Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Small Minded
(Aired 6 June 2005)

    We have to put the flood behind us and we have to restart looking at the bigger disaster, the country's economy, and "the crisis of governance" the World Bank had told us we had, which was occupying our attention when the flood came and distracted us, I am not belittling the consequences of the flood in January this year ladies and gentlemen it cost me personally over 3 million dollars in Quamina street alone, but the flood has come and gone, the cause of the disastrous results of it nevertheless remain, incompetence, corruption and greed for power at every level in the management of our country's affairs which has been and is destroying Guyana.

   We must of course ensure that the necessary infrastructure to relieve the Lama of high levels of water are renovated and made functional again, you will note that I say "renovated" since these structures are there but they were forgotten and left in disrepair for over 20 years, as a result over 30 people lost their lives and billons of dollars of your property was lost, because no one made sure that these important structures and trenches were maintained as they should have been.

    Today the crisis of governance continues, the government continues to operate as if there is no opposition, the Communiqué is dead, the country is at a stand still economically and there is no end in sight.

    As I am speaking to you tonight a small drama is being played out which sums up our entire situation, the ridiculous nature of our politics, and the madness we call the business environment and I am not talking about the Prittypaul Singh situation that is an outrage in itself and I will be looking at it soon, protected by the PPP this man is operating as if there are no laws in this country and is untouchable, it's the reason that there is no economic growth, it is the reason that there is no political or social stability. The situation I am referring to is this, in March this year the Small Business Act was passed in our Parliament, this act sought to provide for loan guarantees to small businesses with monies from the Consolidated fund, not Freedom House ladies and Gentlemen the Consolidated fund to which Guyanese of all nationalities and all political persuasions contribute, there are some of you out there, perhaps a lot of you out there, if the World Bank report is accurate, who do not pay actual taxes but even though you do not pay taxes every time you buy a Tommy Hilfiger jeans, or a Nikki boots, or a Polo shirt, you contribute to the economy, every time you ladies go to the hair Salon you are contributing to the economy since you are using imported chemicals to do it. The people in this country who pay PAYE contribute to half of the tax revenue collected every year the other half are from companies but you the individuals, the civil servants, the police, the army, the public servants, the nurses, the sugar workers and so on are paying half of the taxes. You are the real tax payers, not someone you may see building a six story building somewhere in Georgetown please remember that, you are all contributing to the consolidated fund, tax collection in this country is very lopsided that much I can tell you, if I told you what I perceive to be the truth about tax collection in this country it could start a war in this nation.

   But let's get back to this Small Business Act, this act like every single act the PPP have ever proposed puts the Minister, in this case Nadir, that paragon of virtue, completely in charge of selecting the Small Business Council which is the body that will administer this act and decide who will get these loans, the Council is made up of the following persons one person from a financial institution which is not a Bank, one person from the Commercial Banking sector, two persons selected by Nadir from business disciplines, the chief executive of the body which nominated the Small Business representative for Bankers?? Two representatives from Nadir's Ministry and four persons designated by Nadir as small business representatives, the chairman will of course be chosen by Nadir.

   In this Business act, like the Broadcast Bill and the Amerindian Act before it the word "Minister" appears more times than the words if, and or but.

   Where is the Parliament in nominating anyone to this Small Business Council? Where are the Opposition representatives whose members are paying major portions of the taxes in this country? I'll tell you where they are, they're nowhere! That what's wrong with all of this, the opposition as represented in this bill do not exist. Now ladies and gentlemen how did this get through the Parliament without our hearing the Opposition shouting "Bloody Murder!!?"   

    But the madness does not end there; this Council's composition, which was single-handedly selected by Nadir, is sitting in Jagdeo's office gathering dust awaiting his Excellency's ratification and signature of Nadir's hand picked Council. Well I don't mind that since this Council is highly politicised and will not stand up to scrutiny. That is why there will be no peace, that is why there will be no progress, that is why there will be no prosperity in this land.  

    The World Bank's document outlining our crisis of governance says this and I quote from paragraph 1.24 "Guyana is once more at a tipping point, and could either become "a failed state" or begin anew the long march to improved governance and economic recovery. The recent agreements between government and the opposition are encouraging steps. However, unless they are fully implemented and good governance is put in place, Guyana's political, social and economic situation could be further undermined" end quote.  

    Here in summary are the 5 recommendations that the World Bank makes to put us on the path to good governance as listed in section 1.25.

1.      Ensure that the agreements entered into, to resolve the current political deadlock are fully implemented within the given time frames.

2.      Implement the local Government reforms the new constitution calls for.

3.      Take steps to ensure that, by the next general elections, the elections commission is equipped to conduct free and fair elections and to count the ballots effectively.

4.      Ensure that members of the National Assembly and civil Society in general are informed about the commitments being contemplated or negotiated with donor countries and agencies in order to allow for timely debate and discussion as is constitutionally required.

5.      Enhance the capability of security services to take equitable steps to reduce the crime within the society especially at Buxton which has the potential to derail all that has been achieved in terms of the Communiqué. 

   You, ladies and gentlemen, tell me how these lofty ideals mesh with a Small Business Council, passed in the Parliament only two months ago, which does not include any input whatever from anyone in the opposition in our Parliament which represents 48 percent of the population of this country.

    Tell me if anyone, other than supporters of the PPP, will get one cent from an entity such as this Council, which by virtue of the exclusion of opposition representatives to it cannot ensure that their constituents will benefit from it in any form or fashion.

    When you have answered these two questions, then answer this one, how can there be peace in Guyana under these circumstances? Now remember that when the World Bank wrote this analysis of our situation in March 2003 the dialog between the PNC and the PPP had restarted as the Communiqué but that also has since failed, so within the context of this world Bank report we are a filed state since any hope we may have had then of progress is now gone.