The attempt to fix what is broken results in breaking an essential part of our economy.
This is the paradox of uprooting a system of lawlessness that has extended its enervating tentacles into the central nervous system of an economy that is caught in the sludge of obsolescence.
It’s one of the reasons why the PPP could have gotten away with presenting a bogus balance sheet for two decades – that and the fact that keeping up with politics and the business of government is not the country’s chosen pastime. That’s the only reason Bharrat Jagdeo could have, brazenly, stood at the annual awards ceremony of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) in 2007 and challenge the whispers that the very existence of Guyana was because of some cocaine that would come from Columbia, to Venezuela and Brazil, penetrate Guyana’s porous borders bound for North America and Europe.
That, and the fact that he was a graduate, some say cum laude, of Patrice Lamumba University Moscow, ignominiously known as a processing plant for personnel selected to specialize in subversion; only that Bharaat preferred the safer and more lucrative alternative of undermining his own country by creating pipelines to infuse illegal monies from the drug trade into the hands of his ruling class. Loosely translated, that means Bharaat preferred to steal from the citizens he presided over; but he hasn’t been convicted yet, so, of necessity, we have to employ that adverb of convenience, allegedly; even as he brazenly scoffed at economic speculation as “wild assertions” and explained that , “….. in 2006 there was an inflow of US$1.02B inclusive of remittances and “I don’t have here a line called drug money”.
So, the balance sheets reflected faux growth and the government feigned success, while Jagdeo, fluent in the lingo he mastered at Patrice Lumumba, continued to kerfuffle us with terms like “aggregate banking statistics reflected growth in the economy due to greater self-confidence, increased inflows of money for investment and self generated wealth” – never quite deconstructing the aggregation, never quite analyzing the statistics, never quite singling out growth sectors but, never the less, deflecting the notion that he was a president complicit with illegal maneuverings involving illicit drugs for the purpose of creating an influx of money into Guyana’s economy that could not be reflected on any balance sheet guided by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The translation is that Bharrat was using our country to run drugs for a hefty kickback but he hasn’t been convicted yet so let’s not go with my rendition.
And as that money flowed, unchecked and unexplained, the Black Market boomed, infusing money from places unknown to acquire goods that circumvented customs, skirted excise and increased the opportunities for officials to threaten to prosecute on the grounds of illegal goods, founded or unfounded and for those at odds with the laws to avoid prosecution by paying bribes just to avoid being targeted.
Soon, this system of unreported wealth buying unregistered goods in an environment policed by unscrupulous officials replaced the normalcy of legitimate goods and services being exchanged in an open marketplace for approved currency; which takes me to Jerries Tight and Sweet, an eatery known as much for its flavorful food as it is for its sexual innuendo and how it’s announcement of shutting its doors permanently may have begun a domino effect in an economy that reflected growth on paper to lure lenders, bait borrowers and control citizens with straw promises.
What Jerry explained is text book example of the effects of parallel economies. His business is now suffering because of the very thing that will save businesses – an honest government enforcing the legitimate flow of goods and services. What he has noticed is that his sales have slumped considerably, starting last year, when the government went in to prorogation limbo and more so now since the new administration has taken over. From his perspective this is not about cautious spending ahead of feeling out the new government. This is about the shutting down of illegal income and revenue which has exponentially reduced the amount of money available to patronize his establishment. He ties this in to a conversation he had back when the other administration made it illegal to have any foreign liquor bought outside of prescribed premises an actionable offense and how, in an effort to supplement their skeletal income, officials would swoop in to do ‘spot checks’ hoping to catch proprietors with illegal liquor. He recalls an incident when there were some no parking traffic signs placed in front of his business, seriously interrupting his sales and his ensuing conversation with a certain Minister of Home Affairs who all but suggested that the signs could be removed for a fee. With Jerry being the principled entrepreneur he is, he ignored the inference and went back to his place of business and continued to operate with the no parking signs obstructing his sales.
The task here is not an easy one. It requires the delicate dismantling of the PPP black market network with simultaneous rerouting of transactions to the official economy with the degree of synchrony that takes away the loss of business vendors are feeling from the stemmed flow of illicit funds. The Opposition, now government, must have known that reports of phenomenal economic growth and the sectors identified as outperformers were all the machinations of the Jagdeo who turned his subversive education against his country, particularly, to raiding its treasury. They must have known that the upsurge of vehicles and the blossoming of new businesses without a traceable and verifiable flow of revenue in to the country’s banking system, was a sign that a shadow economy was reaping the benefits.
And we’re reviving our Tourism industry now. A large part of that is fine cuisine and Jerries has left its foot print on that path. Laws would have to be reviewed to accommodate tourists. To add that competitive edge, tourists should have the variety of products they are accustomed to available to them, which would make ‘foreign liquor’ an obsolete term and remove the nexus between authorities and bribe – at least in this area. Our Ministry of Commerce, by definition, is in the business of encouraging sustainable business development, creating jobs, promoting economic growth, which means that they have to protect our mom and pop stores by working with Revenue authority to remove penalties that may impact operations. And, our Central Bank should be instructed to make soft loans available to these stores that are now reeling from the sudden withdrawal of underground money that gave them the false sense of success that Jagdeo created and Ramotar perpetuated.
The plight of Jerries Tight and Sweet is, perceivably, the plight of every business in Guyana that depended on the exchange of goods and services for money. We wanted a legitimate government and we’re happy that we’ve finally gotten one. What we want, now, is for the government to spring in to action to stem the effects of this sudden change in spending habits, as the business community goes into black market withdrawal.
We have a long way to go and our industries to protect as we embark on the journey to economic restoration. As Guyanese with a vested interest in repair and restoration of every facet of government, we intend to keep our fingers on the pulse of how life is evolving in our country.
If this issue has never been raised elsewhere, we have raised it here because our purpose is to preserve all the Jerries’ that are potentially in danger because we allowed a party of rogues and a succession of PPP presidents to bring our country to its knees.
It’s part of our promise to keep the spotlight on the issues.