. His action today in the face of widespread rejection of these measures from the business community will only guarantee a path to certain economic meltdown over the next two to three years, which will then lead to social and economic implosion that even the promised oil money in 2022 cannot help. Has he learnt nothing from Desmond Hoyte, the intellectual architect who turned around Guyana’s economy?
The Private Sector issued a firm statement which “strongly condemns this move by the Government”. In the words of the PSC, this move by the Granger administration “would have the certain effect of accelerating the capital flight which has already begun with the erosion of confidence in the economy.”
There are two phrases in that PSC statement that send shivers down my spine – acceleration of capital flight and erosion of confidence.
Knowing the information put out by the private sector is one grounded in economic truth and it corroborates what I have already put out in my Straight Up Column of Friday, February 3, 2017, in the Guyana Times on the state of the investment portfolio, I am now calling on President Granger, as Head of State, to seek alternative advice on this issue. This recommended policy action exposes a situation where there is a heavy dose of policy paralysis in the Office of the Finance Ministry. I am absolutely sure even the President’s son-in-law, a longstanding businessman, Minister Dominic Gaskin has a better grasp of this situation.
What is required is policy actions to drive the economic reforms needed to bring back confidence in the economy and stem the capital flight that is now well advanced. Bullyism and regulations to control are not the answer; understanding the real problem is the first step.
Hard-nosed non-political answers to these questions will go a far way in helping the President. Why has the private sector lost confidence in the Granger administration? Why is there a shortage of foreign currency today, compared to May 2015 when there was not? How to rebuild the private sector’s confidence in the economy? There is so much more to share, but out of respect for the newspapers and their space constraint, I have to hold fire on this matter. The ball now is President Granger’s court.
Sase Singh