Letter: US Embassy’s Guyana poverty post

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Dear Editor,

In a recent US Embassy post on Guyana, I find it very humiliating that one of the few old-style country houses was posted to display Guyana as a country steeped in poverty.
Personally, I have great respect for, and interest in, the United States of America. They have been kind to me and my family. I am not writing to project any negative viewpoint of the great Land of the Free, the United States of America. It is just that I disagree with this post, and I wish to make that clear.

The United States of America, per capita, have more and worse poverty than we do in Guyana. The United States are replete with thousands, and maybe tens of thousands, of soup kitchens to cater to the millions of homeless in America. Furthermore, there are numerous areas in the United States of America which are steeped in poverty; for example, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the country, 19.6%; West Virginia has the second-highest poverty rate, 17.54%; and Louisiana is among the poorest states of the US. Louisiana holds the third position with a poverty rate of 19%, and this is just to name a few.

In many places, when restaurants close, they are encouraged to give their food to the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. There are churches which offer beds at nights in the harsh wintertime, and sometimes they are so overburdened and filled to capacity that they are unable to provide shelter to all those seeking it. Some of the less fortunate often seek food and shelter. I am ashamed to say that many of those persons are army veterans. I find it shameful that these people have to live in the streets in abject poverty.

I wish to reiterate that I am not saying these things as one who does not love America; I am saying things as one who truly loves America. I believe that vast poverty and homelessness could end in America if a third of the money budgeted for war and equipment for war, such as armour, nuclear weapons, military aircraft, war tanks and military satellites, weapons, bombs etc. are directed towards the poor. Vast poverty and homelessness in American can be ended by using half of the money used and still being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The invasions did nothing to help the people. The Americans and Europeans left Iraq and Afghanistan, inclusive of Libya, in total madness and chaos.

Some of that glory and saved wealth could be extended to poorer countries around the world in order to help alleviate poverty, instead of conspiracies and internal warfare, pain and suffering.

In the United States of America, I know, many people have to live in their cars and on the streets; in parks and on benches; in abandoned buildings and under bridges; places not fit for human habitation. In Arizona and New York, there are many slums that are referred to as the inner cities of the United States of America, where poverty preponderates.

Yes, Guyana has its poverty; every nation of the world has its poverty. I have also seen poverty in the United Kingdom, where war vets – again, those who fought for the free world – live in the streets and in abandoned cars and vans.

It is nice to know that the United States Embassy is helping us to realise that we have poverty. However, we have a magnificent Government in Guyana, recognised by the entire international community, and the Government is truly working in all the regions of Guyana. From the hinterland to the cities and the Coastal Belt, Government is working to improve lives and lifestyles, encouraging people to come out of poverty, many of whom in my opinion chose poverty!

I was told by one person in the city of Georgetown: “We love poverty, and poverty loves us!” I became speechless, as I was trying to motivate him and others, to show them they could develop. The answer I got shocked me.

Dear Embassy of the United States, many Guyanese people were given lands for the first time ever in their lives by the Government of Guyana. Prior to the APNU Government of 2015-2020, the Government gave tens of thousands of house lots and built magnificent housing schemes, which I call cities, in places such as Diamond, Tuschen and Mon Repos, to name a few. The Government of Guyana is now developing a major area of the Amelia’s Ward Scheme in Linden for young professionals, the poor and the needy.

Usually, many of the working class choose to spend their money on alcohol, sports, gambling, prostitution etc. I grew up in the sugar belt of Skeldon, and would see this happening on Friday afternoons when workers collected their wages. They could simply have purchased some shares in a corporation, or open a savings account at a bank, in order to create wealth; or open an account with the New Building Society and create a pathway to qualify for a loan to build a home.

I have spoken about the Government’s housing schemes. Many received lots for which they paid less than one hundred thousand dollars, and they resold those lots for a million dollars. And some acquired lands for one million dollars and resold same for 7 million dollars. People are selling out, not investing in themselves! They are just eating their money out. Many would consume alcohol as though that was their life-force. These kinds of people are usually extremely brutal to their wives and children.

My point is: when you see some people living in poverty, it is because they chose that in many cases, then blame the Government for poverty. We are fortunate in the populace of Guyana to have a Government for the people and by the people! The Guyanese people are given so many opportunities. It is just those haters of the Government, who have prejudice in their hearts, who will not comment positively and speak the truth.

Our Government is building roads, byways and highways in all areas to enhance the quality of life. Water is being accessed in all areas, and in some areas, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent. In the hinterland and other areas, the Government is striving to provide electricity to persons who have never had electricity, be it solar or generated.

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security is giving so many opportunities to people in order to develop their lifestyles in historic proportions, in my opinion. I recall that from 1992 to 2015, the PPP/C Government was giving so many housing opportunities that the Government of Trinidad was being mocked by their Opposition for not following suit. Many of whom had never dreamed of owning a piece of land were able to hold transports and land titles, and even dance with gratefulness. Yet others would sell and want more.

His Excellency President Dr. Irfaan Ali, in his tenure as Minister of Housing, Water and Tourism, created history in Guyana when he launched the ‘One Stop Shop’. People acquiring lands were able to approach one desk for loans to purchase lands, another desk for loans to build, another desk for electricity, another desk for water, and another for telephone services, and yet another desk for home and fire insurance. What more can a people want in order to develop and grow in a country; unless of course they love poverty, and through their negative thinking they gravitate towards poverty.

I am sometimes dumbfounded by the fact that even though the Government is inviting persons to apply for lands, they are not doing so. They just expect the Government to visit their homes and hand them a title, it would appear. The thing about it is this reality: If you are to give the land or the transport entirely free, the people will not value it. Generally, things they do not have to pay for themselves they do not value. This is human nature. The Government is charging them a small portion of money to cover the cost of construction of infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity, which are the necessities for proper life. As I said prior, many of them sell their lands!

The same Government from 1992-2015 built numerous core homes for those people who had nothing. Many of them sold their core homes and bought new homes, while others eventually turned their core homes into magnificent structures but some sold, ate and drank their money out, and want more now.

I must admit to another reality: before the elections of 2015, the APNU and AFC were talking about how many houses they would build. They stated that they would not only give lands, but houses as well. When some of my officers and colleagues were conversing, I heard them saying the Government will give people all these houses. Then I told my officers to watch them do nothing. The next thing we heard was that, instead of houses, they were going to build flats, in Linden, Charlestown and Ruimveldt, to name a few. The reality is that they built nothing. The APNU/AFC Government built nothing at all.

Some of my officers were in conversation, and I told them as I joined them that that Government would build nothing for anybody, and give nothing to anybody poor. Then I added that, coming to the end of their five-year term, they would build a few houses, maybe two hundred, in order to pull the wool over the eyes of their supporters, LOL. Ladies and gentlemen, friends and families, brothers and sisters you know what? They built a couple of homes, not even two hundred, in Charlestown, as they started the campaign for the 2020 elections. They were taking credit for homes and communities built by the former PPP/C Administration of 1992-2015 to show that they had built those homes.

This is the stink of politics and the reality of a failed, despotic Government.
With all of the above, local and international, I wish to state that we are not in a terrible state of poverty, as the U.S Embassy reports. If that is the case, it is not the Government’s fault, but the choice of the people. Yours truly personally even giving some credit to the PNC Government of the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, former President, who always encouraged people to grow their own food. Plant, grow your fish, rear poultry, cattle, barter with your neighbour, instead of just depending solely on an eight-hour salary in your occupation.

Teachers, sugar workers, or factory workers, supplement your income by planting your own food, even if it’s in pots, barrels, cans and bins. Learn to be self-sufficient. I have done that myself when I did not own a home. I am accustomed to planting my own vegetables in cans and tins, old freezers, wooden boxes, plastic containers etc. One has to be versatile to improve one’s lifestyle, don’t depend on an eight-hour job, as you cannot make it.

With all that being said, I ask this amazing Government of the United States of America to please spend a third of their budget to help poverty in their own country, and even help some of us in the Third World countries.

Roshan Khan Snr