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OPINION: Even good news means nothing, only election news does

By GHK Lall

Guyanese have neither time nor interest for any news, other than elections news. Good news, encouraging news, is wasted on us. Place it before them and heads and backs turn away. Even the government has lost focus (and its marbles) in the hysterias of a most scorching elections season. Good news, promising news, gets swallowed up, trampled upon, and defecated over, in the madness that saturates consciousness. I bring together some examples to support my harsh positions.

Locally, one company after another publicly reported solid, if not robust, earnings. In what passes for the Guyanese earnings season, the blue chips put out audited numbers that look good. Other than impacted shareholders, most dismiss. Yet it is the positive financial stories that encompass manufacturing stalwarts, financial sector, and others. Somebody is selling something, a lot of things, for that is what those numbers tell us.

Moreover, the corporate entities involved are enormous. They are not fly-by-night, under-the-radar, off-the-books pretenders. They are not billion-dollar sole proprietors insisting on substance but representing nothing. Nothing that is real, clean, or which would pass serious muster. No, those taking to the newspapers, as required, are the real deal. They had better be, given their national reach and national contributions.

The point is that the numbers reported are real numbers, for which there should be recognizing and celebrating. Nothing forthcoming. Similarly, I listen for government to say something, but there is merely the usual silence. It is too busy, busy with elections, like everybody else. Everybody is so consumed with and the frenzies of every elections development, that there is neither interest nor time for the good news that comes. Those occasional morsels of good news when added up emphasize the special place that we occupy, and that things are not as terrible as have been pounded in heads.

Heads and cash registers are not ringing on Regent and Robb Streets, and the other near and far-flung places of the less-than-blue segments of the Guyanese economy. Ask the vendor and drivers and the sellers and buyers (and runners, too). Business bad. Nothing to declare or deposit, like before. That was a different time and a different kind of cash. Watchful political masters; some see them as political oppressors interfering with unfettered capitalism. Enriching days those were.

For his part, the Hon. Minister of Finance should be crowing at the better regulating of things, as well as the confirming news about economic growth issuing from credible local and foreign sources. I guess he is not the crowing type. But where is the government’s public relations stable? One of any kind of presence, voice, and standing? One that does some work and earns its keep? If what has been exhibited is the stable that is there, then some fumigating and downsizing is overdue. Kudos to the opposition for its monopoly on managing media, information flow, and reducing Guyana to a national indoctrination camp. A gulag it is.

While the opposition flourishes, and government falters in the PR department, the foreigners are on the ball. They are moving on Guyana with their own narratives, which range from the conservative to the mouthwatering. The foreigners could care less about elections stupidities; they crunch numbers. Rich sounds follow, with much more promised of the Guyanese El Dorado amid its Arcadian groves. What a country! Now if we only know what to do with it (and ourselves), how to maximize the gifts bestowed.

According to the famed and feared IMF (depending on circumstances) in a June 17 release (Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission) “Economic growth strengthened in 2018 with broad-based expansion across all major sectors” and, “Public finances improved in 2018” and, “Guyana’s medium-term prospects are very favorable.” For more details, the September 2019 (IMF Country Report 19/296) is helpful. Lesser debt percentage, better management, greater optimism. How can that not be encouraging news? Why are we not hearing more about such developments, instead of the daily deformities about elections that are going to leave us worse than where we are now? Which group, and which segment of the population, is going to stand on the sideline and wait for the other to give it alms? I push ahead.

For those Guyanese – other than the accountants, economists, and a few more – who are interested, this nation now has special appeal in the eyes of experts and analysts (real ones) and the big shots, who come with their adding machines and abacuses (better make that high-powered systems and algorithmic programs) to tell us how good we look. Bloomberg, this and that university and, the other day, the prestigious Harvard Business School, line up to bring the glad tidings. The latest was OilNow, which in an article date June 28, 2019, headlined the stirring news: “Guyana is the fastest growing economy in the world – says Nasdaq contributor.” There it is in high definition.

There it is from the fastmoving, trailblazing terrain of Nasdaq to the snail-crawling, spirit-draining wretchedness of Guyana. Sometimes I wonder how I got here; what I am doing here. For the period 2018-2021, and with a projected growth rate of 16.3% during the four-year period, Guyana is at the head of the pack in the developing world. Even much-touted India is shaded. Guyana is on the move. Wow!

Where is everybody? Fixated on elections, of course. What else? Here it is that this nation stands atop the world, but it remains stuck in the gutter. I am pessimistic. Because these continuing items of the good reiterates to each of us that we will only get the most out of what we have, by having the most of us involved. Surely, no place can be so warped? No people so blessed, so disfigured with sightlessness and mindlessness? So much so that even good news means nothing, moves no one. We had better come to our senses and very soon.

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.