Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Editor, the day before yesterday was a gut-wrenching day for me, as I paid a visit to several villages along the west coast of the Berbice River. First let me say that having grown up in a rural setting, I am familiar with the challenges of non-suburban living. Having said that, nothing in my past prepared me for what I saw and heard in the Trafalgar/Number 30 area. Apart from a few modern houses nothing has changed in this area in the last two decades. The abject poverty is palpable and the squalor and hardship of these citizens’ lives are incomprehensible and indefensible in the year 2011. An intelligent and very articulate 11-year-old who lives at Number 30 village and attends Berbice High School comes from a single parent home and has to pay $300 (minibus fare) every day to get to and from school. Her academic future is threatened because her mother after paying $12,000 monthly to transport one child to school is unable to balance the family budget. There is not much left from her monthly salary of $25,000, and there are two other promising children in the home. The speedboat that serves as an alternative to the bridge is not adequate, and is also an “unsafe” choice for some. With just one such boat operating many of the children are late for school. Complaints and suggestions have been made to the government about this problem, but there is no relief in sight.
At Number 29 I met an old buddy of mine; he has been living without any power for the last year, because the power company was demanding a down payment of $90,000 before connecting his service, He was able with help from his family to come up with half of this amount, but the corporation still refused to connect the service. In the adjoining village, the residents have telephones but no light, because GPL would not use the poles of the telephone company to run their transmission lines, even though it is alleged to have been done elsewhere and there is some inter-company agreement in existence to facilitate this. In the same village I met a woman who could not register, because after paying $2000 in travelling expenses to get a copy of her birth certificate, it arrived yesterday, months after her initial application. To say that she is angry would be an understatement. She wants to vote the PPP out, but with no identification card all she can do is pray that her neighbours do the right thing. After 77 years of living in Berbice, she says the last 19 years have been the worst of her life. Editor, as I surveyed rural Berbice it was a tale of two cities; some were having the best of times while others were living in enclaves of abject poverty, barely surviving but for the grace of God. As we passed villages with ostentatious trappings of great wealth, we would enter places where it seemed time had stood still. There are no jobs for the youth of these villages, no industry and no incentive to engage in agriculture. Their lives are further complicated by the red tape and arrogance of regional administrations that operate as if they are in charge of little fiefdoms, instead of like public servants.
Why in 2011, do we have parts of villages along our coasts without lights? What type of citizens do we expect to emerge from these enclaves of poverty? What I saw during my travels was a government that was engaged in selected development and this poses a moral dilemma; whom do we choose to serve and whom do we neglect? This is what one party rule is doing to Guyana, and will continue to do unless we find the courage to embrace a concept whose time has come. A government of national unity, run by a partnership for national unity (APNU), can be a fair arbiter, governing in a balanced and judicious manner, catering to all the people. No parent should have to make a choice between feeding her kids and sending them to school, and it is criminal to ask a senior citizen to pay $90.000 to connect anything. We need and we can do better.
TIMEHRI AIRPORT IS BACKWARD
Many Guyanese have a torrid time at regional airports. And our President has been consistent in condemning the treatment of his nationals by regional immigration authorities.
But his latest jab, this time targeting the in-transit service at Piarco International Airport, is bound to lead to questions about the standards at his country’s own Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
For any Guyanese to criticize the in-transit facilities at Trinidad’s major airport without recognizing the flaws at Timehri is being disingenuous. To use security checks as the basis for criticizing other airports is inexplicable.
Ever since the attacks of September 11, detailed and rigorous security checks have become the norm at all airports. Except if you are a Head of State traveling on diplomatic privileges, no one is exempt from these checks. And as we learnt recently, even ministers of the government traveling on diplomatic passports can now be delayed at foreign airports while detailed checks are run on them.
Body searches are part of the security drill. These are now mandatory. Passengers are forced to take off their belts, their shoes, have their carry-on items scanned, be patted down by a guard, and may even be subject to questioning.
Even in-transit passengers are now required to undergo security checks, whether it is at a major airport in the developed world or at Piarco in Trinidad. It is unreasonable to expect that the authorities in Trinidad are going to allow a passenger deplaning from another country, but with onward connections, to simply board an aircraft on their soil without being subject to security checks.
So for example, a passenger from New York who is in-transit through Piarco to Georgetown, is required to go to an in-transit area and be subject to the normal security checks as any other passenger. This has been the norm for quite sometime.
It does seem however as if someone is suggesting that in-transit passengers should be shuttled straight to an in-transit lounge and not be subject to such checks.
No country is going to follow this line. They are not a party to the security checks done in the foreign country and therefore they are within their rights to ensure that even in-transit passengers are subject to searches. The country through which the passenger is in-transit can be penalized should something be missed by their security officials.
But if Guyana is going to criticize another regional airport about security checks and having in-transit passengers use the departure area, then Guyana needs to get its own house in order.
Guyana does not have an in-transit lounge. So how can Guyana be criticizing another country for having in-transit passengers use the departure area when the same thing happens in Guyana?
A foreign passenger in-transit through Guyana has to not only go through the same security checks as any normal departing passenger, but also has to clear immigration, something that does not happen at Piarco. So in this regard, the Guyanese system is far more arduous than what exists in Trinidad.
There are other areas that would qualify Timehri as being ranked as one of the poorest airports in the region. In the incoming area for instance, trolleys are provided, but passengers can only use these trolleys to move about twenty-five feet, because by the time you get to the door to exit the area, you have to use the designated Red Cap service. There is nothing more comical than this. Why provide baggage trolleys when passengers can only use it from the conveyor belt to the door, then have to utilize the Red Cap service to haul their luggage to their vehicles?
The Timehri International Airport is also the only airport in the Caribbean where when a passenger is finished checking in, his freedom is constrained. The passenger is not allowed to go back out through the doors. He has to say goodbye at the door to the check-in area. What a joke!
In fact, Guyana has a unique situation where the persons who accompany you to the airport to bid you goodbye have to be peering through a glass window because they are not allowed inside the terminal – the only airport in the world where this happens. The terminal is like a large prison with the passengers inside and everyone else outside peering in.
Yet there is enormous space available to make the check-in area larger and to allow friends and relatives to spend some time with their loved ones after checking-in.
Guyana has excellent physical facilities at its airport, facilities that are amongst the best in the Caribbean. The airport is also properly maintained. However, the systems of processing passengers are primitive and pale in comparison to what obtains in other Caribbean countries. To say that the system is arduous would be misleading. A better word to describe our airport system is backward.
– Int’l Migration Report 2011
A ‘small piece’, a ‘lil raise’ … whatever it may be called, regular remittances to Guyanese from relations living in other countries are not just small pieces – they are an important sector of the Guyanese economy. Remittances, it is noted, are among the most tangible links between migration and development.
The Bank of Guyana Annual report for 2010 noted that the enactment of the Money Transfer Agencies (Licensing) Act 2009 provided BOG with supervisory oversight of money transfer activities.
According to the report there were seven agencies licensed to carry out money transfer activities and 157 registered agents in the country at the end of 2010. The value of all inbound transactions came to US$169.4M while the overall value of outbound transactions came to US$26.0M.
The report pointed out that the US currency accounted for 55.0 percent of all money transfers, Caribbean currencies 19.0 percent, Canadian Dollars 13.0 percent and Sterling 7.0 percent. In contrast, the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the IDB Group puts the figure for Guyanese remittances at US$374M in its 2010 Remittances report that focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the International Migration in the Americas report, Latin American and Caribbean countries received about 20 percent of overall officially recorded remittance flows to developing countries in 2009, a ratio which corresponds to a figure of $57B.
In that report it is given that in Honduras, Guyana, El Salvador and Haiti remittances represent the highest percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); accounting for between 15 and 20 percent of GDP, a fact confirmed by the Migration Policy Institute Data Hub and a World Bank Brief from the Migration and Remittances Unit of the Institution.
The report on International Migration in the Americas is the first report of the Continuous Reporting System on International Migration in the Americas (SICREMI) which is the acronym in Spanish.
The production of the report released yesterday morning is a joint effort between the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
It was pointed out that remittances play an important role in the region as a source of foreign currency but also to fight poverty as well as to foster household investments in education and health. The report went on to say that an in-depth World Bank study considering 11 Latin American countries has shown that for each percentage point increase in the share of remittances in GDP, the fraction of the population living in poverty is reduced by about 0.4 percent on average.
In addition, data from household surveys suggest that migration and remittances reduce the number of persons living in poverty in six out of the eleven countries for which data are available.
World Bank estimates indicate that the officially-recorded remittance flows in 2010 totaled over US$440 billion worldwide. As in the past, developing countries received the lion’s share of global remittances (US$325 billion). It was also noted that in 24 countries, remittances were equal to more than 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009; in nine countries they were equal to more than 20 percent of GDP; Guyana being one of the former.
Last May in a brief released by the World Bank and examining the outlook for remittance flows for 2011-2013 the authors offer up that remittance flows have recovered to the pre-crisis levels but that they have not kept pace with inflation and national currency appreciation.
According to the brief, remittance flows are expected to grow at lower but more sustainable rates of 7-8 percent annually during 2011-13 to reach $404B by 2013. Recorded remittance flows to developing countries are expected to grow annually by about 7.4 percent in 2012 and 7.9 percent in 2013 to reach $375B in 2012 and $404B by 2013. Worldwide recorded remittance flows, including to high-income countries, are expected to reach nearly $500B in 2012 and $536B in 2013.
Of note is the fact that the data compiled by official sources such as these only captures remittances sent through formal channels such as banks and money transfer operators. According to the MPI there are currently no uniform and authoritative historical data on informal flows.
Given the widespread use of informal remittance channels such as bringing cash across borders in person, the remittance data presented in these reports may be seen as an underestimate of the actual flows.
After 19 years of one party rule of Guyana, Mr. Donald Ramotar and the PPP/C must give account to the Guyanese people as to why friends of the government seem to have abundant wealth, while citizens’ paychecks finish before the 10th day of the month. They must answer for the steel bars on every window and door and our citizen’s added stress of living in a crime-ridden society.
Mr. Ramotar’s PPP/C must answer for the systemic abuse of women sanctioned by the actions in the highest office of the land.
They must answer for billions of dollars spent on shoddy roads while officials pocket the people’s tax dollars and political cronies win contracts which make them wealthy.
They must answer for pit latrines, lives devastated by recurring floods and children’s deaths from water-borne diseases.
Mr. Ramotar’s PPP/C must answer for lack of press freedom and the misuse of taxpayer’s dollars to fund the state-sponsored propaganda mouthpieces, the Guyana Chronicle newspaper and the NCN television and radio.
They must answer for hundreds murdered by the death squads during the tenure of former Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj.
They must account for billions of dollars in cocaine trafficked by Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan. They must answer for Pradoville and the abject poverty on Water Street where children sleep at night.
While President Bharrat Jagdeo peers into his crystal ball to give the nation a lesson on election numbers and outcomes, he seems unable to provide any perspective to the Guyanese people on why he continues to use the state’s vast financial resources to politick on Mr. Ramotar’s behalf.
His great numbers acumen seems to fail him when the people inquire as to how multiple Ministers with their limited salaries can afford prime beach-front Pradoville homes which cost upwards of US$1,000,000 while the majority of Guyanese citizens cannot afford basic necessities.
While his crystal ball seems able to project the outcome of the elections in 2011, it seems to provide no indication as to who orchestrated the murders of more than 200 young men in extra-judicial killings.
The crystal ball seems unable to tell the citizens of Guyana why after 19 years of rule, the government now seems able to find money for election year goodies for key constituencies but money cannot be found for raising public sector salaries, for providing a safe place for abused women, for ending drug trafficking and piracy, for sustainable development of the hinterland, for controlling trafficking in persons in the interior, for stamping out violence against women, for running water in the home, for reliable and reasonable rates for electricity and for the implementation of a well thought out plan for youth training, development and employment.
Mr. Donald Ramotar and the PPP/C have a lot of explaining to do to the Guyanese people. While the strategy of rehashing 38-year-old lies seems like an effective diversionary tactic, the people are not fooled. They know the pain of having no cash to buy food items as the children go to bed hungry.
They suffer the indignity of having to call up relatives overseas for an emergency small piece to cover basic living expenses. They live each day with the fear of abuse, robbery, and murder and have no security team to protect them.
The citizens are aware of the moral and spiritual decay of the society as they see Government officials and their friends enriched by corruption and cronyism while the compromised judicial system looks the other way. The people know the pain they live and the PPP/C fear that the people will make another choice in the 2011 election year.
So while President Jagdeo and Mr. Ramotar continue to dabble in magic and convenient number-crunching, APNU Presidential Candidate, Brigadier (ret’d) David Granger continues to work to map out a strategy for the social, spiritual, judicial and economic resuscitation of Guyana.
Mr. Granger continues to welcome all individuals and civil society to join the partnership for national unity and to make a real contribution to the new Guyana. He continues to share his vision of unity, equality, security and prosperity for all Guyanese. A new day is dawning in Guyana and what was will be no more. The people want change and APNU is the only realistic option for that change.
Jagdeo thinks that since he took Guyanese tax payers money and give it to Buddy Shivraj to build a hotel and got rooms as payment, and is trying to do the same with the stalled Marriott project, all hotels are built using that model.
Caribbean Hotel Association, Guyana President Spar Over Tax Issue
The recent description of Caribbean hoteliers’ complaints of excessive government taxation as “absolute nonsense” by Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana, reflects a political leadership that has “a narrow and limited perspective on the far-reaching positive effects of tourism on Caribbean economies,” said Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. “CHTA is of the view that President Jagdeo speaks from a misinformed position on taxation in the islands [in] the region and with little or no knowledge of the tourism industry and the contribution it makes to Caribbean economies,” Forstmayr said.
In response to a question posed at a press conference at the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) summit held recently in St. Kitts, Jagdeo was quoted in local press reports as saying Caribbean governments invest in “one hundred things to support the industry,” including airports and roads. “Who do you think produces the fiscal incentives that make tourism work in these countries?” he asked.
Added Jagdeo, “All [hoteliers] are fussing about is the taxes and sometimes they do not look at their cost structure. When you look at how much a guest pays for a bottle of Coke in mini bar in one of the hotels, it is extraordinarily high. They have to look at the cost structure of the industry without constantly [blaming] the meager tax that governments have from these places.”
Forstmayr said Caribbean hoteliers already “bear too much of an increasing tax burden” as hotel workers, supplies, utilities and guests are taxed in several ways “including at the hotel, on the airline and at the airport sometimes with both arrival and departure taxes.” Forstmayr also lamented that CARICOM failed to include tourism as part of its conference agenda despite a 2010 CARICOM report that said Caribbean governments “have an important role to play in revitalizing the tourism sector” and governments must “ensure that taxation cost does not have too adverse an effect on international competitiveness.”
Said Forstmayr, “CHTA would like to extend an open invitation to President Jagdeo, and anyone else misinformed, to a discussion on tourism to explore the overwhelming, sometimes immeasurable but undeniable impact [it] has on Caribbean economies.” For more information, visit www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.
By Stabroek staff
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
President Bharrat Jagdeo is of the view that crime in the region cannot be solved by crafting regional organizations and is suggesting that the place where there will be greater impact on crime is in the domestic jurisdiction.
After refusing free help from the UK to protect the nation, Jagdeo once again does not want foreigners to be able to examine the security apparatus his PPP government have in place, why is this?
Maybe if foreigners are involved people linked to the PPP would not get away with crimes against the nation and the Guyanese public. Cases like those involving Manniram Prashad’s son Navin Prashad will not disappear, proper police investigations would take place in the cases like those involving Donald Ramotar’s son Alexei Ramotar, or that of Office of the president Nanda Gopal, or Minister Kellawan Lall rum shop fiasco. The Phantom Squad murders, the Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan fiasco, the Minister Clement Rohee refugee scandal.
Murder rate thrice as high compared to United States – 2011 Crime and Safety Report
– Drug trafficking poses biggest challenge to local law enforcement
The murder rate in Guyana is three-times higher than the murder rate in the United States and criminal activity in the capital city of Georgetown continues to increase, particularly violent crimes against people and property.
These were the findings of the Guyana 2011 Crime and Safety report which was complied as United States Department.
The report noted that foreigners, in general, are viewed as targets of opportunity. Serious crime, including murder and armed robbery, continues to be a major problem.
According to 2010 crime statistics the report noted that there were approximately 710 incidents reported to the Regional Security Office (RSO), of which there were 140 murders, 108 shooting incidents, and 143 armed robberies.
The report recommended that U.S. citizens maintain a high level of vigilance, consider security issues when planning activities throughout Guyana, and avoid traveling at night, when possible.
Armed robberies continue to occur intermittently, especially in major businesses and shopping districts. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers themselves have been the victims of assaults and shootings.
“Vehicle thefts are common any time of the day or night. Vehicle occupants should keep their doors locked, never leave items in plain sight, and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Robbery and vehicle theft occur with some frequency in Georgetown and New Amsterdam (Guyana’s second largest city).
“After dark, it is highly advisable not to walk or bike and only drive from venue to venue. Residential burglaries are less common when homes have guards who pose a deterrent to would-be thieves,” the Guyana 2011 Crime and Safety report stated.
According to the report, criminals are frequently armed and appear to be able to obtain weapons with ease, despite the arduous licensing requirements for the average person. Handguns, knives, and machetes or “cutlasses” are the weapons of choice.
Drug trafficking organizations are prevalent and pose the biggest challenge to local law enforcement in Georgetown. Airport security and customs officials are detaining and arresting individuals on a weekly basis as these try to smuggle drugs out of Guyana into the United States.
Apprehensions of drug “mules,” often U.S. citizens perceived to be able to travel easily with their U.S. passport, have also increased this past year.
The report further underscored that armed robberies of business/patron establishments are becoming increasingly common in Georgetown. Criminals are usually organized, travel in groups of two or more and conduct surveillance on their victims.
The limited police presence in most areas is largely ineffective in preventing crime.
“Local police in Guyana have resource and manpower limitations that inhibit their ability to deter or respond to criminal activity. Police patrols are rare or nonexistent. There is an emergency telephone number “911” for police, fire, or rescue.
The fire department generally provides a timely response, while a police response, especially during the night is less dependable. The police response to emergency calls is often too slow (15 minutes or longer). When the police do respond, they have a limited amount of authority to act on their part, and at times attempt to solicit bribes, as officers are not compensated well,” the report stated.