Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
By GHK Lall
The PPP Government’s position is that it can’t release too much money into people’s pockets. Inflation fears. In regular speech, price pressures. Inflation and agony. Prices rising, people collapsing. Economic theory and local reality colliding. The PPP sets aside billions for infrastructure. What about that feeding nonedible inflation?
Try buying a truckload of sand. Or a load of stone. Or some wood for building. The common denominators are availability and sky-high prices. The less the materials are around, the more it is that has to be paid. I agree that sand and stone and plywood are not what aids in feeding one’s hunger, and fueling up the body on a daily basis, but there is that kind of inflation that knocks down more than a few Guyanese from accessing stuff to fix a problem, or fulfill a vision. Further, I urge my fellow citizens to figure out how easy it is not to find an available worker, properly skilled and experience, and his team. Everybody is busy, and all are working on the big-ticket projects springing up all over the place, from both local and foreign sources. With Chevron going to Venezuela, cheap Guyana labor also went up the creek.
Along the same lines, something even more alarming has been put to the public, through the media. It is that some of the ongoing steep price pressures being deeply felt by Guyanese on the lower rungs of the economic ladder for food products are traceable to demand from the ballooning oil and gas sector. Barring some unforeseen development, a real major one, it stands to reason and business logic that those price pressures for foodstuffs will only intensify, get worse. Oil isn’t slowing down, with new projects lined up to come onstream. I will, therefore, take the position and argue that some level of inflationary pressures is being dumped on Guyanese, and this is without them being the beneficiaries of any pay raises, meaningful cost of living adjustments, or inputs of money in hand. Some of the inflationary pressures, now sustained and punishing, have essentially converted the citizens of this country to incidental oil and gas collateral damage. They don’t have more in their pockets, they are forced to buy less, and this is without any kind of payouts of significance to them. For emphasis, it is not from income-driven inflation.
Thus, when I hear or read that the PPP Government and the Hon. Vice President articulating concerns about feeding inflationary pressures by pushing for more money from oil, actually being the recipients of such an influx of dollars, and then turning around and doling it out to a struggling, hurting, waiting Guyanese populace, I pull up short. Make no mistake, there is some merit to what the Government and the Vice President are putting on the table, for it is according to the concepts and bloodless abstractions in textbooks. Yet, we have this grim reality of the bottom feeders in Guyana who have not received, have not demanded and, thus, have not spent, putting up their hands to ward off the blows that come from relentless price pressures on almost everything.
I think both government and citizens need to face up to this single fact: the mass of citizens are not buying (can’t afford to), so they are not pushing up prices to the heights that they are soaring. Though I make some allowance for the vagaries of the weather, and some degree of supply limits, I interpret and equate what is happening to ordinary Guyanese as this: regular citizens are paying for the activities of others. That is, the many feel the brunt for the handiwork of the few. Those who can afford to buy, regardless of price. Those who are closely involved in some way to the oil and gas sector. What the foreign boats offshore need, and what Guyanese deliver. That demand alone is formidable, and it is consuming the poorest Guyanese the most.
The PPP Government’s position has three prongs. First, there is not enough money to spread around in the amounts bandied about; or expected. Not enough for much-needed national developmental needs, which comes first before bread and butter. Second, therefore, choices have to be made, and something has to give, meaning sacrifices have to be made. In the business books, it has a cool and comforting name that is as misleading as they come where the man-in-the-street welfare is concerned. It is opportunity cost. The something that has to give means that somebody has to feel the squeeze. The somebody is the Guyanese people below the middle and closer to the bottom; they are the ones feeling it. And third, to press the foreigner oil operators for more money (better contract terms) will send the worst of signals about the unreliability of Guyana, where sanctity of contract is concerned, and chase them away. This is the one-time communist, now uber capitalist, PPP taking a page out of its previously hated enemy’s (America) playbook, with its version of the domino effect. That is, foreigners collapsing on each other in their rush to get away from doing any business with Guyana. This is State Department calculations reversed by Guyanese leaders on their own numbed people.
This is pure, unadulterated hogwash, bilge, and tripe combined. I assert that there is no place on earth that foreign investors want to bring their dollars and business more than to Guyana. Which company is bold enough, and stupid enough, to forego a foothold here? Sanctity of contract and all, which all know should be a cause for public flogging followed by hanging of those advocating such.
It is why I recommend that the PPP Government bite the bullet(s) and give an urgent hand, a generous hand, to hurting Guyanese. Also, understand where the market supply disruptions are occurring, and deal with those culprits, most likely supporters. Further, faceoff with the foreigners and table our position: MORE! More from them means more for all Guyanese.