The arrival of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on our shores has only served to heighten the anxieties amongst the Guyanese people. Our citizens’ anxiousness was already high following the undoubted attempts to undermine democracy. With now several confirmed cases in our country, the “Government”, in our view, belatedly sprang into action. The IMF, from data at its hand, concluded that our country was among the least prepared in our hemisphere. Rather than seeking to catch up, an Executive Order was foisted on our people. That order has only, in our view, served to raise the already high temperature even higher given the sweeping powers it has placed in the hands of the “authorities”.
While the FITUG believes that all and every practical step should be taken, we fail to see how what the Government has approved itself to pursue can really be helpful. In fact, it is our considered view that it could force Guyanese who may contract the virus to become afraid to disclose their status given the wide-ranging and vast powers that the authorities now possess. While the officialdom has sought to downplay concerns, we believe, at the same time, the extreme measures are completely unnecessary at this time. Of course, it did not miss us that the extremities approved could be used as a pretext to further the nefarious activities regarding our votes. Given what has transpired over the last few days, it is hard to discount any possibility nowadays.
The order, apart from wide discretion, has essentially given those empowered to write themselves blank cheques and spend without any oversight. This is a dangerous precedent which may not augur well for accountability and transparency. We also recognise it was recently disclosed that a request has been made for US$5 million support from the World Bank. Incidentally, this request comes when certain members of the “Administration” are expressing negative thoughts about the views of the international community. But that aside, we hasten to ask:- Why must we approach the World Bank? Isn’t our Treasury in a healthy enough position to afford this expenditure? This, we see, could be a telltale ominous sign, time will tell though.
Another concern the Federation has is with regard to the effect on employment. Already, one business has indicated that it will have to send employees home for some period. The economic slow down could linger for some time, yet it appears that there is no attention being paid on this front. In other nations, we have seen proactive public policies to alleviate such stresses on peoples and enterprises. This appears to be absent from our response though it is very much an important, and we daresay critical, element.
For the FITUG, our concerns rest foremost will the well-being of the Guyanese people, and indeed all peoples of the world. We urge everyone to heed the advice of the experts and to embrace all measures which will mitigate and staunch the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are heartened by the news that some headway has been made to find appropriate treatments. We were also pleased to learn that one of the identified treatments can be manufactured locally and we urge that this be fast-tracked in the interest of the health of our people. We, at this time, encourage all Guyanese to remain safe.
Unions of Guyana