May 2, 2016

Clueless…

…or malicious?

For quite a while – in fact from the very beginning of their reign – your Eyewitness’ been saying this government is clueless when it comes to stimulating business. But then he remembered an old bit of wisdom from one of the Bond movies he saw in his dissolute youth. The first time something anomalous happens, you can dismiss it as “happenstance”. The next time? Dismiss it as “coincidence”. But if it rears its head a third time… then you better check out whether it’s “enemy action”.

So we come now to what triggered the thought – the government’s surreptitious move on VAT for heavy duty machinery used in Agriculture. It’s not like the government doesn’t know the sector’s in a crisis mode while still the largest employer and contributor to the economy. Let’s take rice as the largest agricultural generator of foreign revenues.

Right after taking office, APNU/AFC did absolutely NOTHING about the Venezuelan market which was our largest – absorbing some 200,000 tonnes at a price far in excess of world market price. It was in effect a barter arrangement which also gave us a break on oil prices and repayment terms. All round positive, yes?

Well evidently the new coalition government didn’t think so. They went on a full court press against the Maduro government for evoking the Border Controversy. But APNU/AFC knew Maduro’s gambit was so as not to be outflanked by the Opposition breathing down his neck in the domestic economic meltdown. An Opposition backed by the US which had sworn to remove the successors of Chavez.

So when our government just twiddled its thumbs and did nothing to save the rice contract, this could’ve been dismissed as “happenstance”. Prices for rice and paddy plunged by almost half… taking it even below the cost of production. Asked to kick in the “Rice Stabilisation Plan” the coalition had promised during the election campaign, the government responded that rice farmers were “on their own” when it came to prices. So we chalk THAT up to “coincidence”?

And then came this sneaky reinstatement of VAT on equipment farmers need to cut production costs to survive. What else can we call THAT if not “enemy action”? And the question arises as to why would the government see the agriculture sector in general – and rice in particular – as a candidate for destruction?

Was it because rice farmers didn’t vote for them? But at least some of those 4700 votes by which the APNU/AFC coalition pipped the PPP/C, came from rice farmers who fell for the wiles of the AFC, no?

And this is why we don’t think it’s about being “clueless”. It all about “malice”.

…on social media

The police arrested a woman and her son for posting a threatening message to President Granger on Facebook. If the police are consistent, half the people on Facebook should be placed behind bars. Whether we like it or not, social media has become the medium for everyone with thumbs and a smart phone to “mouth off” on any subject under the sun. Including against anyone who might’ve rubbed them the wrong way.

The question the police should ask before they round up folks for mass incarceration is whether the threat is credible. From the context, did the police really think the woman was serious? Isn’t this how millions of folks express their frustration – but just simmer? The pertinent question the US Supreme Court of the US ruled on a “Facebook” threat by an incarcerated man to his wife was, “did he really intend to harm her”.

This subjective test is pretty hard to prove… and in the instant case, impossible.

Let the woman go!

…on gender

The workings of the law are inscrutable. At least to this Eyewitness. Take this magistrate who rules that females can show up in court in men’s clothing while males can’t do the same in female clothing.

So what would he say to a Scotsman in kilts?

New World…

…in oil
The Rockefeller name mightn’t mean much to Guyanese nowadays. But not too long ago that name was the metaphor for WEALTH in the modern world just as Croesus was in the ancient world… and it’s not just “Rockefeller Center” with its skating rink we might see in Midtown Manhattan. Their wealth was founded on oil – first in Pennsylvania and then in Saudi Arabia. Their “Standard Oil” became “Esso” (“S.O.” – get it?) that then became “Exxon” that became ExxonMobil.
Even though they mightn’t be such big deals in a world now populated with the likes of billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zukerberg, they do have a helluva lot of clout with the crime de la crime of the Wall Street Masters of the Universe – who make the trillion dollar investments that make the world go round. Their Chase Manhattan Bank became a big part of JPMorganChase – the largest bank in the world with US$3 trillion in assets! The trusts they set up to keep their wealth all in the family fund – and not just the Rockefeller Fund – have probably even more influence through “soft power” of their philanthropic activities and fund raising parties.
So when the Rockefeller Foundations announced they are pulling out their investments in ExxonMobil, it’s like the foundation under a skyscraper being undermined. The Rockefellers announced they will now be backing renewables – which ExxonMobil has shunned, unlike the other majors like British Shell. Your Eyewitness had already pontificated on the folly of Exxon to follow in the path of the captain of the Titanic and yell, “Full steam ahead” in petroleum.
Exxon, of course, has not only been burying its head in the sand, it’s been throwing some of that sand in the investment world’s eyes when they hid data of the impact of fossil fuel consumption on global warming. The Rockefeller family had made noises then – even as the NY District Attorney was readying chances against the company that will result in billions in fines.
Following the commitment of COP 21 to renewables, the refusal of Saudi Arabia to back off from the Shale Oil challenge, and the plunge in oil prices, Exxon stocks have taken a beating. Shareholders aren’t going to take too kindly to the dumping of the company’s stock by the “founding family”.
Now all of this might just be of academic interest if it weren’t for the fact that most of our hopes on getting our oil out from under the sea, rests with ExxonMobil. That company has to look more closely on its investments.
If ours remain marginal even at US$50 – we’re in big trouble.

…and old Sawakie? Or Sakiwinkie?
After 22 years as Mayor of Georgetown – during which time he brought the City down to its nadir of filth and corruption (they probably go hand in hand) – and now 82 years old, you’d think it was time for Hamilton Green to be put out to pasture, wouldn’t you? Especially since he’s just been booted out by the citizens of Georgetown the first chance they got at voting for their Mayor in the said 22 years.
Well… think again. The powers-that-be have now placed him in charge of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) – the body that controls all the government’s housing, planning and executing for the country!
Why? Well because he was once “Minister of Housing” (the Stabber reports). Green says it’s because he’s a “Sawakie” (they mean “Sakawinkie – an “old head”!) What a crock! Housing then and housing now are like mud huts and skyscrapers… not even in the same league.
Green probably has the goods on someone on the Rodney assassination!

…and economic growth
Some old head over at COHSOD figures our “culture” might turn our economic tide. He REALLY thinks our “wining” can compete with the newly emergent Cuba with its rhumba, salsa, samba and cha-Cha-cha?

Cuba…

…and “prior claims”
Obama evidently intends to ensure that whoever enters the White House next January – especially if it’s the Republicans with Trump at its helm – won’t be able to reverse the normalisation of relations with Cuba. If you look at that relationship, you have to wonder why the US would allow such a bit player – and that’s all Cuba is compared to it – to get so much under its skin. But then again an American President (Reagan) invaded 132-sq mile Grenada with its less than 100,000 population for being a threat! Go figure!
But back to the “normalisation”. The biggest fly in the ointment to complete normalisation will be the “prior claims” made subsequent to Castro’s nationalisation and expropriation of American property back in 1960. American companies owned sugar plantations, oil refineries, shipping companies, hotels (including a Hilton), casinos, houses, cars, land, etc, etc. In fact, the American justification for the embargo it slapped on Cuba rests mainly on these claims. For years there have been several initiatives – some launched by get-rich shysters, but others like Exxon’s and Hilton’s – legit.
Back in 1964, the US created a “Foreign Claims Settlement Commission” within its Justice Department and evaluated, recorded and vowed to collect on the various claims (5913 of them) which it valued at US$1.9B. Factoring for inflation, these claims would be worth about US$8B today. Now Cuba’s never denied it owes compensation on the claims – even though it could’ve questioned the deals through which most of the assets were acquired. The then Cuban dictatorships were supported by the US Government, which turned a blind eye to the economic and physical raping of Cuba – especially by the Mafia.
The Cuban retort to the “prior claims” question has been to issue a counter claim for the more than US$100B it calculated it’s lost since 1960 because of the American embargo – which even US allies at the UN have demanded for years be removed. Since the State Department has jurisdiction over the settlement of the claims, if Obama doesn’t want to saddle Cuba with the ball-and-chain of “prior claims”, it should proceed to work out a settlement that’s favourable to both sides.
For Cuba’s economic development – which is heading ineluctably in a capitalist direction – the Government wouldn’t want to have liens hanging over so many assets. They will definitely stifle investment. On the other hand, there is no way Cuba can fork out US$8B.
Maybe as the IMF does with ‘bad loans’, a steep discount could be worked out – like 4 cents to the dollar?
And Cuba floats bonds to pay it off?

…and the Caribbean
Of recent, Foreign Minister Greenidge – who’d rather be leader of the PNC and consequently President – has been rather quiet. What with all the brouhaha over the economy (who’s steering the ship?) and salaries and suchlike, you’d think he’d be weighing in more often. But anyhow he just broke his (vow of?) silence…to claim the US-Cuban thaw will be good for us in the Caribbean? It might’ve been better if he’d stayed quiet.
First of all, because of the romanticisation of the American presence in Cuba – for the elite, think Hemmingway; for the rest, think the Mafia of the “Godfather II”, casinos and Meyer Lansky – the island looms large in their collective imagination. If for nothing else there will be another (more benign) landing of tourists at the Bay of Pigs who’ll move on to ogle all those “finned” cars from the fifties. Say goodbye to a rebirth of US tourism to “our” Caribbean.
Then there are the business investments – where Cuba’s certain to become the next “emerging market”.
Say goodbye to a resurgence of a Caribbean Basin Initiative.

…and Fidel
Even though Obama genuflected to the American right-wing yahoos by not meeting Fidel, the latter’s 1953 prediction that “history will absolve me” was reinforced by the visit.

Crime…

..and poverty
Seems like crime’s always in the news in Guyana. Of one kind or another. But based on our experience – and that of a whole lot of other jurisdictions – one thing’s true for sure – with the economy tanking and poverty rising, crime’s gonna go through the roof. The question is what’re we doing about it? Well, for one, you’d think the Government would be focusing on reversing the slide in the economy, wouldn’t you?
If you did think that, you just wasted a thought. All the money the Government’s been spending has nothing to do with increasing production in even a single sector – but rather aggravating a restive populace. This Eyewitness is not one to excuse crime because of poverty…but jeez…shouldn’t the Government and its Ministers set an example if some belt-tightening’s called for?
What exactly do you tell folks who’re being thrown on the breadline every day when to have the President pay taxes – which everyone else but the SG and the Chancellor does – the Finance Minister announces whatever money is deducted, must be taken right back and given to the President as a “raise”. Just so he can take home the $1.8 million every month he’s used to drawing.
But partisans of the Government will say the Government HAS been creating jobs. A relaunched People’s Militia will create…what?…1500 part-time jobs? Then we have the boosting of the Police and Army. Another 590 jobs? Then those 500 contract jobs in the Public Service – above and beyond the thousands the PPP had farmed out. Those are jobs, no?
Problem is…while those jobs may well be for the national weal, they don’t produce a smidgen of goods we could export and bring in foreign exchange for all the foreign things we just can’t do without anymore. (Like “Can Meat and Can vegetables”.) So what you end up with is the Government printing Guyana dollars to pay the bloated staff. And of course, with too much money chasing too many (foreign) goods, inflation takes off. Which further impoverishes the people at the bottom since their emaciated paychecks can’t even buy what they could yesterday.
So we’re back to the dilemma of the poor: do they follow the straight and narrow or do they take matters into their own hands and grab what they see others enjoying. This poverty-crime didn’t just arrive on the scene.
And whether we’re sympathetic or not to the argument that “structural factors” make some break the law…we’ll have to deal with the consequences.
Which ain’t gonna be pretty.

…and punishment
And we arrive at the other hot topic that just had its 15 minutes of fame – punishment of those who may’ve committed crimes. We can’t say “criminals” because, as we discovered (hopefully to our chagrin), a whole lot of people in jail aren’t convicted. They’re on “remand”…but are being punished already. So we come to the whole rationale for “punishment” of criminals.
We’d all agree there has to be some discouragement for people to break the law. And we’re not even going to get into the argument as to whether the law is stacked against the poor and powerless. Point of the matter is we can’t go back to the law of the jungle. But we gotta do something – especially for those folks on remand who have to be assumed to be guilty until proven otherwise.
We just heard night courts will be reinstated. We won’t ask, why only now. Just that it shouldn’t be a flash in the pan – but a permanent feature of our judicial system. Then there’s the matter of the family court.
Seems like a judicial family matter torpedoed it!

…and politics
It’s not only the Executive that’s getting directions from the Saffon Street Muckraker. The Judiciary’s now being instructed on what constitutes crimes, who committed them and what their punishment should be.
Shouldn’t the Legislature also hang up their gloves?

Changing times…

…in Brazil
Your Eyewitness is sorely troubled at what’s playing out in our giant neighbour to the South – Brazil. And it’s not just his favourite escapism exercise this year – the Summer Olympics in Rio – might be affected. Hey!! We can’t afford to have Bolt’s last Olympic ruined, can we? And it’s not even the massive outbreak of Zika that’s also putting a damper on the aforementioned Olympics.
It’s the massive goings on in the country to bring down the government of President Dilma Rousseff that has your Eyewitness in a bit of a dither. A stable, democratic and prosperous Brazil, after all, offers a lifeline to our prosperity that goes far beyond being a counterweight to Venezuelan revanchism. Not that we should sneer… Brazil’s always resented Venezuela’s pretensions at strutting on the world stage – and checkmated them.
It’s not even our Lethem-Linden Highway and the Mazaruni-Cuyuni HydroPower being threatened with another half century of mothballing. And THAT’s not to be sneered at! Not… it has to do with your Eyewitness’ wider geopolitical crystal ball becoming all fogged up. With the US finally thawing relations with Cuba, all the reports coming out in the media, reminds us of the similarities between Cuba, Venezuela and Cuba back in the 1950s. They were all pretty much under the control of tyrants or oligarchs that toed the American line.
While Castro’s direct threat to turn Latin American “leftwards” faltered (or was crushed after the death of Che Gueverra) that’s the direction the continent DID turn – but through democratic elections three decades later. So the problem with the agitation to remove Dilma (and her mentor Lula) – and not so incidentally Maduro in Venezuela – is they aren’t led by forces that have exactly the best pedigree in democratic governance.
Now this isn’t saying that charges of corruption in funnelling funds from the state petroleum company Petrobras into Dilma and Lula’s party aren’t well founded. But most of their inquisitors wouldn’t be able to withstand the kind of scrutiny they’re imposing on their two targets. How do you deal with the Judge trying to try Lula leaking confidential conversations between the latter and Dilma?
And from a Guyanese perspective, it’s not in our interest to be surrounded by countries that’re sure to polarise the relations between “the haves and the have nots” even further than they already are. What would most likely happen is many of those said “have nots” from Brazil’s impoverished north (neighbouring us) might just decide to cross over to our side of the Takatu and “do their thing”
And it won’t be pretty… what with the drugs, guns and gang wars.

…in corporate ownership?
Basking in the halo of bringing off Local Government Elections (LGEs), Pressie made a rather surprising suggestion. Rightfully pointing out that the Local Democratic Organs (LDOs) – NDCs and Municipalities – will now be permitted to raise and spend more funds on their own without Central Government’s intrusion, he proposed LDO’s launch and run businesses!!
“Shades of the Co-Op Republic!” your humble Eyewitness involuntarily exclaimed. “Government’s gonna be owning businesses again?” What’s going to be different this time? Because the ownership will be at a lower level, the problems will be smaller? Business doesn’t work like that.
This Eyewitness thinks before this becomes a done deal like the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Pressie should have it examined… carefully. A more feasible proposal… suggests your most humble Eyewitness… would be for those LGOs to move all those small businesses – car bodywork shops; grill fabricators; chicken farms; furniture makers, etc etc into small industrial parks and institute appropriate fees and taxes.
That move will make residential areas more habitable and healthy – while generating more revenues and synergies at the local level.

…unchanging electorate
What’s this claim of crossover voting? With only 38 per cent of the voters turning out… how’d you know? Well… you could look at the voting breakdown in mono-ethnic constituencies.
And THAT went “race” down the line.

Two edged sword…

…of LGE
Looks like there will be more analyses and commentaries on our long-awaited LGE than the folks who actually turned out to vote. There was a lovely little cat fight between the GECOM Chairman (GC) and Commissioner Shaddick as to who was responsible for the abysmally low turnout. It went like this: Shaddick: “It’s GECOM’s fault!”; GC: “No! It’s the politicians’ fault!”;  Shaddick: “Not so!”; GC: “Is too!” Loop and run this exchange about ten times and you’ll get an idea of the scintillating “call and response” routine.
Funny thing is – they were both right. (Your Eyewitness feels “Solomonic” this morning! Oh! For just half of the old codger’s wives!) GECOM did wait until it was too late in the day. And as was said before in this space, placed all its “voters’ education” eggs in the print media basket. We just don’t have a massive reading public. TV shows explaining what local government is all about… demonstrating what the voting form looked like…how to place the X’s and what happens when there are no “second half” of the form, might’ve been a better bet.
But once the political parties decided to enter the fray, they too should’ve gone out and done all of the above…but on the ground. No, so incidentally they could’ve also gotten in their licks. They waited until it was too late since, as the GC said, it was no secret LGE have notoriously low turnout rates.
Well, your Eyewitness hopes all this analysis doesn’t lead to paralysis in realising the great promise of Local Government in practice. And what’s this promise you ask, Dear Reader? Well that each of one us become masters of our fates and captains of our destiny in our neighbourhoods, thank you. Your garbage not getting picked up? Talk to your Constituency Rep. Ditto if that dead donkey’s been rotting at the head of the street and is about to explode.
So the more pertinent question is now we’ve gotten what we asked for (we did ask for LGE, didn’t we?)…who’s going to educate us, the hoi polloi, as to the implications of our new dawn? If we leave it to the political parties, they’ll simply be using the opportunity to build cadres and support for 2020. And intensifying our political divide.
GECOM should undertake this task and hopefully for the 2019 LGE, the exercise might finally end national politics dictating even whether our drains will be cleaned – and us not protesting even though we’re paying rates and taxes.
LGE might’ve delivered “victories” to the parties, but they can yet deliver victory to the people. It’s a two-edged sword.

…in the municipalities
Now that APNU’s won all the big municipalities, all eyes will be on them to put their money where their mouth is. Which is – to keep on improving Georgetown; move Bartica from its frontier “Wild West” anything-goes state, bring on Mahdia, etc. But as they “put” that money…they’ll have to do better than what they’ve been doing in Georgetown.
Even Stevie Wonder would admit Georgetown’s a much cleaner city today. But even he also would wonder (yes…yes…pun intended!) as to where all that money for the clean-up coming from, where’s it going and how about nailing all those rumours of friends and families of the Town Clerk and town Councillors using wheelbarrows to rake in their takings? Towns, after all, shouldn’t be excused from accountability and transparency and all the other excesses the PPP was accused of by APNU when THEY were in office, should they?
Ah well… It’s the dawning of a whole new age…and we’ll find out soon what’s it all about, won’t we, Alfie?

…and shopping
So how do we weigh the cachet of shopping like “foreign” at Massy versus throwing thousands of our neighbourhood shopkeepers and their help out of work and into the streets?

Development…

…and underdevelopment
We all know Guyana’s sorely in need of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). All our traditional export products have crashed for one reason or another – sugar – prices; rice – drought and markets; bauxite – China’s slowdown etc…etc. Not unexpectedly, the economy’s moribund. But is a mega-supermarket the kind of FDI we really need?
What exactly will the claimed US$24 million supermarket the Trinidadian company Massy just opened at Providence, do for our economy? Replace rice and sugar with the promised100 jobs? You’re kidding, right dear reader? Those two industries contribute to the upkeep of at least 200,000 men, women and children. Right now, selling groceries is the last thing we need in Guyana. Every street corner in the villages gave their mom-and pop groceries…and small supermarkets are already giving them a run for their money.
And in the towns? Well, don’t we already have supermarkets? Massy’s might be massive – but what exactly will they sell that’s not already available in Guyana. Twenty kinds of ketchup? What’s this nonsense about buying and selling “Guyanese Products” – and showing the Finance Minister “fingling” same sweet potatoes? Why can’t Massy develop that Plantain Chip factory Leguan’s crying out for? Why underdevelop us further? Is there a Guyanese who can’t get sweet potatoes? Or is the one-stop shopping rich elite not going to be visiting the “ground provision” vendors on Merriman Mall.
Oh…we forget…Massy’s not going to put THEM out of business… Town Clerk King already did that with his 500 per cent rental increase for a smaller stall to the said vendors. But back to Massy Supermarket. We have to admit, they tried every which way to sound Guyanese. Did you see the sign over one aisle announcing “Can Meat” and “Can Vegetables” rather than “Canned Meat and Canned Vegetables” – which we Guyanese NEVER say?
But seriously folks? Can you hear that sucking sound your Eyewitness picked up on the moment he saw the Massey Supermarket? That’s the sound of Massy sucking out dollars from Guyana that would’ve been circulating and creating virtuous circles in “buying and selling” here. And it’s not just dollars – it’s AMERICAN DOLLARS. Businesses in Trinidad are restricted from buying US dollars – they have to go through the Central Bank like we used to do back in the “Burnham Days”.
So in addition to siphoning off all those West Coast, West Bank and East Bank wealthier grocery shoppers, that sucking sound you hear will be Massy siphoning off US dollars to Trinidad and pushing up our exchange rate.
It’s not totally coincidental the sucking sound we all know up to now is water being flushed down the toilet. Same difference!

…of democracy
OK…the LGE results are in. And all it did was confirm that race politics – represented by the supporters of the two major parties – is also alive and well at the local level. There was a faint hope by some – including this Eyewitness – that away from the hotbed of national politics which determines who runs the country, the racial imperative might lose some of its intensity. Not this time though.
With 20/20 hindsight, once the two big guns entered the fray in their own names (what’d you think? Folks don’t know APNU is PNC. Steewps!!) It was a foregone conclusion. In some uni-racial constituencies, the “other side” didn’t even bother to field a candidate.
But one big surprise – at least to this Eyewitness – is how some candidates were wiped out following Pressie’s “don’t split the vote” call. For instance Benschop.
With the drubbing he got after his years of activism…can he come back?

…and protecting locals
India’s faced with the same invasion of supermarkets threatening their millions of local shops. But having allowed in one set of merchants – The East India Company – who ended up taking over the country for Britain – India’s placed controls on their entry.
A hint to Beneba mek Quasie tek notice!

Ennui…

…at LGE
Used to be, the fear was “suppose you threw a party and nobody came?” After yesterday, it’ll be “suppose you hold an election and no one voted?” During the past few weeks everyone conceded turnouts in LGE’s are generally low… but no one expected it to be THIS low. In some jurisdictions they make voting compulsory… maybe we ought to go that route?
But upon reflection, the snarky tone isn’t fair to the Guyanese electorate. After all they haven’t experienced an LGE for almost a quarter of a century – and social acts like voting have to be inculcated with practice, over time. And even with those old enough to’ve voted in 1994… that facility would have atrophied over the generational span. If Lamarck thought “organs not in use tend to degenerate”, imagine what happens to socially imparted habits?
And that’s the problem for our entire democratic culture, isn’t it? During the British days, we “natives” were told we just weren’t ready for the weighty task of making democratic decisions. Never mind right after slavery, ex-slaves founded the Village Movement and ran their affairs in totally democratic fashion. While we were being tutored, our rulers had to do double duty and do what was best for us. Like stymieing the Village Movement that was too “radical”. They asked questions like why should their taxes clean the sugar plantations’ canals and not theirs? Such upstarts! Ruling was a dirty, thankless job, but somebody (responsible) had to do it, no?
During the PNC’s 28 years at the helm of state, they also thought the small man really didn’t know what it took to be the “real man” to run his own affairs. His destiny had to be “moulded” since he didn’t know what was good for him. So all the village councils were disbanded and absorbed into “Neighbourhood Democratic Councils”.
Can you believe in some instances villages strung along the public road for five to nine miles being called a “neighbourhood”? Well the villagers didn’t… but what did they know? But the bottom line was ordinary folks got nothing out of “local government” for more than 30 years… and just saw it as a boondoggle for local Caesars.
So after years of struggle between our two political mountains they produced the framework for the present LGE. The populace might be forgiven for giving it a great, big yawn. They’re suffering from “ennui – a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement”.
But your Eyewitness isn’t so jaded. He’s at least looking out to see the promised “new dawn” of LGE from this morning. Will his street be asphalted, at last?

…over for WI cricket?
The massive blowout of England by the WI team in their ICC T-20 World Cup match has local fans over the top. It almost made us (yes…”us”. Your Eyewitness is what the English call a “cricket tragic”…he lives and dies with the fortunes of the WI team.) forget for a while, the devastation and humiliation the WICB wrought in our once proud cricketing record.
And yes, your Eyewitness is laying the blame squarely at the feet of the WICB. Going back to the pretensions of the British, the WICB inherited and maintained the worse sense of entitlement of the old colonial Boards. The players were supposed to simply doff their caps to the Board who would make all decisions about who could play and how, where and against whom their cricket was going to be played.
This confounded nonsense must stop. Even while revelling at the chance of the WI going all the way, we must back the Caricom Committee to reconstitute the WICB!

…at government sell out
During the elections campaign, we know the mega millions Glen “Mohan” Lall’s “Funding a United Candidate for Opposition Presidency” (FUCOP) pumped into the coalition had to be repaid.
But are radio and TV licences now legal tender?

Governing…

…and remuneration
Finance Minister Winston Jordan raised the subject of pay raises. He explicitly brought up the case of Public Servants for whom this is a MOST vexed subject. And you can’t blame them. Here it was – to get elected –the parties now in government promised those folks a “significant” raise if they got in. And lo and behold, the APNU and AFC WERE elected with a 5000-odd majority.
The PPP says it was a VERY odd majority, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment. What’s more to the point, the 15,000-odd Public Servants – most of whom voted for the coalition – seem to think they had something to do with that victory! And wonder if “to the victors go the spoils”, how come they didn’t get any spoils – while Ministers and other bigwigs had to haul their 50% + spoils home in wheelbarrows. There’s been some dark murmurings among Public Servants ever since… and what the Finance Minister just said won’t help matters any.
Imagine you’re a Public Servant who just got a firm handshake at the last budget presentation and you’re told “not to get your hopes up” when the Public Service hearings were supposed to rectify the snub on salaries. If after an electoral promise in writing for a “significant” raise, you got zilch, imagine what it’ll be when you’re told “not to get your hopes up”. And don’t be talking about “exaggerated” salaries!!! Will Public Servants be asked to GIVE back some of their money to the Consolidated Fund like the Comrade Leader had asked when Congress Place was burnt down?
And to just rub salt into the wounds of the Public Servants, the Finance Minister, who wailed about the “hard times” announced he might just remove the “tax free” allowance on the Presidential salary. So far so good. At our 1/3 tax rate the Pressie would be pumping back 1/3 of his $1.8 million every month – which is $600,000. Now that’ll provide some funds for at least a hundred Public Servants, no? And taking home $1.2 million when all living expenses are paid by the state, isn’t too bad, is it?
Well Jordan doesn’t think so. He feels that if he deducts taxes from the President’s salary with the right hand, he ought to give a salary hike with the left hand for Pressie to take home the same $2.8 million monthly. Now by this time, dear reader, you’re probably exclaiming “WHAT THE *****!!!!” Because that’s what escaped your Eyewitness prim lips!
So what all this rigmarole about?? Just to say the President’s paying taxes? Well why doesn’t Jordan do the same for all Public Servants?

…from Saffon Street
And here your Eyewitness thought the Prime Minister – with what his 11% from Berbice calls a “well-developed Dhall Belly” – wasn’t athletic. But his somersault on the radio license issue after the Muckraker of Saffon Street cracked the whip was worthy of being showcased at the upcoming Summer Olympics!
Now, God knows, it wasn’t as if the PM was overworked and had too many things in his mind when he said no licenses would be revoked but new ones would be granted from the 25 or so applications the GNBA had in its files. Because Pressie is protective of him, the PM was just given line responsibility for the Information Ministry. So why the backflip to now say “those licences deemed illegal” will be revoked. Was it because his party leader Ramjattan’d gotten a call from Saffon Street and repudiated the PM’s stance?
It’s clear while the Main St PM’s residence’s being refurbished, the Information Ministry’s operating from Saffon St!

…and Fedders Lloyd
Someone complained the PPP’s asking the APNU/AFC government to do what THEY didn’t do while in office. So what about APNU/AFC not doing what THEY said they’ll be doing? Like not sole-sourcing.
And no matter how they slice it, dice it, or purée it – Fedders Lloyd contract IS sole-sourced!

Economic realities…

…in TT’s steel industry
Trinidad’s our WI industrial power, such as it is. Using their platform of cheap petroleum and gas fortuitously lying under their seabed, they moved from the light manufacturing base inherited at independence into industrial products. Urea and methanol from gas were easy transitions since the raw materials were already there.
Steel was a bit of a stretch but with electricity as cheap as it was – and this being a major cost in steel production – TT plunged into the business that pretty much defined “modern” industrial nations. But not long after, the government-owned company Iscott ran into difficulties and went belly up. It was taken over in 1989 by an ambitious Indian steel maker, Mittal – which renamed it “Iscott” – and was on course to creating the largest steel-making company in the world. This became a reality when the French steel maker Ancelor was taken over to form – “Ancelor-Mittal”. Trinidad was now part of the global players in steel.
But Trinidad’s discovering there are downsides to playing in the big leagues. One of them being, if you aren’t blessed with a large domestic market, you’re stuck with the vagaries of the world market for hocking your product. It’s like the situation with our rice. The 600,000 tonnes we export just can’t be absorbed – much less eaten!! – by even our rice-loving populace… so we’re at the mercy of what the rest of the rice-importing countries need. And that’s why if we didn’t have the El Niño drought to moan about, we’d have been crying about a price crisis later this year.
So back to Trinidad and her steel. With the rest of the world struggling with an economic downturn that’s finally caught up with China, the building and construction boom – to which steel is critical – has crashed. And with even China and its vast domestic markets stuck with excess stock of steel, you can imagine what happens to free lancers like Arcelor-Mittal.
They start shutting down their plants – that’s what. And high-cost-producers like Ispatt in TT go first. Faced with the downturn, the company started laying off workers since last December. The steel Union took the company to court, which then slapped a fine on the former who then said if that’s the game being played, they’re willing to sell the company to the Government for $1!! Or walking away.
The Union’s still making noises. To no avail. And no wonder, since it’s about non-starters like them taking over the plant!!
Here in Guyana, those who have ears to hear in our bauxite industry better start hearing!!

…and British aid
Last year, British PM Cameron visited its most ancient ex-colonies – the WI, of course – on which its industrial revolution and subsequent modernity and prosperity were built. He provoked a storm of protest when – in Jamaica of all places! – he said there’s no way “reparations” were gonna be accepted by Britain. But that he was offering about US$450 million as aid – especially for infrastructural projects – to the Caribbean as a whole, including Guyana.
Your Eyewitness will only note that unlike the Jamaican Government, our powers that be were mum on the reparations rebuff. They did say the most militant fellas surviving the Middle Passage ended up in Jamaica!! In Guyana, some worthies immediately pointed out the need for funding the proposed new, concrete Demerara Harbour Bridge. Which could be funded from the British aid.
So with the situation on the already stressed out old, floating bridge quite dread, they propose we submit a voucher to the Brits for the bridge?
Who says we can’t have the bridge AND Reparations?

…and glass ceilings for women journalists
The Chronic signed up a refreshing new journalist, Akola Thompson, who asked, “Where are the female op-ed columnists?”
They’re over at GTimes!! Take a look at Anna Correia and Ryhaan Shah.