Dear Editor,The recently held National Conference of Local Democratic Organs (NCLDO) was another forum where the rhetoric of David Granger and Ronald Bulkan was portrayed to convince stakeholders that technically, the development of the various local organs is basically to increase rates, taxes and revenue collection on residents in order to develop their communities.The deception of the decentralisation of governance and putting more powers in the hands of citizens to participate in the development of their communities is another episode of the dramatic skills that is portrayed by this APNU/AFC coalition Government throughout its tenure in Government. The restoration of Local Democracy is a farce that is being used as a mantra by David Granger to mislead the people.The Minister of Communities is using taxpayers’ monies to give stipends to overseers and then use these officials to undermine the NDCs and the Regional Executive Officers for the various RDCs are also being used to undermine the elected Regional Democratic Councils.Recently the Budget proposals for 2020 was hijacked by the REOs, some of these proposals were either determined by illegal or enclosed meetings or by the REO themselves. The RDCs are mandated to be the agency to ensure that people’s rights and voices are represented in the budget proposals, unfortunately, this is the new form of democracy that is being established by the APNU/AFC coalition Government. Before 2015, budget proposals of projects used to be generated through community meetings between the RDC and residents then set in priorities of urgency, and approved by the RDC at a duly constituted meeting of the council, not a meeting by the REOs.The Constitution of Guyana emphasised the importance of Local Government, Chapter 71 (1) “Local Government is a vital aspect of socialist democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live”. While the Constitution dictates that there must be as many persons involved, this caretaker Government is secretly responsible for the destruction of local democracy.Politicians and political officials are employed at the Regional Democratic Councils’ headquarters to undermine every aspect of administration. The two new NDCs that were formed since 2018 are still not functional. That’s the reality of local democracy, subvention from Government is being given based on rates and taxes collections from residents.The main objective of the APNU/AFC coalition Government in respect to local Government is to divert the blames of incompetence and non-fulfilment of promises on the local organs and to pressure Guyanese with the additional burden.This APNU/AFC coalition Government is losing billions of dollars through bad negotiations, corrupt deals, tax write-off, sweetheart settlements, corruption, incompetence, Ministers’ extravagance etc, but is trying to enforce rules and regulations that would squeeze an ordinary Guyanese for a few cents. Guyanese must unveil this two-faced Government.Regards,Zamal Hussain
Dear Editor,I am a resident of the East Coast of Demerara (ECD). I am happy that we have a new smooth wide and clear road that will ease the traffic on the East Coast corridor in rush hour or traffic build-ups. But I am also sad. Sad that the level of engineering put into this project was even worse than the planning of a circus.There were absolutely no public consultations on the design, a design meant for use by the public. Public consultations are very lucrative in the design process as it aids in ensuring the end product will be absolutely useful for its intended purpose without impacting the daily lives and businesses that reside immediately along the corridor. In developed countries, these designs are available online for public constructive scrutiny and criticisms, however, this was not the case for this project.The engineers at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) treated these designs as if it were their personal heirloom and put it safely into pandora’s box where no one but the contractor and consultant had access to it. By guarding these designs, they perfectly preserved the flaws that eventually budded into the new ECD highway of hell. And by hell, I mean literally – all hell started from the inception of construction.If one were to gather data on the accidents caused by improper road safety in the construction period, one would be alarmed at the frequency and amount of damages caused to vehicles by construction pits that were literally left open or unlighted construction zones. Driving home in the nights was a challenge also because the entire construction corridor was unlit most times.To top it off, common sense was not a part of the planning process in the traffic diversions during the construction period especially during rush hour because this was not taken into consideration during the design process. The MPI is fully aware of these standard operating procedures of which are presented and reviewed in the design process utilising traffic data and studies collected and analysed.To make matters worse, the IDB Country Rep to Guyana resorted to Facebook to highlight the nonsense that was happening after being stuck for hours in the construction zone traffic jam. If this was an IDB-funded project, the contractor may have either been immediately terminated or heavily sanctioned for the nonsense that was allowed to take place.Most embarrassing is the fact that Geoffrey Vaughn, the coordinator for the Work Services Group (WSG), an engineering arm of MPI who are the ones responsible from the client end to oversee the project, traverses this corridor on his way to work and back every day and allowed the circus to entertain the play of citizens’ lives for the entire duration of this project, which, in my opinion, is criminal.The MPI was responsible for sanctioning the consultant who was responsible for the management of the project and seems to have failed miserably. I do hope media houses would do a little more research to add to my letter with all the incidents and accidents during the construction phase and the loss of life associated.The main reason for me writing this letter is, however, the lack of proper engineering which was supposed to be adopted to form the guidelines along which the whole project was designed. From previous knowledge and information received from a few longstanding engineers at MPI, the code usually adopted for road design is the AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials). An engineering review, should it be done, would show that this code, or no code, was adequately adopted or even properly consulted for the project design and construction procedures. The contractor was literally allowed to do as they pleased and the Consultant (E & A Inc) seemed like toothless poodles for the entire project.There are sections of the roadway that are definitely licensed to kill, take for example the southern dual carriageway from Good Hope to Mon Repos Market, which literally cuts down in width to approximately half the roadway without a transition or even safety signs placed there. If one were to consult the Guyanese critic page, there was an instance whereby after a lengthy blackout, there were two serious accidents where vehicles catapulted into the stalls that were left at the end of the broad section of the roadway.There is also a mistake in the transition coming out of the Good Hope cremation site and Fullworks Auto Spares junction, whereby the transition lane is placed on the wrong side of the median but all these are overlooked. One of my greatest questions is, where are the comments from the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE) or any of the senior reputable engineers of this country on this?They are supposed to be watchdogs for engineering projects but they are toothless poodles, like the consultants. The signature of this highway to hell is the lack of engineered lighting design which would have adequately lit the roadway in the night and reduced blind spots.A proper road engineer would tell you to either put good lights or no lights on a road as this becomes a hazard. The MPI cannot defend my points highlighted because they have not done such designs and simply plucked an existing duck and placed it in the pot.But little do they know that each type and manufacturer of lights have their own unique properties which would define the placement and height of lamp poles. This malpractice is adopted across Guyana with confident ignorance and only political gains to accomplish.Finally, on this “hellway”, I would like to let the MPI know that the lack of consultant oversight will lead to long-term disaster on some of the drainage structures which were not done to even the locally adopted construction standards as I have witnessed uncompacted backfill being done to a few culverts and all engineers know the importance of compacting backfill and for those who know, I suggest that they inform the consultant on this road project.I forgot to mention the gross neglect of temporary diversion signs during construction which should have been in place until the final road markings and signs were erected but this was not done and is yet another instance of malpractice which led to many disastrous accidents which went uncompensated by the contractor and blindsided by the consultants.Who has to bear the nightmare both physically and financially of this hellway? Yes, it is us the regular taxpayers. We have to pay for the sloppy work and feel it even more when there are accidents.The MPI acted like a lost dog for the entire project and still have no clue that they have been delivered yet another Chinese failure akin to the 69KV GPL lines and interconnecting substations which were subject to endless politicised football blame games and the Skeldon Horror House. But all politicians can do in the time of disaster is point their rotten fingers on the other guy and absorb the insanity. Wake up Guyana!Sincerely,Name provided
Actor, director and veteran broadcaster Ron Robinson believes that the performing arts can influence theRon Robinsonprocess of social cohesion in Guyana and thinks that should writers move in train, this could be achieved.Robinson was part of a three-member panel on TVG’s “The Factor”, where he, along with Al Creighton, Head of the Confucius Institute at UG and Director of the National School Of Drama; and singer-songwriter Dave Martins, examined the role of the performing arts in aiding the process of social cohesion.The local performing arts have moved beyond musical performances and drama to encompass “spoken word”, “slam poetry” and dance.According to Robinson, who has been active in numerous local plays, he has been seeing behavioural changes as a result of the plays put on locally.“I think theatre now is playing a much more meaningful role in the lives of people, especially when plays like the ones coming out of the two recent drama festivals. There have been changes, but the link has been primarily satirical, people come and life… we reflect,” the theatre veteran said.He said the performing arts (including music) could be a good tool to use to realise social cohesion. He said, however, as it was now, too often there have not been many playwrights going deep enough to actually produce change, both behaviourally and socially. He said often many of the plays were too light and the message was not strong enough.“We have not rightfully addressed play writing as an art form that could foster behavioural change … even without consciously trying, there have been changes as a result of the Link Shows.”He said on the other hand, there were a few instances where they were seeing playwrights going much deeper in their work, doing work that was now creating debate at places like Queen’s College and other secondary schools. He said prior to this, people only enjoyed the satire and went for night outs.However, Dave Martins said while the performing arts could have some effect on social cohesion, he was yet to see it. “It is a matter of degree. I believe that the arts could spur people and make them think. Whether it can actually change direction in society is another issue,” Martins said.He said while there would be some impact, it would not be enough to change people’s position on fundamental things they have been doing for years.“I don’t believe that most writers come to a position to say that I’m going to write something to effect that… they are not looking to effect change,” Martins posited.He added what some persons were seeing as a change happening as a result of the arts was a change that has been happening on its own.Meanwhile, Creighton, who said he was still to grasp the concept of social cohesion as being sought after by Government, said writers may not know how to get to the issue in their scripts. “They reflect things; they don’t craft a play that would direct the audience to solutions. There is a lot of focus on social ills, and that has gotten their attention. How do you handle the social ills put in a drama? Do you subtly put things that would influence the audience? It has to do with technique and how you handle the problems you show on stage.”
Re-elected GTM Chairman Ram SinghSalesperson of the Year and Superstar Achiever, Hansraj SinghThe Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited (GTM) last year paid out a whopping $1.1 billion in insurance claims, even as its profit margin declined by a little less than half compared to the previous year.This was the dire state of affairs reported by re-elected Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ram Singh.The Board of Directors met with policyholders on Wednesday at the Georgetown Club for the 136th Annual General Meeting (AGM), where Chairman Singh reported that after-tax profit for the company in 2015 was $82 million, as against the $160 million earned in 2014.Fire lossesSpeaking to the $1.1 billion payout in insurance claims, Singh told policyholders, this was primarily as a result of large fire losses incurred for the third consecutive year.He sought to reassure policyholders, however, that “since the beginning of 2014, your company has taken steps to prevent a reoccurrence by implementing more stringent underwriting guidelines”.Singh was optimistic in his pronouncements as he told policyholders in his report that despite the increase in claims that had to be met, the company still performed “fairly well despite fierce competition from existing insurance companies, new entrants, a decline in premium rates and a reduced demand for insurance coverage”.Speaking on the company’s asset base, Singh told those in attendance that GTM did record an increase in its holdings, totalling $6.65 billion in 2015, up from $5.92 billion the previous year.He said given the 2015 performance, the company has declared a final dividend of 4.6 per cent for ordinary scrip, preferent scrip and first preferred stock holders.The resolution for the dividend payout was unanimously approved by the policyholders in attendance.Regional performanceThe GTM Chairman also used the opportunity to provide an update on the performance of its regional branches.He told policyholders that in Grenada, total premiums grew by G$20 million. Singh recalled too that at the beginning of 2014, that country’s Government commenced the rollout of its three-year home-grown economic recovery programme of fiscal adjustments and reform – supported by the International Monetary Fund – and this programme at the end of 2017 is expected to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment.In St Lucia, Singh lamented, the country’s economy shrank by almost two per cent and its “general insurance sector continues to face intense competition, high policy attrition (erosion) and declining growth”.According to Singh, in an effort to maintain market share and profitability, competitors engaged in discounting of premium rates, but these factors negatively affected the performance of the St Lucia branch.He said the sister branch in St Vincent and the Grenadines faced similar challenges to those experienced in St Lucia, but has fared better with marginal growth in premiums.Investment returnsThe GTM Chairman’s spate of bad news continued, as he reported on the company’s investments, highlighting that they have seen a decline in the rate of returns being earned.He sought to reassure, however, that “cognisant of the need to improve the yield on investment in order to avoid volatile or toxic investments, the Board’s first priority “is to protect your company and its investments by seeking only secured and guaranteed investments”.Singh used the opportunity to lament that the motor insurance aspect of GTM’s business portfolio did not fare well in 2015.This, he said, resulted from insurance companies across the territories, “underwriting at rock-bottom rates with very large excesses”.According to Singh, “on the surface, this may seem beneficial; however, the client ultimately loses more at the time of a claim”.This practice, according to Singh, will not be entertained by GTM.He told policyholders, “Any policy or practice that leads ultimately to the client being placed at a disadvantage will not be adopted by your company.”The GTM Chairman also used the opportunity to provide policyholders with an update on some infrastructural works undertaken in 2015.1962 roofAccording to Singh, the company utilised $51 million in renovations and repairs in 2015, most of which went into replacing the entire roof of the original GTM building in addition to upgrading its outdated electrical systems.He told policyholders that the repairs were deemed necessary, since “the building was last roofed in 1962 and had developed a number of leaks”.Singh also reported that the company renovated a property which it had leased in D’Edward Village in Berbice and has since relocated its Rosignol office there.“Other renovations included constructing a roof to cover the entire fifth floor of the Head office building to improve utility of the roof garden.”Superstar achieverSticking to tradition, the company also used the opportunity to reward its outstanding employees.Hansraj Singh was the top awardee copping a number of prizes, including Salesperson of the Year, the Superstar Achiever Award and the Chairman’s Award – the highest award across the branches.The company also presented bursaries to a number of students who recorded creditable performances in their examinations.All of the Directors, inclusive of the Chairman, were re-elected to serve on the company’s Board of Directors for another year.