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Happy New Year. I am not sure that people still make resolutions. What I am sure about is that people keep hoping that the new year would be better than the last. In fact, that is the case every year.
Last year was not good for many. For some it was excellent. Those who had money and connections made even more money. They got contracts; some got scholarships, and a few got pocket money. There were those who got significant pay rises.
Some who got contracts got licence to do shoddy work. One group got a job to patch a road in North East La Penitence. Three weeks later cars were dodging huge humps in the road instead of potholes. Of course potholes also emerged in the vicinity of the patchwork.
It was a case of sharing the money among friends and supporters.
I watched the roadwork on Thomas Road, Thomas Lands. For weeks that section of roadway was closed to facilitate the work. Today, another section is collapsing. That is going to warrant another contract.
The most shocking thing that appeared during last year was garbage on the streets. There was a time when walking on the streets was akin to walking between hills. Those days disappeared with a massive cleanup campaign that made Bharrat Jagdeo jealous.
The difference is that hills always had a pleasant smell. Garbage does not.
There I was at Bourda Market on Saturday. Motorists visiting the market could at one time a few weeks ago, park on both sides of North Road. On Saturday, the southern side between Bourda Street and Alexander Street was reserved for huge garbage piles.
People realized that the pains that David Granger took to ensure that the city was clean were back. The city now stinks. A stink city is the hallmark of the present government. This was the case prior to 2015 and it is the case again.
The late Forbes Burnham once took pride in taking visitors to the municipal markets. He knew that the range of foods would blow their minds. Irfaan Ali would not risk that today.
More money is flowing in Guyana; indeed, prices are higher but there is more equipment around. The Haags Bosch landfill site is still open to garbage trucks. Yet garbage is accumulating in the streets.
From the looks of things, the city would be overwhelmed with garbage. It is going to stink to high heavens. From that perspective Georgetown would not be a nice place this year. The more money there is the worse things tend to be.
As a young teacher I earned what would be called a pittance today but what was comparative to the pay in the other government sectors. When a pay increase was announced, many of us told ourselves that we would put up the increase because we had been living without it.
We managed for a few weeks until we found that the more money we got the more we realised that there were things that we needed. The more enterprising among us secured homes and our personal transport. Of course, we had to sacrifice.
Today, some people are in a similar position. The difference is that they are scrambling to live at a level they did a few months ago. The prices soared so that their earnings became smaller and smaller.
And as happened during the 1990s and early 2000s foreign recruiters are gobbling up our skilled people. The promise of real money is too much to resist. They are helping to reduce our country to a nation of idiots.
Of course, salvation rests in importing the skills. That would necessitate paying more than the government pays the locals so there will be mutterings and perhaps strikes.
We were doing that at one time. We were bringing teachers from Sri Lanka and doctors from the Philippines. The recruits have left at the end of their contracts.
On the entertainment side, people should have known that things were not what they should be. In the past there were numerous announcements about parties. The newspapers were full as were the radio waves. There were parties at Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day –just name the occasion and there was a party.
This was not the case this holiday season.
There was a high point, though. Many Guyanese travelled from overseas to be home for the holidays. They were just content to be home. They came for the traditional cuisine.
All is not lost. People are hustling two jobs. Of course this can be tiring but the need to live a good life is stronger than any tiredness. And living a good life means getting the children to school looking presentable, and having something inside their stomachs.
People are still collecting remittances. However, the money transfer services are making hay. If someone sends money to you from New York, Western Union would give you the money in local currency at a rate of $193.20 per US dollar.
Some would smile until they realise that if they were sending the money to New York then they would have to pay $218.20 per dollar. That is a $25 spread. Why should this be? Is it that Western Union is prohibiting the movement of money?
Does the company believe that things are so bad that people would take anything? Is Central Bank looking at this transaction?
There was a time when the Central Bank was harsh on the Cambios.
The money transfer entities are not the only ones to put the squeeze on the already struggling masses. Cancer is increasing in Guyana so more people are seeking the services of the Cancer Institute, located in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Bright and early New Year’s morning I learned that a woman is required to pay $1.5 million for radiation therapy. If this woman is already struggling to find money for food, then she is being condemned to death.
This year promises to be extremely cruel.