APNU/AFC’s general lack of interest in securing Guyana’s sea defence is puzzling and unfathomable. This week, Joe Harmon provided a scary insight into APNU/AFC’s thinking. As reported in the Stabroek News and further highlighted in a media letter by Tony Viera, Harmon, the right-hand man for David Granger, said the sea defence is a “drain on the treasury”.
For the vast majority of Guyanese, this signals a scary future. The last time APNU/AFC spoke of a “drain on the treasury”, more than 7000 sugar workers lost their jobs, between 30,000 to 40,000 people became impoverished and four sugar estates were closed in a callous downsizing of SUGAR in Guyana.
Does this mean APNU/AFC has a plan to marginalise expenditure on sea defence strengthening and maintenance? Is this the reason he raised the possibility of moving the population to higher grounds? Is this the reason why APNU/AFC reduced focus on the building and maintenance of sea defence since May 2015? Is this the reason the Mahaicony sea defence was left to further deteriorate? Is this why APNU/AFC abandoned the people of Mahaicony? Is a “drain on the treasury” now the code words and excuse for negligence and abandonment?
With rising sea levels because of climate change, with a need to ramp-up existing sea defence maintenance and accelerate new sea defence structures, it is really scary to hear a senior member of an incumbent government talking about sea defence expenses being a “drain on the treasury”. It is even scarier because we now know their posture on things that are a “drain on the treasury” end them.
This is what they did with SUGAR. Their excuse for closing down the four estates and downsizing the industry, for firing 7000 sugar workers, was that the period of paying back SUGAR was a “drain on the treasury”. Are we now expected to deal with the flooding and the threats to livelihoods and life itself on our own because our Government feels the investments on sea defence is a “drain on the treasury”? Is this what we must expect if APNU/AFC is re-elected in March 2020? God forbids!
This is not a spurious fear. Just less than a month ago, Winston Jordan declared that the public service is a “drain on the treasury” because it has 20,000 too many public servants. He then asserted that the “drain on the treasury” because of the “bloated” public service is why public servant salaries are low and why APNU/AFC could not have kept their promise to, at least, double salaries by 2020. If re-elected, then to continue in Government after March 2020, we can reasonably expect that 20,000 public servants will be fired in order to reduce the “drain on the treasury”.
For the last five years, all the gains we made in health have almost evaporated. The reliable supply chain that ensures a steady supply of medicines, vaccines, medical supplies has been deliberately sabotaged and brought to a state of collapse. The increasing numbers of nurses and doctors in the public health sector have stagnated and, in fact, have seen declines. Could all of this be now interpreted in the context that public health is a “drain on the treasury”? Is this why after five years there are now increasing episodes of medicine and medical supply shortages?
SUGAR was not the first example of a callous, cruel cut-off of funds and abandonment of public good programmes because APNU/AFC bases policy directions on the criterion of “drain on public treasury”. Immediately on taking control of the government in May 2015, APNU/AFC hurled a sledgehammer on education funding. With the same “drain on public treasury” excuse, APNU/AFC eliminated the $10,000 grant programme for each child attending school.
They also terminated the One Laptop per Family Programme, which was a programme to ensure children have access to internet-linked laptops and promote computer and ICT literacy within families across Guyana. Lest we forget, APNU/AFC promised free university education after May 2015, but they reneged on that promise, raising university fees, instead, because university education was a “drain on the treasury”. Are we soon going to hear that public education, from nursery to high school, is also a “drain on the treasury”? Is this what people must expect from an APNU/AFC Government come March 2020?
Come to think of it, is public security and agriculture another “drain on the treasury”? We know what APNU/AFC does not consider a “drain on the public treasury”. When they doubled their salaries and tripled their allowances, they did not see this as a “drain on the treasury”.
With the globe-trotting and the massive increases in food and entertainment bills, massive increases in super-salaried contract employees and the menu of squandermania to enhance their self-interests, APNU/AFC does not view these as “drain on the treasury”. But investing in more Police Officers, security technology, investing in drainage and irrigation, dams and farm-to-market roads, investments to reduce lease and rent rates for agricultural lands, these are drains on the public treasury, in APNU/AFC’s book. This is their manifesto. Beware of the wickedness in the APNU/AFC.