Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

Updates!

Receive email notices when a commentary is uploaded. Join our mailing list.

E-Mail Address:

View Article

Baghdad Bob
(Aired 24 April 2003)

   The internet is buzzing with jokes about the Iraqi Minister of Information Mohamed Saeed  Al-Sahaf, now widely and fondly referred to as Baghdad Bob. During the 21 day war in Iraq Baghdad Bob made endless wildly false and desperate statements to rally the regime's followers [or save his butt] which had the international media in stitches, a favourite is when he told the media that the US bomb attacks in Baghdad were Hollywood special effects trickery, my favourite is Bob standing in front of a barrage of media microphones after the US had taken the Baghdad airport and several key strategic positions in the centre of the city and tells the media quote "we have them surrounded" of course technically Bob was right, the US forces were surrounded, taking that gutsy military drive into the centre of the city the way they did, but the effect was the same as dumping a tiger in the middle of a few children and telling them "don't worry you have it surrounded" Bob was there one day and the next day he disappeared, but funnily enough the US media actually miss him, the guy was a one man comedy show for them.

   We in Guyana have our own jokers, so we don't miss Bhagdad Bob as much.

   We have for example Tourism Tom who stands in parliament and tells the public that Guyanese have more money in the bank today than in 1992, he even read the numbers from our Bank of Guyana statistics, but not once did he address the effects on the banking system of money laundering, drug dealing, government and government functionaries direct deposits, advances for corrupt transactions and contracts, remittances from overseas etc. which have been the main contributors to the huge amounts on money passing through our banks since 1992, he completely overlooks the high rate of unemployment, the collapse of the economy, the crime situation, the fact that Guyana has submitted no statistics that can tell us how many of our people live below the international poverty line. Well let me give you a statistic from the 2002 bank of Guyana annual report Tourism Tom, in 1992 the total bank of Guyana assets was 1.1 billion US dollars at 120/1 in 2002 it was 595 million US at 190/1 we are not doing so good Tom. To all intents and purposes Tourist Tom is a minister without portfolio since he is minister of tourism and there is no tourist industry in this country but he is practising his humour on us, possibly in anticipation of the imaginary tourists when and if they come.

   Then we have Linden Bar, who goes to Linden and tells the people there, that they are getting huge subventions in region 10 to the tune of  G$75,000 per person per annum or G$ 6250 per month, without once addressing the fact that these are people without jobs due to his poor management of the Bauxite industry.

    Linden is a mining town it has always been, so when there are no jobs at the bauxite operations, there is no money whatsoever in the system there, no jobs means no salaries, so inevitably no business or trade goes on in the support sector of the community but linden Bar tells them that they are getting the biggest per capita allocation in the nation to fix their predicament. He is even giving them, he tells them, G$400 million in soft loans to set up small businesses and manufacturing but there is no electricity in Linden so what kind of manufacturing exactly will they do? And if the bauxite workers which make up the major portion of the population do not have an income, Linden Bar does not remember to explain to them what businesses exactly they will invest in, who will they sell to? Linden Bar must also tell us who caused their predicament in the first place?

  Our water sheik then unveils for the residents his plan to upgrade the water system in Linden in the "not too distant future" I haven't quite figured out what the "not too distant future" is, Water Sheik tells them around one month, we'll see, these people don't have water now and they are in active revolt, so get the river water purification plant going and get on with it Water Sheik, stop confusing the issue with irrelevancies such as whether you will dig new wells or resuscitate the old wells in Linden and which is cheaper, the Water Sheik also takes with him an expert, a Lindener, what are we paying Severn Trent 1 million US a year for?    

    Cambior then announce that they are doubtful about making their investment in the bauxite industry as a result of the unrest in Linden and the Lindeners are being blamed for it, but they did not cause this water and power problem in Linden, ladies and gentlemen I have told you repeatedly, people will tolerate any amount of black outs without violence but they will not tolerate deprivation of water. So I place the blame for the loss of this investment, if it occurs, squarely where it belongs on the government and not the people of Linden.

    Then we have Agri. Navi and Vicious Vic unveiling the new Demerara Gold brown sugar to the local and hopefully regional markets. It would be hilarious if it was not tragic.

   Last year we exported 48.5% of our sugar to the EU at the current special price of 88 thousand dollars a ton, we exported 3.7% to the US at 76 thousand G dollars a ton, 9.6 % was sold to the EU on what is called the SPS programme at 77 thousand G dollars per ton, 16.6 % was sold to Caricom at G$52,280 a ton, Suriname bought 1.6% at G$50,000 per ton, the local sales of our sugar totalled 14.6% at G$47,051 dollars a ton, 3.3% was sold on the world market at G$21,045 a ton and new regional markets took 2.3% at G$31,586 per ton. So the sale price of our sugar in Guyana was more than the world market price and the new regional markets

   At this moment the Demerara sugar terminal is packed to the roof with our sugar, almost everywhere that Guysuco can store sugar they are doing so, some in bags some without bags, some of these dumping areas are the central workshop in Berbice at this location raw sugar is dumped on the floor of the workshop and the area where they used to park all of the old tractors and equipment listed for renovation, the bond in Collengen is holding 26 thousand bags, the old equipment reconstruction centre at Ogle 36 thousand bags etc.

   So some genius comes up with this ridiculous plan to sell us Demerara Gold sugar, the world market price is only paying G$21,045 a ton, the new Caribbean markets are only paying G$31,586 thousand dollars a ton, and the local price is G$47,000 per ton, these people are selling us our own sugar at a price which is more than double the world market price, not satisfied with this, they are now are planning to give us all diabetes, rotten teeth and obesity by encouraging us to use even more sugar which they cannot market at proper prices elsewhere. What's next? Collecting the Georgetown sewage at Kingston and selling it to us as fertilizer? Evan Baghdad Bob would be proud of you, boys.  

    That any government can have this amount of eyepass for its citizens leaves me numb, but that is what Agri. Navi and the boys are doing. Well I am not buying it and neither should you, we have two or ministers of trade and two ministers of agriculture and this is the best that they can come up with? The situation in rice is no different, hundreds of millers have stopped milling since they cannot find markets for the rice. Leaving the poor farmers with nowhere to turn.

    By sheer luck, and Rambo Gaskin, AC power and ESBI are no longer with us, so the very expensive management contract fee and the obscene guarantee of 18.5% on total  GP&L assets of 70 million US are no longer a part of the equation, thereby significantly reducing costs, why pray must we still pay the 16% increase in power generation, we are even treated to a press conference of four Bobs telling us what the current situation is in electricity sector, among them was the ever present disaster Power Ron who was the chairman of GEC when it collapsed financially forcing the ridiculous deal with ESBI, Power Ron also sits on the GUYSUCO board which has our sugar piled up all over the country unsold, I even read with total disbelief that we are making him chairman of the power company again, accompanying Power Ron is Bobo Brassington who also sat on the GP&L board representing the people of this country during the three year fiasco of the company's non achievement and who also presided on the GAC board representing Guyanese when it went bankrupt, neither of these two Bobs said one word about the atrocities that ESBI and AC power were inflicting on the Guyanese people, not spending any money on the distribution system, not signing the hydro power purchase agreement, they sat there in a coma, receiving $1000 US for each meeting they attended and did nothing. Now they are asking us to put our money into the power company, with them in charge!! Keep dreaming boys. Show us a proper management team and a proper Board and we may consider it. I will not even attempt to list the failures of Miscommunications Sam.

   So here is the picture the country is in total economic chaos, sugar, rice, bauxite are all in serious trouble, the criminals are everywhere, the citizens are in active revolt on several fronts, but our crime Bob tells us there is no crime, the bauxite Bob tells us that there is no problem, the Rice Bob tells us that everything is on track, the Sugar Bob tells us that GUYSUCO is doing so well that they are giving us a new line of Demerara Gold, the Electricity Bobs tells us that the power company which fell into the ground, an economic disaster before our very eyes, is a good investment for us, the Tourist Bob tells us that the industry is flourishing. No ladies and gentlemen Baghdad Bob may be gone from Iraq and the US media may miss him but we have our own numerous Bobs to keep us amused.