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By Ronald Austin Jr.
We will soon find out. The time is nigh. The discovery of “black gold” invariably ushers in cataclysmic changes for the average society. Guyana is no different in this regard. In fact, we are probably a case study in which this phenomenon will be its most potent, given our status as the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and given our intractable sociology. History is replete with examples of how this key component of the extractive industry can create jobs, encourage business and provide critical infrastructure, regardless of who is at the helm and irrespective of which economic policies are in place. It is the great paradox, often referred to as the cursed blessing. No nation on this earth can escape the challenge of a deluge of money and more money. So having established that the phenomenon is at our shores and we are in the cards to be a Petri dish for this experiment, what will be the critical areas of manifestation? In my estimation, it is easy to conclude that once there are bags of money being thrown around, the greatest impact will be on good old human nature and its principles, whatever of it is left in this transactional town. The money will test all and sundry as they have never been tested before. “Black gold” will bring forth Dante’s inferno and principles, loyalties and values, will all be subjected to their greatest temptations and some may never make it to the purgatory. In this, we will soon find out who is the real revolutionary.
PRINCIPLES V SURVIVAL
Every man and woman possess their principles. It is that which makes us tick and feel grounded and focused on a north star until we depart. Philip Skelton opined: ‘Our principles are the springs of our actions: our actions, the springs of our happiness or misery. Too much care, therefore, cannot be taken in forming our principles’. It is about how we view life. What kind of country we want to live in. What values are embraced, whether for a corrupt society or in preference of a law and order society. Of course, these sentiments invariably lead us to support political parties and in turn, decide on who will represent us. Conversely, citizens sign up to political parties to represent or carry the cause of the people based on certain agreed principles. For this reason, the entire political process ticks and the Guyana political reality has been ticking for years with a certain orthodoxy. However, with the advent of “black gold”, those who profess to stick with their principles through thick and thin, will have their greatest examination. I am putting it to all those whose eyes these words may reach: the nascent oil and gas economy with its concomitant bags of money will test the mettle of men. Those who find themselves outside the halls of power will be susceptible. There are lots of deals to be made. Lots of lucrative offers will come. Thus, it is revolutionaries who will be able to choose principles over survival. We will soon find out.
WILL INSTITUTIONS SURVIVE?
In addition to men and women facing their personal tests, institutions will creak due to the pressures of unprecedented bribery. Courts, commissions, constitutional bodies and more will either say get thee behind me Satan or crumble in the face of the carnival of abundant capital. How will Magistrates and judges handle the influx of cash at its inflationary best? How will agencies designed to protect the environment stand up to bags of cash? How will underpaid and demoralized environmental officers resist the allure of a Rolex watch which they have never seen before? When the pernicious oil venturing capitalists touch down on these shores, they arrive with the conviction that no amount of law can stop their avaricious march. In this, they are prepared to graft the life out of any institution standing in their way. Will an officer of the law deny a permit to hands that are carrying gigantic paper bags of money? On the evidence of what has been before us since independence, the answer has to be an emphatic no. As a consequence, only those who those institutions which carry their mandates with revolutionary fervor will be able to withstand the financial inducement onslaught. Those who have survived thus far, cannot boast of any achievement until they can stand up in the face of what is to come. No amount of constitutional order or statute can scare the venture capitalists, they are coming. Therefore, insofar as institutions are only as good as their administrators, their survival depends on the worth of the man or woman behind the desk.
THE FINAL EVOLUTION
Since independence, we have been pulling and tugging at the kind of society we wish to see. In this, there has been the manifestation of a constant back and forth between a corrupt society and a society based on law and order. At times, the values which have been implanted in the citizenry through the family, school, Church, Mandir, Mosque and more have puffed its chest and somewhat dominated. At other intervals, we have reverted to the rat race. Well, here it is. This is it. The time is now. The smash and grab revolution is here and only true revolutionaries could survive. The debate has ended. The uncertainty has come to a screeching halt. “black gold” will bring regrettable clarity and the final evolution will be solidified. There will no longer be any hesitancy due to the factors which will manifest. Guyana is on the cusp of its final evolution and those with values and principles which stand in the way of profits shall be dashed aside made to cower under their beds. Outside will be a grand bacchanal for the nouveau riche.
The final evolution is here and soon we will find out who is the real revolutionary.