Eye on the Issues by GHK Lall
Talk swirls in heady intoxication about the oil resting placidly in its offshore berth. Meanwhile, political calculations center on social and environmental algorithms continually redesigned and re-calibrated to gain a winning hand. While the race is to get a controlling position near that same oil, it is also about 2020, too.
The first calculation is that the sitting president will not return. He has garnered much of that intangible called goodwill; for a significant part, it is not based on either hero worship or cult worship, as was the case with the originals. It can be traced to his unflappable serenity, clean hands, and recognizable character. At 74 (come 2020), the belief, the gamble is that he will ease himself out to pasture. This is my belief too, as I would think that he would want to go while the going is good.
Now the standing administration minus that goodwill is vulnerable. It is vulnerable internally, and on the dissatisfied outside. This external dissatisfaction has multiple sources. It is timely to articulate a few of these as they currently exist.
First, there is discontent with codes, cleanliness, and constraints contemplated, and being carried out by the incumbents. Having been immersed in the rich fatty culture of grabbing, taking, and seizing, the new orders of the times are disconcerting and deplete prior extravagances condoned. This has been deemed unacceptable in surprising circles. Strike one for the coalition; that is, against it.
Second, the sweet money crowd, which would be the once teeming hordes of commercial Cossacks and their accompanying retinues are mighty unhappy that radars, spotlights, and microscopes track and lock-in on their previously ungainly, but untraceable and unreal operations. The stringencies have introduced unprecedented exigencies that are most unwelcome. There is a gathering groundswell of dissent. Thus, another formidable bloc grows increasingly hostile to any sanitizing developments. The government has just earned its second underserved strike. Clever Machiavellian characters in the competing camp rejoice, as their calculations and algorithms take on new life and promise.
Third, there is a most sensitive and pivotal institution that is rightly thought about as public service, but is outside the public service proper. Its corps is distraught; the gravy train has slowed with the gravy limited, and increasingly acidic. It comes with hidden teeth. The caution is: ponder and plunder at one’s own peril. Herein resides another sizable cohort of dissenters epitomizing a disagreeable force. It can hurt if the umbilical cord is severed come 2020. There is the belief that easy money, free money makes for willing malleable minds. This is the calculation on the far political side: that government inflicted poverty, through ethical squeezes, brings unalloyed animosities; and that dollars lost will overwhelm traditional political loyalties. This could be strike three against a now feared regime. The great irony is that what treason, logic, and issues have failed to do, tainted money (or the lack of it) delivers in one fell swoop.
To give an idea, matters have progressed from the delirium of “is wee tun now” to “nah me.” The latter is from the lips of those publicly denying-and adamantly so-that they did cast a vote for the winners. This is the degree of dissociation that threatens pervasive growth. The scent of this gives listening political animals ideas. In view of razor-thin election victory margins, the disgruntled and the corrupt can aggregate to be the decisive swing vote. Well, well….
As if the foregoing occurring on domestic fronts is not enough, there is word that the alphabet powers (focus on the A) quickly and smartly recognized the imperative of political stability to eliminate any volatility near that oil bonanza. Thus endeavors are underway to cement some form of what has been termed “shared governance” here. To be clear, this is not about altruism and democratic ideals, but about money again. Has it ever been otherwise?
The corporate investments, oil flows, and promised returns must be safeguarded from the antics of squabbling local politicos, and the usual sordid practices. The thrust from the power-brokers is that in unity there is strength. There is also political risk management, calm markets, and capital preservation.
At long last, the rulers get a break; the problem is that the other side is not playing along. It wants the whole hog; and after twenty-three years of pillage, it knows what the future should encapsulate. The competition’s study of the still unfolding environment has convinced that its calculations are on the money, and it can haul in more than the hitherto olden golden times, interrupted by May 2016. Of course, there is still that small matter of lack of trust on the part of the reigning superpower; incompatibility might be a more accurate word, which could derail all those sophisticated calculations. So, even if there is winning, it could amount to losing.
Finally, when all things are analyzed, the outside influence might be the only determinant that matters, the crucial deciding factor that trumps (no pun intended) all other visions and plans. To paraphrase that well known Chinese saying: Guyana lives in interesting times.