OPINION: President Ali’s imitation of Christmas’s three wisemen and Scrooge

Last Updated on Friday, 10 November 2023, 11:01 by Denis Chabrol

By GHK Lall

Thursday, November 9th was a busy news day in Guyana.  At least, the morning hours were.  As to the receptions to His Excellency’s dish of delectables, they are all across the board.  Speaking for myself, I heard the positive, the plausible, and the possibly perverse.  Other than the latter, I think I might be alone in this assessment of President Ali’s best imitation of the three wisemen of Christmas tradition.

He had the gold, but held on to most of it.  The positive for this most wonderful time of the year is that some Guyanese now have 25,000 reasons for cheer.  Regarding how long that lasts is up to the cost-of-living basket.  I regret having to say this amid the good news about $25,000 for pensioners and assorted other citizens: at this rate, Dr. President, poor and needy Guyanese could become basket cases as they consider the drain of the cost-of-living basket.  Another piece of the positive coming from Guyana’s head of state was that GY$5 billion was found to be around.  Good going, sir, for there is familiarity with the enchantments of temptations.  It is good to see that he has his head on.

In terms of the plausible, 8 percent cuts deeply into the expectations of Guyanese impacted.  It is better than seven, but no self-respecting Guyanese leader who can count past 10, should be manifesting such restrained exuberance with all this oil money around.  Ow, Dr. President, more and more Guyanese are getting sick and tired of being reminded about rich they are, but yet they can’t buy squash, and are getting squashed by the forces arrayed against them in this country now repositioned on top of the world.  I regret having to be blunt, Dr. Excellency, but the name Mohamed Irfaan Ali is being mentioned repeatedly when Guyanese cry out for relief.  I am hearing expressions like these.  What is the President doing?  Why is he so cheap?  How could he be so mean in this time of so much?

Sorry Dr. Ali, but like I told a union gathering recently, the $25,000 one-off and 8 percent, and what have you, make generate ideas of being St. Nicholas (Santa Claus, giving the timing), but I see more of an unsaintly Scrooge.  Why be so penny-pinching with the people’s money, in sharing it out as though poor Guyanese are charity cases.  It is baffling that there could be the PPP Government’s great aggressiveness with infrastructure, but this damning timidness with a few dollars more for Guyanese who could really use a hand all year around and not just at Christmastime.  I am pained to remind Excellency Ali that he is not president for December alone, but that the Guyanese calendar has 11 other months, and 24 hours a day of mouths to feed, and bills to pay.

Instead of the Cuban style approach of taking over and talking down (8 percent), skipper, why not sit down with the unions and sort out these sticky affairs in a respectful and considerate manner.  In this era of Guyana’s existence, leaders shouldn’t be even thinking of increments of GY$10-15,000 more per month for minimum wage workers.  What can that increase buy, other than making it somehow (perhaps) to the end of the third week of the month.  I hear about inflation fears, but Guyanese are living in starvation conditions, chief.  Let me return to that $25,000 one-off coming in December: locals buy a tray of eggs (don’t ask what price) and a fowl (same thought), and the money done before the black cake gone.  Don’t forget that 2024 is a Leap Year and the superstitions associated with its presence and challenges, which means more money in hand would help ride the tide.

Now, it is time for some head-butting with the head-of-state.  Though his head is sure to be harder than mine, duty calls.  Hundreds of billions earmarked and spent (and then more as supplements) for capital expenditures, and there is this teeny-weeny, eeny-meeny-miny-mo handful of billions for the lesser and lower in this oil-soaked society.  Since I have lost out to President Ali and his head games, I am going to try one where I am unbeatable: have a heart, Dr. President.  It does not call for a cardiologist, simply a leader who has some sense of the plight of his people.  It is one thing to express great concerns about the Palestinian people, but there are Guyanese, my lord, who just can’t make it.  As one septuagenarian said to me: dis oil aint mek no difference to me, and peeple like me.  I am not the president, and I hang my head in shame.  All these billions, and there is President Mohamed Irfaan Ali proudly speaking in pennies, the paltry, and what has to be possibly perverse, given Guyana’s circumstances today.

Unlike before, Guyana has a sufficiency of money, so that excuse has no standing; like arguments about inflation, the President is contributing to his own deflation, when he nickels and dimes (8% and 25k) Guyanese.  Though better than zero, it is perversity amidst adversity.  Thanks for the thought, Dr. Ali.  By the way, do have yourself a Merry Christmas.  Also, don’t forget Diwali, as some of that light could be helpful in guiding on the right way forward.