February 24, 2017

Killing the goose…

…in Georgetown

While the sentiment, “death and taxes are certain” has been expressed for quite a while, it seems the powers-that-be in Guyana are hell-bent on amending it to “death THROUGH taxes” as the lot of Guyanese. Hot on the heels of the US$2.50/hour parking fees imposed (in Queens and Brooklyn our relatives earning TEN times our salaries pay US.75 CENTS/hour!) comes news that City Hall has hiked property rates by 10 per cent. Oi vey!!
But that’s not all. This is only at the City Level. Don’t forget your friendly Central Government has insisted on extending VAT to electricity and water – and a host of essentials through the subterfuge juggling “zero-rated” and “exempt”! For those city slickers who enjoy their AC’s to escape the muggy heat of their concrete jungle and watering their lawns to enjoy their ambiance, they’ll discover their dollar needs to be stretched way beyond what even their ‘plastic’ will allow.
But it’s not only the residents of Georgetown who’re facing the Grim Reaper: for business owners, their prognosis is even grimmer! While the average homeowner hasn’t really been hit by the parking meters – but the expansion to their environs has been promised! – the businessmen in the City’s commercial downtown area have had their trade cut in half by the falloff in the traffic, occasioned by the bandits cleverly camouflaged as “parking meters”. The pickpocket trade has also taken a hit – but they’ve resorted to jumping on their CG motor bikes to seek other marks. Have you seen the uptick in that activity?
Now your Eyewitness understands governments – local and national – need revenues. But the collection of those revenues isn’t an end in itself, nor are they supposed to end up in the pockets of government officials. They’re supposed to be spent to provide services for the good citizens. When, like in the Scandinavian countries, those services are fully provided and folks can live in dignity, they don’t mind parting with huge chunks of their income.
But when, as in Guyana, one still can’t get electricity without daily blackouts, or garbage that’s collected on someone’s whim (the ‘whim” being when the City decides to pay the garbage men!) these taxes aren’t only onerous, but odious. And folks will do what any reasonable animal above the phylum invertebrata will do – avoid the taxes by all means necessary.
But in the meantime, that game of avoiding the taxman just adds to the stress of living in Guyana – and one ends up with high blood pressure, road rage, domestic violence, kicking the dog, eating too much junk food.
And dying to avoid taxes!
…on capital?
Some predictions can become self-fulfilling – especially when the persons making the predictions have skin in the game. For weeks, businessmen have been complaining of a foreign currency shortage – read US greenbacks. After stoutly denying this, the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Guyana have been forced to explain why the exchange rate shot up from $205 to $216 GY to $1 US in the last week! The reason proffered is one “non-Guyanese” cambio sent out US$100 million to its mother country and other Guyanese might be hoarding greenbacks or shipping it offshore!
Now, by refusing to name the recalcitrant cambio, are the Government officials in damage control mode suggesting – like that fella from Harry Potter – if the name’s said aloud, evil will descend upon our heads and the land? And that the cambio and all those parking their US funds offshore, are by definition also “evil”?
That’s sad. Cause, in a financial system that’s been completely liberalised, “capital flight” is par for the course… When the financial sector feels the economy’s tanking!
Government… heal thyself!!
…and humanity
Your Eyewitness thought our humanity was proven by our willingness to “be our brothers’ keeper”. No more. Today, having to sign in to a paid site, he was asked to “prove his humanity” by solving 1+9=?.
Numeracy makes us human?

Plantain chips…

…or plantain chips
A couple of decades ago, Thomas Friedman, author and NY Times columnist, observed in his book “The Lexus and the Olive tree”, that even though trade was driving globalisation, the winners of the sweepstakes were shipping ever decreasing tonnage of exports! He explained the conundrum by pointing out that even though, say, less steel or grain may’ve been shipped by them, their almost weightless exports, like computer chips, far exceeded the value of the old exports!
Someone in Guyana from that era must’ve heard this nugget of wisdom. But they either weren’t really paying attention or age had dulled their memory. Friedman was talking about COMPUTER CHIPS, not PLANTAIN CHIPS – which has just been suggested as the product that can solve Guyana’s economic woes!
Plantain Chips are lighter than sugar or bauxite or timber, your Eyewitness will concede, but it misses the point, doesn’t it? The weight of a country’s exports was the third in what Friedman called “The nine habits of effective countries” and he explained it thusly: How much does your country or company weigh? – “We are moving from a world where the heavy eat the light, to a world where the light eat the heavy. Today, a country that exports primarily raw materials – commodities, iron ore, crude oil – is going to weigh a lot. A country that specialises in information technologies and services is going to weigh a lot less and is probably providing a higher standard of living for more of its people.”
In Guyana, there’s been a lot of talk about getting into “IT and ICT” and “Knowledge industries”, and such like – but to talk about exporting “plantain chips” at the highest level in 2017 has shown that there’s a radical disjunctive between the “talk” and the “walk”. This was brought home very graphically to your Eyewitness when he listened to the Mayor berating the parking meters protestors. And studiously avoiding the real problem – the total lack of transparency on the contract.
Maybe your Eyewitness can do worse that repeat Friedman’s homily on being an “effective country” – (number five): Does Your Country or Company Dare to Be Open on the Inside? – The more transparent you are inside, the more your government is grounded in the rule of law, the more you are willing to share how and where decisions are made, the less likely it is that corruption will remain hidden, and the more likely others will be willing to stick with you.
“In the coming years, we will no longer refer to developed and underdeveloped countries, or emerging markets and non-emerging markets. Instead we will refer to “transparent countries” and “non-transparent” countries.”
No wonder we’re now pushing plantain chips!
…or bargaining chips?
While most of Guyana has been obsessing with Trump and his Executive Orders on immigration, a local economist from UG highlighted a Congressional action that might be even more significant for Guyana. This is the scuttling of the Federal requirement that US Oil Companies reveal all payments made to foreign governments to exploit their petroleum and gas reserves.
The law was supposed to suss out payments by US companies made under the table to corrupt governments, which invariably end up secreted in private offshore accounts – leaving the citizens of the oil-depleted country literally holding the bag. In a country like Guyana, where corrupt acts of omission and commission are daily occurrences, most Guyanese have little hope this Government will crack down on corruption when they’re unwilling to even enact a “Code of Conduct” for their Ministers!
This Eyewitness is disappointed the US will now hold its oil companies to a lower standard, than, say Canada or the EU.
…or platitudes
Ramjattan, to whom Justice Kennard was responsible, claims the latter’s dismissal wasn’t “racial”. So, will he demand equal treatment at Cabinet on Dr Clive Thomas, who holds two portfolios ten times more onerous than Kennard’s PCA? And is just as old.
Equal treatment vitiates claims of bias, no?

Strategic move…

…against Jagdeo

The PNC-led coalition Government didn’t need the PPP to hold a Congress, or elections for the Central Committee, or for the General Secretary of the party that Bharat Jagdeo would emerge as the leader of the PPP by being the Opposition Leader and its General Secretary. The moment they filed their appeal in July 2015 to the “third term” ruling of Justice Ian Chang, the cat was out of the bag. They were running scared Jagdeo would run again!

But they didn’t need political geniuses to figure that out. Why would the PPP overlook a man who already had 12 years under his belt as President of the country; is a trained economist who was able to generate impressive growth rates when the rest of Caricom languished in the doldrums, and most importantly was able to take on and defeat an armed insurrection against the State – and was still only 52 years old?? They’d had to have a death wish!!

So now the PPP’s officially conferred on Jagdeo the authority to lead it into the 21st Century, we return to the PNC’s fears! Simultaneously, (coincidentally?) we get news that the appeal filed by now AG Williams and Trotman is going to be heard by the Court of Appeal starting this Friday. And as the plot thickens, we discern the hand of the PNC rising out of the fog.

The Court of Appeal, after all, is comprised of the Chancellor, the Chief Justice and one or more other Appellate judges. Now, do you still think your Eyewitness was paranoid when last week he questioned the two-step tango played by a letter writer Edwards and the Chronic? First, Edwards informed the nation that the Chancellor reaches retirement age at the end of February and since he has three weeks leave outstanding, he should proceed on “pre-retirement leave” at the end of this month!!

That’s right! And if you think this revelation came “out of the blue” then it REALLY was Santa who was kissing Mommy under the Christmas tree!! Then Edwards, made his main point – “…no Judge soon to vacate his office ought to commence hearing a new or fresh case, for in all probability it would be a part-heard case when he/she vacates office.” The Chronic then piggybacked on this to posit that “concerns” were raised about the Chancellor’s “impending” retirement and he shouldn’t take “new cases”!!

All of this simply means the PNC wants to ensure the Appellate Court rules against a “third term” – and don’t trust the incumbent Chancellor to go along.

But what does this say about their assessment of the new Chief Justice, who was just given silk?

…on silk

The PNC’s ploy on the Chief Justice – for which they had to take a lot of flak from the legal community on awarding silk to a sitting judge – might now be understood, but it evokes some sad memories from the first PNC regime. The present generation mightn’t remember when the PNC moved a case against a PPP activist from Berbice for a crime allegedly committed in Berbice to Georgetown to be tried by “a jury of his peers”!! It was one of Rodney’s finest moment when he asked what this implied about the PNC’s assessment of “African Guyanese”.

But the silk award raised several other nettlesome issues. One lawyer trotted out his credentials in the press and brought to the fore the question of what criteria was used to make the selection. Another suggested that the title of “Senior Counsel” might now be passé in our Republic – in setting up invidious distinctions.

But your Eyewitness is worried that addressing all and sundry as “Comrade” might be the next step!

…on vendors?

Since the vendors were allowed to return to the Stabroek Market environs, was the expulsion more tactical than strategic?

And what about all those pious platitudes uttered at the time of expulsion by the Town Clerk about “restoring Georgetown’s beauty”?

 

One people…

…with Diaspora?

One of the most significant outcomes of the first PNC regime was to inflate our Diaspora, where North America became “Region 11” with probably as many persons of Guyanese living there as “back home”. Seeing the important roles other diasporas played in the development of their countries of origin, successive regimes have attempted to duplicate that success here. Without much success.

What gives? With the change of Government in 1992, a horde of ex-pats turned up to “help”. However, unlike other diasporas, they didn’t return with capital that’d be harnessed to their newfound knowledge base to launch industries. Yet this is the role the PPP Government wanted them to play. The diasporans insisted wanted to “help” with their skills in various capacities in local institutions. In other words they wanted jobs – but wouldn’t say so. This created considerable resentment – and a backlash among locals who wanted to know why jobs would go to those who’d “fled”.

This background is invoked as the PNC-led Government that in turn replaced the PPP is evidently working out the details of a “diaspora policy”. But from what your Eyewitness has glimpsed, the fundamental clash of perspectives that bedevilled the previous Administration is still a sticking point. There’s no question this new Government received great support – material and otherwise – from the Diaspora in their efforts to unseat the PPP. And (reading between the lines) from some letters in the press, they expected local jobs. Even government jobs. Not totally some locals who’d made “political investments”!!

But from Prezzie’s comments, he – like Dr Jagan back in the 1990’s – expected investments from them – which isn’t evidently as significantly as he’d envisaged. What to do? Well in its “diaspora policy” the government will still be focusing on getting the Diaspora to shell out their cash to develop Guyana – pointing out, of course, they’d also benefit. Information will be made accessible via the Internet to prospective overseas Guyanese investors, then “entrepreneurs” will be identified to activate a pilot project etc…

Now while the jury may be out as to whether the Government beating the bushes for diasporan investors will succeed, it is certain to intensify the angst of the vociferous “diasporans” who’ll complain of being seen as just “cash cows”. While they may not be so bold (or honest) to link their demands for local jobs as a “return on political investments” as one Minister described a local instance, this is the bottom line.

But since the diasporans insist on taking the “patriotic line”, maybe Prezzie can take a leaf from Cheddi Jagan’s book and offer them $1 annual salaries!

This ought to separate the wheat from the chaff, nuh?

…on taxes

Very quietly, the value of gold mined and not declared to the authorities in Colombia and Peru has surpassed cocaine! Gold’s now the criminal activity of choice in those countries. While early in the day, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman made some astounding claims as to the value of gold “smuggled” out of Guyana – as much as what’s legally “declared” – he quickly backed off.

But while he focused on the smuggling of the gold, the Latin Americans have made the point if the miners who sell their production to the smugglers don’t declare it to the officials (here the Gold Board) then they’re also committing a crime!! And what was found was this criminal miner had no compunction about mercury pollution.

Now, our miners just raised a big stink because they were asked to “keep books” on their operations. For taxation purposes.

But how about the Government “keep their eyes” on miners who don’t declare their gold? Wouldn’t that bring in more revenues?

…but Special Prosecutors

It does pay to be under the thumb of the government’s Propaganda shill. The Stabber declared the names of the Special Prosecutors (for the coming Inquisition?) on the Pradoville 2 vendetta was a “secret”.

The Chronic, on the other hand, named all six!

 

Crying wolf…

…on Russia?

After Donald Trump was briefed by his intelligence agencies about their claims that the Russians had influenced the US elections through hacking and other nefarious methods, the President-elect was underwhelmed. As you’d be too if you were to read the report that was made available to the public and is circulating on the web. It reminded many US commentators, they confessed ruefully, about the same agencies providing “intel” to justify President Bush’s claim there were “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq – and that the country should be invaded as General Colin Powell argued to the world.

But Trump then, perhaps like the kid who pointed out the Emperor had no clothes, asked a very interesting question – as usual on Twitter! – “Why is having a good relationship with Russia a bad thing? Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.” Now mull over that a while, will you Dear Reader? “Why is having a good relationship a bad thing?”

Well, the US intelligence agencies, for one, may say, they have intelligence the dastardly Russians are up to no good as far as the US is concerned and you can’t trust them. But if the US intelligence community’s reports are any guide of the kind of proof they collect, Trump is bang on to refuse retaliatory strikes. They’re in the same category as the “forensic audits” conducted in Guyana that are yet to lead to a single indictment, much less any conviction!

Imagine a huge chunk of the report has to do with the broadcasts of the Russian Show “Russia Today”, which showed a huge preference for Trump, rather than Clinton being the next President! The question Trump must’ve answered was “How in the world can a show broadcast inside of Russia influence the US elections??”

In the end, the agencies said, “Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine. Putin publicly contrasted the President-elect’s approach to Russia with Secretary Clinton’s ‘aggressive rhetoric’.”

So, what’s wrong with this? But the question must be asked is why are these intelligence agencies making these claims? Some cynics insist that they are simply trying to justify their mega secret budgets. Is it because the Russians are the successors of the big, bad USSR? But the US relationship with China show that countries can change their stripes, doesn’t it?

This Eyewitness may have some deep issues with Trump’s stance on race, but to tell the truth, he gets full marks for pushing peace with Russia.

…on GECOM nominees

Yesterday, your Eyewitness expanded on one gambit the PNC’s making to ensure BharratJagdeo doesn’t get back into the Office of the Presidency. That ploy had to do with loading the judicial dice to prevent him from running for a third term. Your Eyewitness predicted the effort would be a sustained one – but even his jaded mind didn’t figure the next move would come so fast. Prezzie rejected ALL SIX nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for him to pick the next Chairman of GECOM. Imagine that! Your Eyewitness kinda figured Prezzie was headed in that direction when he requested “résumés” – an unprecedented request! But he went out on a limb when he offered his rationale: “none of the candidates was a former judge or someone eligible to be appointed as a judge.”

Now this is but one criteria for making the choice; the other being they just should be “fit and proper”.

Shouldn’t Prezzie also say why the six were “unfit and improper???

…on underground economy

For the longest while Clive Thomas has been preaching about an “underground economy” here. But it’s only yesterday he decided to take an inventory of “tall buildings” as proof. So he was guessing up to now?

 

Lessons in authoritarianism…

…to UG students
Modern youths can’t live without their smartphones that connects them to their world. And your Eyewitness uses the word “their” advisedly since they’re promised that they can choose who to tune in or tune out. Literally. Unfortunately for them, there are a few contacts they can’t tune out if they want to climb up the totem pole – one of them being the University, where they’re supposed to learn the skills that’ll make them manoeuver in the world of adults.
Well, this weekend they learnt a valuable lesson: in Guyana the rule of officialdom is “do what yuh want widdem!” “Dem” being students at this stage of their lives – but it’s a tag that they’ll wear for the rest of their lives. Unless, of course, they join officialdom and get a free pass as “one of the crew”. And what was the specific lesson in arbitrariness, you dear readers without college-enrolled kids, ask?
Well that even though students paid up their fees, collected their receipts… were assured they could now hit the books, they were informed via e-mail on their smartphones and other electronic devices that “Ooops! You have to pay another 5 per cent of the fees!!” Meaning for the regular, non-professional degree programmes means another $8000!
Your Eyewitness is very pleased that students – via the same devices that they can also send out and share their opinions faster than the old village gossip – are riled up and are threatening to storm the rickety gate at UG tomorrow morning. It’s not just the money – even though $8000 might be chicken feed to Ministers who pocketed a whopping 50 per cent salary increase – it certainly isn’t for most parents who’re studying with their subsistence wages. But more than that it is the principle of the increase and its method of informing students.
Two years ago, when the fee structure was raised, it was specifically spelt out for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 school years. This year it was supposed to be $160,000 (from the original $127,000) – plus a $50,000 “Facilities Fees” up from $10,000. And imagine the UG administration thought they were gracious to inform the students they wouldn’t be changing “late fees” on the $8000 increase – of which they were never informed!!
In typical authoritarian fashion which the students will have to live with daily as adults with the government they will vote for, the UG czars claim the increase was voted on 2 years ago, but not announced!! Really? What other tidbits are being held in abeyance?
Is this ambush one of the US ploys that’ll be used by the new Vice Chancellor in running UG??
So whatever happened to “informed consent”??
…to Govt’s overseas handmaidens
It was oh so poignant… this letter from Asquith Rose. For years and years he’d been writing missives (hurling “missiles”?) against the PPP from his New York habitat. More often than not he was do-authored by Sase Singh, an ex-PPP member. They railed against all the horrible things the PPP had done to Guyana and its treasury. A posse of scribblers formed around them.
They became poster boys for the AFC and with a marriage in the air by 2015, picked up pens on behalf of the APNU/AFC alliance. Oh they worked their fingers to the bone with their letters appearing almost daily in the local dailies – especially the Muckraker. They even hosted the soon Prezzie-and-PM to be. Raised funds and all that.
They did say they were doing it all for their country. But something funny happened on the way to the swearing-in of their former “boostees” – the latter forgot their boosters. The woebegone scriveners just dashed off “demands” to Prezzie.
Patriotism has a price?
…to corruption fighters
The Procurement Commission’s been thirteen years in the making. This government promised it in three months. 18 months later we’re told “no TOR”!!!
Fiddling while the country’s looted?

No shame..

…on warehouse graft

It’s clear there are elements in this government who have no shame. None! But then you’ll always find such miscreants in any random collection of folks. And when that collection isn’t random, but those who seek “government wuk”, the “shameless quotient” jumps by a factor of at least 10! Anyhow, that was the reaction of your usually stolid Eyewitness when he heard the Junior Minister of Health declaring the Bottom House Warehouse hasn’t been nixed – it’s actually been receiving government drugs!!
Shameless! At the final handing over by the US-built 26,000 sqft Government pharma bond at Diamond, the Junior Minister offered another “reason” for the rental of the Albuoystown bottom house- “… you know there are times where we have several containers, sometimes four (at one time) so it can be packed to capacity.”
Now let’s pick some sense from nonsense. From one side of her mouth the Minister accepts that the facility has more than enough capacity to store ALL the purchases of the government. Got that? ALL. So if it’s “packed to capacity” – which means MORE than the government could possibly store – why would FOUR more containers suddenly arrive with pharma?
Is the Ministry of Health in the habit of buying TWO years supply of drugs? No wonder we’ve got all these “expired drugs” dumped at Haags Bosch! And then… this Minister thinks the Albuoystown bottom house – with no loading docks and one gate – can handle FOUR containers of pharma? Madame Junior Minister – since you’re a medical doctor – your humble Eyewitness will put that claim in terms you may be familiar with. Unloading four containers simultaneously would be like using a turkey baster to deliver an injection into the human eye! Ouch!!
But let’s return to the main news – that Larry Singh will be getting away with the most barefaced scam since Ocean’s Eleven. Has the outrage meant nothing to President Granger? Your Eyewitness likes Prezzie and all that – but the buck stops with him. What more proof does he need? There were so many “smoking guns” – how did Larry know about the need for a warehouse, the prepaid rent/buying price; the lie about comparative pharma storage rentals etc, etc – it looked like the Fineman’s last shootout!
What this (sordid) episode does is to encourage all and sundry in the government – from the lowest clerk in the Public Service to the Police rank on the beat – to increase their runnings. What’s all this nonsense about “no corruption” they’ll ask. If three Cabinet Ministers can’t find wrongdoing in this scam… why worry?
If them “big ones” can do it…why can’t they?
…on juice for our children
The feeding programme in our schools is supposed to help those most needy: to give at least their kids the basic nutritional requirements for them not to be malnourished. By now, all of us should know about the effects of malnutrition – including underdevelopment of the brain. And of course this leads to intergenerational poverty and misery.
So when someone in the Ministry of Education’s Procurement department connived to pass off fruit juices from Suriname rather than our own higher quality locally produced “Topco” you’re talking about some real bottom feeders here. You can’t sink lower than a snake’s belly? Well whoever did this (dirty) deal just succeeded.
The latest revelations confirm this. When the story initially broke, the shill from the government (the DPI) immediately announced shrilly that tests by the Government Analysts showed the foreign drink had more “fruit juices” than the local one.
Not so!! Says the Analysts. They couldn’t do the testing and went by the labels supplied.
But were never given the local label!! Owmaan!
…on diaspora helpers
The letter from the APNU/AFC diaspora helpers still haunts your Eyewitness. It was such a cri de coeur. The deep wrenching sobs could still be heard.
Couldn’t the administration at least give them some certificates of appreciation?

Mout’ open…

…on Govt audits

It could be just a matter of serendipity…but more folks would probably say “there is a God!!” Your Eyewitness is referring, of course, to the Muckraker finally accepting (and publishing!!) that the audit from the number one crusader for “transparency” – Chris Ram – was fatally flawed. For what? Lack of transparency!!! And in the same edition the Muckraker carries the umpteenth plea from David Hinds of the WPA – the accusation that the Government is dragging its feet on taking action (read “jailing”) against all the malfeasors – all PPP, of course.

Well, now Hinds and all those wondering why there haven’t been more prosecutions for bilking (and “siphoning”) billions and billions of dollars from the national treasury – as most of the ones given the task of conducting the audits claimed – have been offered ONE reason. THE AUDITS WERE GAMED TO BEGIN WITH!!!! Take the revelation trumpeted by the Muckraker: Chris Ram was given the lucrative contract (part of the $153 million doled out!) to examine the books of the GNBA.

Ram, however, failed to reveal one crucial fact – that one of his clients was the Stabber News which was one of the major players in the direct broadcasting arena!! So – surprise! surprise! – Ram didn’t even mention SN in his “audit” and, therefore, most pertinently that the outfit avowed a whopping $25M!!! Now if a “big man” like Ram can play so fast and loose with his professional credentials and standards, imagine how low that nonentity vying for his 15 minutes in the limelight – Goolsarran— would sink!!

Maybe folks would now revisit Brassington’s exhaustive comments on Goolsarran’s “audit” of NICIL – none of which were incorporated in the “final” release. Not even in a footnote though Goolsarran requested and received the comments!! Any impartial reviewer would conclude after reading both documents that Goolsarran was conducting a hatchet job on Brassington. But why should anyone be surprised? Didn’t Goolsarran and Ram – not to mention the Muckraker – use Brassington as a punching bag for years?

The question that should now be asked, is why did the Government give these accountants contracts to audit firms and Government departments they’d been criticising for years? Isn’t such a selection process “outcome determinative”?? What did anyone expect these auditors to do? Reveal findings that showed they were full of it all along?

From the Chris Ram revelation, we can now understand the government’s coyness when it comes to charging anyone. Imagine the only persons before the court was because of a PPP official highlighting some discrepancies!

What we need is an audit of the audits!! But to prevent an infinite regression of audits, let’s bring in some foreigners.

…and paddy selling?

A year ago, PM Nagamootoo assured beleaguered rice farmers – reeling from the loss of the 200,000 tonne Venezuelan RICE market – he’d secured new markets from Mexico. He reminded salivating farmers Mexico imports 1 MILLION tonnes of rice annually! Nagamootoo was so persuasive, the Mexicans presumably overlooked their NAFTA commitments to the USA – their major supplier – to “fast track” the necessary approval.

Well, your Eyewitness then hoped local farmers didn’t hold their breath. Because we were just informed that “PHYTOSANITARY certification” is still being “pursued”! But somehow everyone in governmental circles still ignores Mexico’s insistence that its eventual goal is not to find markets for our rice, but to “begin the commercialisation” of our production.

So what’s “commercialisation” of rice?? Well, that’s grist for another mill – or another Eyewitness exposé! But basically it’s just about advising us to get our (production) act together, domestically.

But isn’t this what GRDB was supposed to do with its annual $500M levy on rice exports?

…on delegating power

Your Eyewitness hopes Town Clerk King noted how graciously Prezzie passed his mace to PM Nagamootoo. And Minister of State Harmon didn’t boorishly deny him the privileges of the Presidency.

See how President Moses glowed when he met business leaders? Now could Sherod Duncan at least get one guard?

Public spectacle…

…or debate?

It’s become a US tradition during their election campaign…this “debate” between presidential candidates. As far back as Abraham Lincoln’s election of 1858, he had a famous debate with his Democratic rival Senator Stephen Douglas. But that was when a debate meant an exchange of views on issues.

It all changed a century later when JFK took on Republican Richard Nixon in 1960 on TV. In the dawning of the age of advertising and “packaging”, “image” pipped “substance”. After Nixon’s close loss to Kennedy, pundits put it down to his “5 o’clock shadow” on his jowls versus the debonair and young Bostonian’s clean-cut good looks. And since then, the “debate” has just careened further into the cesspool of bad taste.

Your Eyewitness is tempted to say it can’t possibly get worse than the first outing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton…that’s how bad it was. But knowing the thinking behind the candidates’ performances on stage, he’s sure they’ll find ways to plunge even further into slime. After all, absolutely no one watching the “debate” is doing so to find out the candidates’ stands on issues – on which they can be supported. No. This was pure theatre – akin to the reality shows that have transfixed America and which, in fact, gave Trump a platform for the run for the presidency.

So when you, Dear Reader, ask, “Who won?” remember the contest was just about what image each candidate wanted to “project” for him/herself and foist on the opponent. Hillary Clinton’s challenge is she’s probably the most disliked politician in America. She just comes across as so ambitious, she’ll walk over her mother to gain political leverage. So did she do anything to seem “warmer” during the “debate”.

Not really. Her snappy factoids just proved to viewers she was so determined to win at any cost, she took time off from the campaign to “prep” herself by cramming a welter of “facts”. Cold!! And it just reinforced her “winning at all cost” reputation. Her insistence on appearing “presidential” also didn’t do much for her…because once again it made her not connect to the average Jane and Joe out in the streets.

Trump? Well, there were some who wondered whether he’d present his recent “kinder, gentler” facade or the original pit bull persona that won him the Republican nomination. Guess he decided to go with what worked as he decided to go all out against Clinton. He turned her command of facts around by showing those “facts” weren’t worth squat in the real world where American lost ground – and jobs.

The “debate” convinced no one in the other camp!

…by Rip van Bulkan

After Town Clerk Royston King ran roughshod every which way he could over anyone who stood in his way following the Local Government Elections, folks were beginning to wonder who was his Godfather. Had to be someone with a whole lotta clout – since King became a law into himself answerable to no one. If Louis XIV could say “I am the state”, King acted as if he was absolute ruler of Georgetown!

But finally the man who appointed him to his position and to whom he supposedly reports – Minister of Local Communities Ronald Bulkan woke up from his Rip van Winkle-like sleep and announced that King was out of line. At least with throwing out the vendors from Bourda Market and not giving the time of the day to Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan. Imagine that!

Now let’s see whether King will change his errant ways. Your Eyewitness advises that you don’t hold your breath, Dear Readers.

King has been sucking eggs too long! And his Godfather pips Bulkan!

…at Demerara Bridge

An irate commuter across the DemeraraHarbour Bridge described the arrogant behaviour of a “senior policeman” who insisted he had to be “uberalles”. But why confine the boorishness to Policemen?

It’s exhibited everyday by anyone in “position”.

Governance by…

…fait accompli

One of Forbes Burnham’s famous sayings was the folk wisdom, “Back to back…belly to belly…we don’t give a damn…we done dead already!” – meaning that if you know your goose is cooked…it doesn’t matter what the heck you do…so you might just do your worst.

This seems to be the guiding principle of this government – which isn’t so surprising since, Prezzie explained the PNC’s still guided by the philosophy of the Founder Leader.

The latest inexplicable action by the Government that has to’ve emanated from their “done dead already” resignation is their abandonment of the collective bargaining negotiation with the Teachers Union. They’ve already pissed off the Public Servants – who were responsible for them harvesting at least four seats. The teachers (who have spouses, mind you) also brought in at least that many seats. But who gives a damn when you’re part of the “Walking Dead”??

For years the Government workers – including teachers and public servants railed against the PPP Government refusing to do (the legally required) “right thing” – collective bargaining. They just gave them a flat 5% around Christmas time. Since this was retroactive to the previous January, it proved to be a clever ploy (for the PPP) since the workers couldn’t refuse the “bird in the hand” and be Scrooge to their families. But this just made them more resentful since they knew they were being “played”.

And boy did APNU and the AFC make hay out of this when they were in Opposition!! The PPP weren’t just “heartless bloodsuckers”‘ – they were “racist heartless bloodsuckers”!! So, now that the APNU/AFC has done a volte-face and doing exactly what the PPP did has to raise the schoolyard taunt: “if the PPP were bloodsuckers, what does that make you??!!” Well…we’ve already answered that…zombies!! Who’ve already resigned themselves to being booted out in 2020.

And their “don’t give a damn” behaviour isn’t confined to wage negotiations. Think about all their well-meaning supporters who bought the allegations of the PPP “siphoning off” billions and billions from the national treasury. Guess what those folks think when they see more than footsie being played “under the table” when contracts are being dictated? Pharmagate… Petroimportationgate… Jamaicaricegate… Jubilee stadiumgate…and the list (and beat) goes on!

But some folks don’t think it’s the “done dead already” syndrome, but it’s all about the supporters they’re taking for granted (read “doormats”). This theory proposes that their supporters hate the PPP so much they’ll never “cross the Xs”.

And even if they stay at home in 2020, the books are being cooked in so many ways – visas, election lists, birth certificates etc…etc.

…ad hocism

Another reason why the Government may assume their goose is cooked is their absolutely cluelessness on the economy. Your Eyewitness knows he’s mentioned this before (about dozens of times, you say?), but some things transfix you so that you’re just trapped in morbid fascination. Think of the latest utterance from the AFC excusing their senior partner APNU on the tanking of the economy. Realising that folks aren’t biting that “everything’s gonna be all right” line anymore, they’ve started on the “it really ain’t so bad” chant.

So, we’re told about Suriname’s meltdown, Trinidad’s oil rundown, and Barbados’ layoffs. And that our 2% growth rate is still better than their negative growth. Imagine that! Wasn’t it only a year and a half ago, they were mocking the PPP for claiming that their 5-% growth rate was better than our neighbours’? Ahhhh! What a difference a switch of parliamentary benches can make!!

So the line on the economy is “Do wha’ you want – when you want – with me”!!

…owning it

For decades Berbicians had to grin and bear witless jokes about the “mad house” in their county. Now the Minister wants to “bulldoze” the old building, they insist the replacement must be there.

If you can’t beat it, might as well own it, nuh?