Last week, the US Ambassador to Guyana made public her views on challenges that cloud the business climate here. She cited blackouts, high taxes, and corruption. In other words, those, among other things, are impediments for investors both local and foreign. Interestingly, this statement was made more than four years after the APNU/AFC coalition Government came to office. This is significant and its understanding lies in the run-up to the 2015 general elections.
During that period, the APNU/AFC Opposition held no punches in its visceral castigation of the then PPP/C Government branding it as corrupt.
It was their priority campaign theme used for passionate utterances to garner votes on the pretext of a promise that corruption will be banished under a coalition Government. In the frenzy of doing so, it seemingly elevated itself as a bastion of piety with total disdain for any semblance of corruption.
Having won, the coalition immediately ordered a plethora of forensic audits into State entities. It was an exercise with an abundance of confidence that corruption, which it claimed was endemic under the PPP/C, would be unearthed. Supporters of the coalition, having been fed a carefully crafted political narrative, were brimming with the expectation that former PPP/C officials would be exposed.
To date, and millions of taxpayers’ dollars after, the audits have not found the corruption that the coalition led the nation to believe had occurred.
Ironically, having proclaimed that it would not condone or be involved in any form of corruption, the APNU/AFC Government farmed out the audits to persons without the requisite financial tendering procedures being followed. Since then, and throughout its tenure, there has been an avalanche of accusations of corruption levelled against it.
The Jubilee Park construction, the feasibility study for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge, the execution of the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), and single sourcing of contracts are a mere few allegations of corruption that attracted national attention.
In addition, various other allegations have been levelled, including the reported selling of firearm licenses by a senior official and the awarding of contracts to the spouse of a minister within the said ministry she had responsibility for.
What these point to is the suspected prevalence of corruption under a Government that boasted of eradicating it.
The Ambassador’s statement in question speaks to its impact in just one area; business climate.
Blackouts continue to plague the nation adversely affecting businesses and residents alike. It has become unbearable with nothing tangible implemented to reduce it. The Government, which is now forced to battle with the scourge of power outages, scuttled the Amila Hydro Falls project— which would have guaranteed reliable, clean, and cheap electricity. Its realization would have lowered manufacturing cost, easing burdens on consumers.
It was a transformative project envisioned by the PPP/C and would have been operable by now had it not been for the actions of the APNU/AFC while in the Opposition. Many, at that time, pondered if the project was scuttled simply because it emanated from the PPP/C and its success would have added political value. That aside, the country is reeling from the telling effects of blackouts— effects reiterated by a senior Diplomat.
On the tax front, much has been said about how the APNU/AFC, seeming unconscionable, unleashed a plethora of new taxes on Guyanese. In addition to taxes, licensing and land-rental fees were massively hiked, making it extremely difficult or even impossible for those affected hard-working Guyanese to provide for their families.
With those increases, many were plunged into financial hardships as ends cannot be met while businesses were forced to shed jobs with some closing. That has led to increased unemployment and the continual downslide of the economy.
All of these: taxes, corruption, and blackouts, continue to disrupt the lives of Guyanese here. The Government has denied corruption, found excuses to justify the mountain of taxes and seemed incapable of dealing with the electricity sector. It has even accused the Opposition of playing politics when it brings attention to these issues.
One wonders what its response would be to the diplomat’s statement which appears very definitive and which pointed out that Iran, the West Bank, and Gaza are ranked higher than Guyana. That speaks to a damning reality of a once prosperous country rapidly declining within just four years.