The Government has deemed as suitable the bond owned by Linden Holdings in Sussex Street, Georgetown, which it contracted to store pharmaceuticals at $1,200 a square foot, when a bond for $228 a square is available. The Government said that the rental will be negotiated downwards and if the negotiations are unsuccessful then twelve months notice of termination in accordance with the agreement would be given. At $12 million a month, this will cost the Guyanese taxpayer $144 million, payable to Linden Holdings for an initial $25 million investment which it has already recovered as an initial advance.
The Government might make mistakes, as Vice President Ramjattan admitted, but it does not lack an innovative and fertile imagination. The objections to the Government owned Diamond bond, which has been approved as suitable by international agencies, are that a fire can occur and that the traffic situation is not conducive!
The above headline to this article was borrowed from yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle, which reported on an assessment conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While observers of the Guyana political scene did not need a foreign agency to confirm what some have been saying for some time, the fact that the USAID has made the same observation, and proposes solutions, lends credibility to the conclusions that Guyanese themselves have made.
Guyana’s post-Independence history is one of political domination by the PNC or the PPP. Prior to Independence, and after forms of self-government were conceded by the British, the PPP dominated the political space. Both political intrigue and violence were deployed to wrest political control from the PPP. By defining the form of governance that has emerged in Guyana as one-party rule, USAID has given credibility to the political analysis that has emerged and, therefore, the need for reform.
Questioning of the Minister of Health by Opposition Members last Monday on an item seeking approval for $31,080,000, revealed that the sum was intended as expenses for renting a bond for the storage of pharmaceuticals. The Minister explained that rent of $19.2 million per month was being paid to New GPC and that the Government wanted a cheaper facility in a hurry to avoid paying that ‘exorbitant’ sum. Consequently there was ‘sole sourcing’ and the contract was given to Linden Holding Inc. The size of the premises in Albouystown was 10,000 square feet and the rent was $12 million per month.
It turns out that, contrary to what the Minister said, New GPC had been storing Government owned pharmaceuticals free of charge and had been doing so since it was the Government’s main supplier of drugs under sole sourcing arrangements. Since sole sourcing of pharmaceuticals came to an end, New GPC put forward a proposal for monthly rental at $16.2 million per month from March for its 70,000 square foot facility. The Government then decided to sole source another facility. Linden Holdings was the beneficiary. It bought the property in which to store the pharmaceuticals in March and is receiving rent, even though the facility is not yet in operation because it is still under preparation.
The official information is that Guyana’s petroleum deposits are estimated to be equivalent to 800 million to 1.4 billion barrels of oil from the results of two wells. Many more wells are expected to be drilled by Exxon in the future and no one knows how much more oil, if any, would be discovered. The US Geological Surveys has long estimated that Guyana’s offshore reserves are between 15 and 30 billion barrels.
With increasing exploration activities, if anything close to the lower figure of 15 billion barrels are discovered, for most Guyanese the future would be beyond contemplation. With reserves of only between 800 million and 1.4 billion barrels, poverty would be eliminated in a short period and Guyana per capita income of US$3,600 would rise rapidly.
Accusations of racial discrimination in Guyana’s politics by Guyanese politicians are nothing new. Between 1957 and 1964 the PPP Governments endured charges of ‘apaan jaat,’ adapted to mean ‘support your own kind.’ During 1964 to 1992 the PNC Governments were consistently accused of racial and political discrimination. Between 1992 and 2015 PPP Governments were targeted by the Opposition for ethnic cleansing and ethnic discrimination. No one should therefore be surprised at accusations by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, and the PPP that racial discrimination is taking place in Guyana.
The realities of Guyana have caused our main political parties to take cognizance of the fact that organized political expression and activity are driven by ethnic insecurities. Both Indians and Africans feel more secure in supporting parties that they believe represent and protect their ethnic interests. In order to sustain that support, each of our main parties must appear to represent, or purport to represent, the interests of the ethnic group which supports it. This is one of the factors that explain the accusations of discrimination by the party out of office against the party in office and their appeals, subtle or open, to ethnic constituencies.