I read with concern in the various media outlets, more so in a National newspaper, that “Contractors are likely to be underpaid as $298 million is still owed”.
I wish to share my concern on the method of communication that was used to engage the public about this ongoing matter. I have met Minister Winston Jordan on several occasions and one can easily tell that he is a scholar and a professional, but the tone in his response on this issue was disappointing. I am saddened that he would use this tone to contractors which the Government owes. These contractors remain citizens of Guyana and should be treated with dignity and respect.
It is not surprising that he is under a lot of duress (having produced two budgets in such a small space of time) and stress which comes from being a Minister, however, the matter could have been handled more diplomatically.
To my opinion, his tone suggests to people that the Government is harsh, and is not thinking of the welfare of the people it governs.
I am not here to make mockery of this issue, as I was not brought up like that, so I would like to give some wise counsel to the Government:
If you were not in possession of the money to pay these contractors, then you should not have ventured into the project.
The Jubilee 50th Anniversary celebration was indeed an occasion to commemorate, but one must be prudent to how you spend especially on programmes and activities that are ‘one off’.
If in hindsight they do not have the revenue available to compensate the contractors for their work, they should have allowed Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo or Minister Cathy Hughes to meet with the contractors and discuss the matter in a pleasant environment.
The Government could have appealed to the patriotic spirit within the contractors and could have come to a conclusion of having them receive 25 per cent or one-third of the payment. Another option could have been to give a reward to the contractors in the form of an honorary title or some kind of State gift.
I strongly believe that if these steps were taken, there would have been a better result from the project. It is not too late to make amends with these contractors and the public.
The Government can do several things to cushion the impact of the loss of finance that will be experienced by these contractors. My advice to the Government is to be very careful of the tone used when dealing with a sensitive and passionate citizenry, especially at a time such as this.
My advice to the contractors is to realise that this is our country; you were a part of something glorious and magnificent. The portion of payment that you will not receive can be viewed by you as a national contribution to our 50th year as an Independent country.
I think once this is done, you will be able to find satisfaction and peace of mind.