Travelling the Road to Economic Ruin

By Donald Ramotar

It appears that the Granger regime is determined to show that Burnham’s policies were correct and they could work in our country.  From the inception of this government, it picked up from where the PNC left off and has been hastily implementing many measures that are a throwback to the worst days of the PNC regime.
Last week, the government finally admitted that there is a significant shortage of foreign currency in the market. That, of course, has been known for a while and was repeatedly stated by the commercial banks and business people much earlier.

This was not a surprise.

What was surprising, however, was the announced measures to deal with the situation.

The regime said it would put in place arrangements to regulate and control the foreign currency supply.  Later, the Bank of Guyana directed the banks and cambios of the rates they must buy and sell for.

This immediately raised red flags of a time past when this was done and the consequences of such actions, which were very destructive.

There was a time when persons travelling aboard had to seek permission from the Bank of Guyana to take foreign currency out of the country.  A person was limited to US$15. That was then stamped at the back of one’s passport.
The control of foreign currency led to the creation of a parallel economy. America Street became the place where a lot of buying and selling of foreign currency took place. The business was so ‘bright’ there that the street was renamed ‘Wall Street’ by the public.

Of course, we have had many unpleasant incidents there.

Police often raided the place to seize foreign currency.  Vendors, and even stores were raided; clothing and other items were seized, because even if persons produced receipts for their purchase, they could not say where they got the foreign currency to make their purchases. They, therefore, suffered many heavy losses.

Most of those items seized were sold at Guyana Stores, which was then government-owned.

The foreign currency seized went to the coffers of the regime.

Many business persons were charged and hauled before the Courts. Many small vendors were jailed for having banned goods, for example, wheat flour, split peas, potatoes, etc. Some were jailed for selling goods above the officially controlled price, sometimes, only by a small amount.

Even some lawyers who tried to send money out of the country to pay for their children’s education were hauled before the Courts, Deryck Jagan and Clarence Hughes among them.

In these conditions bribery and corruption became rampant. The Customs and Immigration Departments were noted areas.  However, it was not confined there. It spread all over engulfing the whole country.

Those persons old enough would also recall the long lines for very basic food and household items.  One had to have had ‘contacts’ to get toilet paper among other essential items.

Production suffered greatly, too, as replacement parts for machinery and equipment were hard to come by.
In these difficult times, people suffered greatly, not only from the shortages and the high prices, but from the loss of dignity.  People were made into criminals if they had bread and roti in their possession.

Extreme malnutrition resulted, as Guyana was visited by illnesses such as ‘beri-beri’. This, of course, came about due to lack of nourishment.

Now, this regime, in its quest to prove Burnham right, is driving us along the same destructive road the PNC took.
Recall President Granger’s recent statement on the programme ‘Public Interest’.

Responding to his government’s poor record on job creation, he urged that people make pepper-sauce and cassava chips and sell!

This is the job creation policy of the regime.  The results would not be different. Indeed, it cannot be different.

The private sector has already stated its opposition to this measure of government controlling the flow of foreign currency.  Other democratic forces in the society must also make their voices heard.

The PNC-led APNU regime has clearly not learnt anything from their past mistakes.

We must stop this decline now.