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The 2022 National budget passed in the National Assembly holds economic, social and political implications that we have to live with for years and decades to come. I have shared my thoughts on the budget on two occasions: on the WPA TV program Walter Rodney Groundings-Channel9, and on Dr David Hinds’ program Politics 101 where I shared WPA’s perspective on the budget with Professor Clive Thomas and Kidackie Amsterdam. There is no need for me to elaborate on my views on the budget in this letter.
The main purpose here is to criticise the Guyanese trade unions on their muted and tepid response to the government’s failure of budgetary allocations for public sector workers wages and salaries and to give recognition to the USAID’s call for power-sharing to manage the country’s oil wealth.
Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow the father of trade unionism in Guyana would be appalled at the state of the country’s trade unions and its umbrella organization, the Trade Union Congress (TUC). The almost impotent state of the unions to provide effective representation to its members is unparalleled in the history of the country. This unfortunate situation has resulted in the government demonstrating open disrespect and contempt for workers in general and more particular its employees in the public sector by refusing to make allocations in the budget for increases in workers’ wages and salaries or to state an approach to this grievous issue. It is now almost two weeks since the passing of the budget and we are yet to hear from the unions in their individual or collective capacity any major response to this abomination – a $552.9 billion budget and nothing for public service workers. And no protest from the unions? This is unprecedented in the history of trade unionism in the country.
The present leadership of the workers need to ask themselves some hard questions as it relates to their relevance in the present situation. Workers in their individual and collective capacity need to engage in self-criticism to come to grips with their self-defeatingbehavior as it relates to the value they attach to their labour-power. Their apparent willingness to accept starvation wages/salaries at this historical moment of abundance speaks volumes in terms of their social and political consciousness. Faced with the hostile actions of the most anti-working class/working people government in our post-independent history –the muted response ofworkers and their leaderships amounts to self-inflicted wounds. One hope is that this condition will be overcome in the interest of the nation and future generations. I invoke the WPA/Rodneyite advice to workers: ” true liberation is self-liberation”.
Demerara Waves in its February 14th 2022 edition carried an article, captioned, ” USAID report recommends APNU+AFC, PPP”power sharing” to manage oil wealth”. It is a timely release of the document written in August 2021 that called on the two major political parties “to abandon the current majoritarian political model in which the party with at least 51 percent of the popular vote forms the government.” This call coming from a foreign agency is an indictment to the country’s political leadership – both government and opposition.
The report calls for the end of the “winner takes all” mentality. To make Guyana a functioning democracy and to ensure that the unprecedented wealth in oil reserves is, “transparently and equitably managed for the benefit of all Guyanese,”.
It is also important to note Demerara Waves’ observation: “The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has historically called for executive power sharing”. This patriotic call by the WPA for national reconciliation and unity is decades old and has fallen on deaf ears. Our major political parties have consistently demonstrated their unwillingness to end the winner takes all governance system. This self-destructive political conduct blinds us from seeing the obvious and to continue on this path is a recipe for future social disharmony leading to “destruction”. Hopefully, our leaders with their neo-colonial mentality and proclivity for respecting foreign advice over local, may be more responsive and heed the USAID advice.
I end by reiterating my criticism of the worker’s leadership and the nation’s political leadership and urge that they engage in retrospection and self-criticism for the sake of the nation.