As Guyana moves closer to its 50th Independence anniversary celebrations, corporate Guyana is coming on board in a massive way. Over the past weeks, several entertainment groups and companies have revealed their plans for the jubilee celebrations with several high-level concerts ranging from “50 Shades of Reggae” to “Soca on the Beach” among others.Joining in the big celebrations however is beverage giant, Banks DIH Limited with its concert titled ‘Banks Beer Fest’ at the Guyana National Stadium, Prvidence, East Bank Demerara billed for Saturday, May 28. The concert is being held in collaboration with the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport and will feature some of the best local and internationally acclaimed artistes.The line-up includes Busy Signal, Konshens, Vanessa Bling, Cecile, Benjai, Ravi B and the Karma Band, Michelle Big Red King, Kwasi “Ace” Edmondson, Adrian Dutchin and First Born. The event is expected to be mad vibes. While ticket prices have not been released, Guyana Times Entertainment understands that there will be several promotions by the beverage company, whereby members of the public can win tickets.The event is exclusive sponsored by Banks DIH as its contribution towards Guyana’s 50th Independence celebrations.
Former Guyanese Chutney King, Prince JP who now resides in the United States, recently released his latest single titled “Wine that Sexy Body”. The song which was written by the Guyanese artiste is a groovy soca hit that will definitely have an impact on Mashramani celebrations 2017. The expectant first-time father still manages to find the time to write and record his music – something that remains in his blood. The music for the this new release was arranged by Shastri Music out of Orlando, Florida but the vocals were recorded at Prince JP’s Home Studio in New York.“Wine that Sexy Body” is basically a party song for “the ladies’ who love to ‘get on bad’. The artiste would have gotten the concept after visiting several clubs in the New York area and recognised that women are in love with soca music and can hardly control their bodies as it booms through the speakers.Planning to return to the land of his birth sometime soon, Prince JP can be followed on his website www.princejpmusic.com for all the latest in videos, photos and music. The website was designed by Colour Set Designs operated by Chris Hakim and Ricky Seepersaud.Meanwhile, Prince JP will continue to record music and eagerly announced that come August, he will be releasing his first R&B album as well a mixed one. He will also be working on a few chutney songs for his fans.
We are a democracy, we are told. We go through the process of free, fair and transparent elections which is supposed to translate into good governance that reflects the will of the people. This, says the developed world, is the best possible way.However, I recently witnessed an election at a committee level that left me asking the question: But is it democracy?A representative for a state body had to be elected so the stakeholders, Indian- and African-Guyanese, met in a room to vote. They were mostly educated professionals. Before the vote was taken, they all chatted with each other and there was a genuine air of camaraderie among them.Then came the vote. You need not have bothered. You could have done the “ethnic arithmetic” as President David Granger called it and decided the outcome. The votes were cast along racial lines. There was no crossover, no deviation, and had there been international observers there, they would have pronounced the elections free, fair and transparent, ie, democratic.Directly after the announcement of the winner, everyone fell back into chatting with each other. They had participated in the democratic process and they accepted the outcome. However, it is obvious that the camaraderie displayed is a thin veil that lies just above the surface of the race divide. It’s no surprise that it comes apart on occasion to spill over into political/ethnic violence.Was democracy ever intended to legitimize racial voting patterns? The system was developed in homogenous societies with minority groups where it works fairly well. These countries now insist that it is the best way and it is exported to the world as a one-size-fits-all solution when it hardly helps our situation, for instance.Democratic voting norms and a Westminster style of government actually work to widen our political divide by providing a legitimate façade for race-based voting.Here, democracy means that the largest ethnic minority, Indians, most likely wins unless, as happened last May, there is a coalition that allows the next largest ethnic bloc, Africans, to get enough crossover votes for a majority.Elections are never about issues and because there can only be one winner in a race-based battle, it is not surprising that ethnic unity is all that matters in the political fight. African-Guyanese justify the political skulduggery of the 1960s against Premier Cheddi Jagan that brought Forbes Burnham to power and, even today, excuse Burnham’s electoral rigging as being necessary to holding that power.In the race/political struggle, the Indian supporters of the PPP continue to face physical and cultural violence and Jagan himself, perhaps unwittingly, aided and abetted the idea of Indian invisibility when he gave credence to the view, as far back as the 1960s, that Indians needed to subsume their identity for the national good. This fitted well with his belief in Marxist ideology which placed class rather than race as the most contentious social and political issue.In this, Jagan was, ironically, acting as an ethnic leader. He could only have addressed such terms of nationhood to his supporters. It was Burnham who could have asked the same of his, Africans. And he never did. In fact, as the kabaka, Burnham appeared before them as their African king.He was always a proud African whereas Jagan continued to take the line of dismissing his Indianess as unimportant in favour of his utopian view of the world as classless and raceless.What has happened since to the Indian psyche is at best confusion and, at worst, shame and self-hatred. Even today, it is the self-hating Indian, the ones that dismiss their Indian identity, who finds social and political acceptance. Their apologetic stand about their ethnic identity plays well to the African-Guyanese struggle for political power, and the appeasement policy of the PPP towards African-Guyanese is based on that self-same apologetic stance.It is clear that democracy as it works in homogenous societies cannot work here. It cannot be transposed whole onto our situation where two major race groups are contesting for a win that would always allow one to be dominant over the other. Cosmetic accommodations of cohesion, as decided by whichever race group is in power, can never address the deep-seated fears that have arisen on both sides of the divide.After 50 years of independence, we should be matured enough to want to create a style of governance that gives equitable representation to every ethnic group. This is the only accommodation that will deliver a fair and just political system that will work for Guyana.
In the previous column, the author outlined the legal features of the Consolidated Fund and Government Deposit Accounts held with the central bank. As indicated in the previous article, today, the author shall examine the Consolidated Fund (CF) balances and that of Government Deposit Accounts.Having examined data from the Auditor General’s Report for the period 1995-2017, it was noted that the Consolidated Fund has almost always had a deficit balance except for the years 2004-2007 when the new Consolidated Fund was created, those years, the Account recorded positive balances of $6.4 billion in 2004, $6 billion in 2005, $17.4 billion in 2006, and $19.2 billion in 2007. However, when combined with the old Consolidated Balance, the net effect resulted in a deficit, which was not reconciled since 1988. This was in the height of the period when Guyana’s economy was in a bankrupt state. In 1995, the CF recorded the lowest deficit balance of $22.4 billion, while the highest is recorded in 2017 of $136.7 billion. Notably though, for the period 1995-2014, the CF balance remained well below an $80 billion deficit, averaging at $46.6 billion deficit for the period 1995 to 2014.For the period 2015 to 2017, the CF balance went up from $76.7 billion deficit to $136.7 billion deficit, representing an increase of 79 per cent (it should be mentioned that while the Audit Report for 2018 is not yet published, it is suspected that the CF balance has exceeded or is close to some $200 billion deficit).To lend a somewhat more comprehensive analysis for the period, it would be prudent to examine the net position of Central Bank Financing to Government. In this respect, reference is made to the overdraft balances on Government Deposit Accounts with the central bank. While the CF is the primary bank account of the Government from which it withdraws monies to fund its social and economic development programme, which ought to be approved through the national budget, the Government Deposit Accounts are also utilised as another form of central bank credit. This trend only started in 2015 which continued to be the case to date.With the abovementioned in mind, by looking at the net central bank financing in which the balances in the Deposit Accounts are taken into consideration to derive a net effect, the data on these accounts for the period 1995 through 2014 showed that the Deposit Accounts have always recorded surplus balances with the lowest surplus balance in 1995 of $20 billion and the highest surplus balance recorded in the year 2010 of $69.7 billion, while the average surplus for that period was some $38 billion. As such, if these surplus balances were transferred to the CF, it would have ultimately reduced the deficit balances and even swing that Account (CF) into surplus balances for some years. In fact, by working the numbers, the CF together with Balances in the Deposit Accounts would have swung into surplus balances for the years 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 of $7.2 billion, $8.8 billion, $12 billion, $18.2 billion, $14.5 billion, $10 billion and $3.3 billion, respectively. In 2014, net central bank financing stood at $55.3 billion deficit, which went up to record high levels of $91.8 billion in 2015 to reach $163.2 billion at the end of 2017 – that is, the CF balance plus the overdraft balance in Deposit Accounts. Moreover, if these central bank deficit balances were to be added to the total stock of public debt, this would give rise to an increase from $345 billion in 2017 to $508.3 billion which would be about 76% of (2017) GDP.To be continued…
Based on official statistics released recently, over the past 25 years or so, the world has made commendable progress in saving young children’s lives; but there is still a far way to go in terms of drastically reducing newborn and child deaths. The rate of child mortality fell 62 per cent from 1990 – 2016, with under-five deaths dropping from 12.7 million to 5.6 million. However, it is also quite clear that this progress has not been universal, as some countries, including Guyana, are still lagging behind.A new report from UNICEF and its partners in the Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2017, shows the full scope of child and newborn mortality across the world. The data reveal that the rate of newborn deaths is not decreasing as quickly as that of children aged one to five. As a result, newborns account for a growing proportion of child deaths with each passing year. For example, according to UNICEF, in 2016 alone, 7,000 newborn babies died every day.Newborn deaths made up 46 per cent of all child deaths, an increase from 41 per cent in 2000. According to the report, most of these deaths are entirely preventable. WHO has noted that prematurity; complications during labour and birth; and infections like sepsis, pneumonia, tetanus and diarrhoea are among the leading causes – all of which can be treated, or prevented with simple, affordable solutions.It must be mentioned, too, that these children are dying because of who they are and the environment they were born into – whether it be an impoverished family, a marginalised community, or a country consumed by conflict. Children in the poorest households are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five than those from the richest households.It must be noted that the vast majority of newborn deaths take place in developing countries, where access to health care is low. Most of these newborns die at home, without skilled care that could greatly increase their chances of survival.According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), skilled health care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postnatal (immediately following birth) period prevents complications for mother and newborn, and allows for early detection and management of problems. WHO and UNICEF now recommend home visits by a skilled health worker during a baby’s first week of life, to improve newborn survival. Newborns in special circumstances, such as low-birth-weight babies, babies born to HIV-positive mothers, or sick babies, require additional care, and should be referred to a hospital.The WHO has suggested that with an increasing share of under-5 deaths occurring within the neonatal period, accelerated change for child survival requires a greater focus on building strong health services, ensuring that every birth is attended by skilled personnel, and making hospital care available in an emergency.Here, in Guyana, despite progress achieved during the last decade, this country continues to experience one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a maternal mortality rate estimated at 121 per 1,000 live births and an infant mortality rate at 22 per 1,000 live births.In 2016, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had approved an US$8 million loan for a programme to help reduce maternal, perinatal and neonatal deaths in Guyana. The focus of the programme is to improve the quality of care at 140 health facilities and in 88 communities, benefitting at least 140,000 women and 9,000 newborns per year.The initiative was designed with the aim of supporting and improving maternal and child health care geared towards improving access to quality neonatal health services and providing a better path to, and quality of, reproductive and maternal health services. Efforts such as these must be commended.That said, the most recent report by UNICEF has made some useful recommendations, which the Government here should seriously consider. Diligent efforts must be made to continue reducing newborn and child deaths. We believe that once there is a concerted, coordinated effort among policymakers, businesses, healthcare workers, communities and families, we can achieve the desired results as those relate to reducing child mortality rates.
Dear Editor,When the PPP/C took Office in 1992, there was just over a 150 doctors practicing in Guyana. Most of them were operating out of Georgetown and the other urban centres. An overwhelming number of them were in private practice, with some moonlighting in the public healthcare system. The cumulative result was a devastating paucity of medical personnel in the country as a whole, more particularly, in the public healthcare system and worst yet in the rural communities. By the time we left office in 2015, the situation was transformed. There are now nearly 1400 registered medical practitioners operating in Guyana, with almost every community, wherever located, having access to a doctor.Historically, one of the several initiatives taken by the PPP/C to address the paucity of qualified medical personnel within the public healthcare system was to negotiate scholarship programmes for our students with friendly countries. The most successful of these programmes was the multi-year scholarship programme with Cuba. Upon the grant of these scholarships and prior to their departure to Cuba, these students were required to sign a contract with the Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Public Service, which obliged them to enter into another contract upon the successful completion of their course of study to work in the public health sector for a period of five years on certain terms and conditions contained in the said contract.Over the years, this second contract which the newly graduated doctors have been requested to sign, pays them a Public Service salary, with a gratuity of 22.5 per cent, payable every six months. This monthly salary is currently approximately 0,000 (gross) or approximately 5,000 (net). It is obvious that this salary is grossly inadequate. Several of these scholarship doctors, with whom I have spoken, have all indicated to me that it is the gratuity upon which they heavily depend and with which they are able to purchase a vehicle on credit, utilising a duty free concession granted to them, as part of their contract of service with the Government.It has been drawn to my attention that the final batch of these Cuban scholars numbering 79 have returned to Guyana in 2015. They completed their one year internship, as is required, several months ago but are yet to be placed in the public health system. I raised this issue with a senior medical Administrator at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) who was not even aware that these young doctors have not been placed into the system, but informed me that the responsibility to do so lies with the Ministry of Public Health.Additionally, I have been informed by a representative of these doctors that the Government has signalled to them that the payment of gratuity from the contract which this batch of doctors will be requested to sign will be removed and that these doctors will be placed on the pensionable establishment of the Public Service by virtue of which they will receive a pension when they attain the age of 55.Most, if not all, of these young doctors are vehemently opposed to this initiative and expressed a preference for a contract similar to that which their predecessors enjoyed. In short, these doctors are arguing, and I daresay quite rightly so, that they have a legitimate expectation to serve under a contract similar to that under which their predecessors served. It appears that the Government intends to request them to sign a qualitatively different contract. Rather than serve under the pensionable establishment without a gratuity, these young professionals have expressed a preference to repay the Government the sum of money spent on them and to simply migrate.I also spoke with Cuban-trained doctors currently in the system serving under their contract and the Government has also signalled to them that their contracts will be amended to remove the payment of gratuity and to place them on the permanent establishment of the Public Service by virtue of which they will receive a pension at age 55. These doctors have also expressed their non-support for this proposed unilateral change to their contracts. They also expressed a preference to exit the public healthcare system. If the Government obstinately pursues these proposed courses of actions the consequence on the public healthcare system and the people of Guyana will be calamitous. Needless to say, litigation looms as well.Sincerely,Mohabir Anil Nandlall,MPAttorney-at-Law
Dear Editor,It is with great concern that this letter is penned to highlight a few issues damaging to what was once the top secondary school in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).The New Amsterdam Secondary School has now become a household name that brings distaste to the mouth and minds of parents, students, ex-student, the community and even teachers.One issue that is destroying this wonderful institution is the relationship between the Headmaster and deputy Headmistress. They cannot find level ground to work together. Decisions made by the Headmaster, Board of Governors and even the Education Ministry’s Region Six branch are ‘thrown out’ by the Deputy Headmistress which leads to chaos and confusion throughout the school term. The relationship between the Deputy Headmistress and other teachers can be described as malicious. Teachers are now unhappy, uncomfortable, demotivated and disgust working in these conditions.This highlights the second issue; the high rate of student transfer out of the school to schools lower than the present school. This is not only happening because of the issue highlighted but because the Deputy Headmistress shows favouritism among students and staff, and even among parents. The next reason for the high transfer rate is the amount of money solicited from students by the DHM on a regular basis. Lastly, there is no financial accountability in no aspect/projects of the school activity in and out of the region. We are pleading with the relevant authorities to fix this situation before only a shell of the school remains.Yours sincerely,Patricia Gomes, Shane Williams, Gregory Smith(Concerned parents and associates)
Dear Editor,The letter from Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, who, interestingly enough, signed it, not as a Government Minister, but on behalf of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), warrants a response.Minister Bulkan also repeats what has been said by the Attorney General, and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, by saying that the President was forced to unilaterally appoint Reverend James Patterson as the GECOM Chairman. This cannot be accepted. It was the President who, according to the Department of Public Information, promised a collaborative way forward, if he rejected the third set of nominees.On June 12, 2017, President Granger promised that, “A high-level team would be assembled representing the President and Leader of the Opposition which will begin to work immediately on exploring modalities to bring a resolution to this matter in the event that the list is rejected.” How then was the President’s hand forced?Also, how can Guyanese accept Minister Bulkan’s reasoning that the President’s action “put an end to the shenanigans being perpetrated by Jagdeo, whose goal it was to have a chair who would be biased in favour of the [People’s Progressive Party] PPP.” First, the Opposition Leader held consultations with civil society to come up with the nominees. Second, it is President Granger’s nominee who is politically biased. Reverend Patterson was a pallbearer at the private funeral ceremony for the late People’s National Congress leader, Desmond Hoyte. Reverend Patterson was listed as part of the ‘Rally Around the PNC’ group. It is Reverend Patterson’s whose integrity is now being questioned after he claimed that he was the Chief Justice of Grenada in 1987 – something that no one seems to be able to confirm.Minister Bulkan claims that Local Government Elections are due by December 7, 2018 and a GECOM Chairman had to be appointed. If this was the case, then there were qualified and competent professionals who were nominated. Why didn’t the President choose one of them? Will Guyanese ever know the reasons for President Granger’s rejection of the list submitted by the Opposition Leader? If Minister Bulkan wants to claim that the list submitted by the Opposition Leader was flawed, he should provide reasons to substantiate that claim.Minister Bulkan goes on to “commend the many letters and other expressions of support for the courageous action” taken by President Granger. However, the fact is that other than the PNC and groups, as well as individuals, aligned to the PNC and the Government, there has been widespread condemnation of the President’s unilateral appointment of Reverend Patterson as the GECOM Chairman.There is only one acceptable point that Minister Bulkan makes. It is that, “We have come a long way from a colonial system of governance and accompanying mentality, we have much work to do to build and maintain our fledgling democracy.” For this reason, we cannot allow the President’s breach of the Constitution to go unchallenged. In this light, the court challenged mounted by the PPP is welcomed by right-thinking Guyanese.Sincerely,Nigel DharamlallPPP/C Member ofParliament
The Guyana Police Force on Tuesday moved to the High Court and was successful in securing an order to further detain the three suspects held for the early Friday morning robbery at the Ramada Princess Hotel and Casino, Providence, East Bank Demerara.Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum told Guyana Times that the High Court granted the order for the suspects to be detained for another 72 hours as investigations into the daring robbery and shooting continued.Those in custody are Wayne Griffith, one of the bandits who was found hiding in a stockroom at the hotel following the robbery; Andrew Blackman, a security guard at Princess Casino who is said to be the mastermind of the robbery and Junior Stewart of Thomas Street, Kitty, Georgetown, who was arrested on Sunday evening with over 0,000, after Police swooped down on his sister’s house at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara.Reports are that Blackman has since admitted to being one of the two persons who plotted the crime. Pandemonium broke out at the gambling facility on April 30, after four gunmen stormed the casino about 03:45h and discharged several rounds as they relieved patrons and staff of cash and other valuables.During the shooting, Eon Garraway was shot to his left hand; James Gregory, to his left foot; Orlando Knights, to his left hand and Udairan Sookraj, to his right hand. They were all admitted to a city hospital.Melissa Ferguson, Jermaine Mason and Roshel Fraser were also assaulted.Based on reports, after the men entered the facility, they held a security guard at gunpoint and took away his shotgun and several rounds of ammunition.The men then ordered everyone to lie on the ground and escorted the security guard to the cashier’s cage where they relieved the cashier of an undisclosed sum of foreign and local currency. By this time, the Police were alerted about the robbery and responded promptly.As they arrived at the scene, they were confronted by the armed men, which resulted in an exchange of gunfire. During the exchange, Police Lance Corporal Andrew Richardson was shot to his abdomen. He was admitted to a city hospital and underwent emergency surgery.It was reported that the car used in the robbery was hijacked at Brush Dam, Buxton, East Coast Demerara.The car has since been impounded as Police continue their investigations.
In an effort to ease congestion in the city, plans are afoot by Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to have several minibuses relocated to permanent parking lots. This is according to Public Relations Officer (PRO) of M&CC, Debra Lewis, who elaborated on the plans to provide minibuses of routes 41, 45 and 46 with permanent parking lots.Lewis indicated on Monday that a plan to facilitate the minibuses on a long-term basis is currently being formed with the intention of making it ‘’convenient and accessible’’.The PRO disclosed that it is more than likely parking facilities will be provided for these minibuses at three locations: “We have identified three areas in which the buses can be relocated that is convenient and accessible. The three locations would be Industrial Site, Ruimveldt, one will be in North Cummingsburg and one in Kingston.’’ Lewis highlighted however, that only a few of the minibuses from each route will be provided for as the intention for this relocation is to ‘’free up the congestion in the city.’’She explained that the minibuses that do not get transferred to the future parking facilities will continue to operate at their current station within the city. “It’s not everybody we’re going to relocate, in terms of the buses, just a few of them. It’s just to free up the congestion in the city. The ones that don’t get relocated will stay at their current parking area.’’ Commenting on when this change will take effect, Lewis said a decision will be made on Thursday where the entire administration will come to a resolution.