At this time of year, Guyanese from all walks of life are engaged — some more than others — in preparation for Christmas. It is a most anticipated occasion, and cuts across religious boundaries, epitomizing enviable tolerance, a hallmark for Guyana and Guyanese. While it is a time for celebration, there are some who would be unable to do so for various reasons, including health, bereavement, and the lack of financial resources.
Despite those challenges, traditionally, Guyanese have found a way, modest as it may be, to participate in aspects of what the season represents. That does not take away from the fact that there are families whose circumstances would not allow for any semblance of participation. Breadwinners who had lost their jobs would find it extremely difficult to provide any necessity for celebration. That, in itself, brings humiliation to those already broadsided by the circumstances they face, similarly for those who may not be able to access a meal. The absence of a meal presents a very distressing situation, wherein some Guyanese could unfortunately go hungry during this season. Only recently, the Leader of the Opposition alluded to what he believes has been a return of hunger among some Guyanese. He pointed out that he never thought he would have seen such a situation recurring.
That is in the context of the unprecedented development and positive transformation of the lives of Guyanese during the twenty-three years the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) was in government. Despite inheriting a poor, highly indebted and bankrupt country in 1992, the PPPC was able to transform the social and physical infrastructure and drastically reduce poverty.
During that time, Guyanese had seen their lives improved, and accumulated wealth through home ownership and other assets. In addition, hunger became something of the past. A stark contrast followed the 2015 elections, as poor fiscal policies of the APNU/AFC government led to a downturn of the economy, thousands of jobs lost, and lack of investments.
Those combined factors have resulted in many Guyanese facing unnecessary hardships, with some being plunged into poverty, which can precipitate hunger. Much has been said about the devastating social impact, especially on the thousands of sugar workers who were fired following the closure of some estates after 2015. Horrific stories of dire poverty and hunger forcing undesirable alternatives have been told.
It is therefore extremely worrying that some Guyanese are experiencing hunger, and could go hungry during this festive season. As always, Guyanese, either individually or through organizations, would reach out via charitable endeavours to assist those in need, especially at this time. That unbridled generosity, which has become a fixture, must be commended and encouraged, since for some of our fellow citizens it provides when things are hard to come by.
Here, in Guyana, Christmas is deemed unique, for the spirt of sharing and bringing joy to others seems to be embedded in the characteristic of our people. While these welcomed gestures would go a far way in assisting the needy and the less fortunate, from a macro perspective, the return of hunger is not only a major cause for concern, but an indictment on those who hold the reins of power.
One of the criticisms of this government is alleged extravagance. Many have opined that the nation’s financial resources were not prudently managed, and have been channelled to some areas that reportedly benefit no one; expensive drones to the tune of some 186 million dollars being the latest example. Before that, repainting state edifices in green; building Durban Park when the National Park is just a stone’s throw away; an increased Government through some twenty-eight Ministers; extravagant celebrations; increased security and dietary needs, and constructing a massive fence around the Ministry of the Presidency are seen as totally unnecessary.
Many believe those monies and sums spent in other areas deemed a non-priority could have been used to support the sugar industry, thereby not only saving thousands of jobs, but preventing the crippling and humiliating social impact on those workers and their families. In other words, money saved from extravagance could more than likely have prevented the return of hunger in a nation that was classified as a developing one at 2015.
What is also worrying is the manner in which some Government cronies have dismissed the return of poverty. In their exuberance to naturally defend the Government, they have failed to accept the situation that has been imposed on workers who were fired. They have failed to accept that those workers and their families have continued to suffer Christmas after Christmas since 2015. They have failed to accept that the Government has refused to give sugar workers a bonus, which was granted to Public Servants.
One could ask if sugar workers are directly targeted to wallow in poverty. Whatever the argument, it’s difficult to argue against the fact that some Guyanese would unfortunately be unable to experience the true meaning of the season and some would be imbued with the pangs of hunger. The irony in a festive time could not be clearer.