Dr. President, charity begins at home
CARICOM has a target of 25% reduction in food imports by 2025, three years hence. In dollar terms, the objective is for a US$5B reduction in the food import bill. We think that is a laudable goal, and the wish is for CARICOM to experience every success in reaching the bar set, if not surpass it. Our own Head of State, Dr. Irfaan Ali currently holds “the lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security” under the CARICOM umbrella, where that 25% (US$5B) reduction level by 2025 is a major pursuit (“Regional commitment vital in achieving 25% reduction in food imports by 2025 -Pres Ali -CARICOM Secretary-General lauds positive discourse”, KN February 6).
From all indications, Guyana’s President was his usual self, and in good form, as he talked up a storm along the lines for which he has become notorious in his home country. “It is either we are serious about this or we are not serious about this -we have to decide. This is not an individual country trying to achieve something. This is us as a collective body. This is about us being successful together…we cannot advance this if the commitment and full participation is not there.” That was well said, but even as we say that, we have to wonder if the President and his inner circle of chaperones ever pause to listen to what he is made to say publicly, and the rank contradictions with his domestic postures and programmes.
For here is Guyana’s leader, and the present leader of CARICOM’s import reduction vision speaking about a shared effort, a unified commitment, and a togetherness approach to achieve a worthwhile target involving food import bill and its lessening. On the other hand, here we are in Guyana at this time, totally torn as a society, vulnerable to our foreign exploiters at the national level, and ruthlessly preyed upon from every direction and corner, and he spearheads a political group that relishes rushing ahead recklessly on its own. For emphasis, as Guyana is ripped to shreds mercilessly by a consortium of calculating and craven foreign oil companies, the President is proud that he and his group aid and abet, in numerous ways, what the foreigners extract out of this country, while leaving us poorer, more divided, and more hostile to each other.
The words that President Ali uttered so sensibly in the context of the reduction of the food import bill are not seeing anything remotely resembling the togetherness (as a region) that he calls for before the CARICOM audience, but going in the opposite direction in his own backyard when oil is concerned. When we need most urgently to reduce significantly Exxon’s suffocating financial vise on us, and unity and togetherness are at a premium, the same President is silent, absent, and reticent. In fact, it is more accurate to assert that he and his government have been more than hesitant about a unified front to confront our oil tormentors and enslavers, both have been resistant to such an idea about a unified assembling and thrusting for better, and for more.
Another contradiction in the President’s public posture about fullness of commitment and participation is that when his government had the occasion to make a decent difference with reducing cost of living burdens for the average and less than average Guyanese, it let the opportunity slipped through its hands, by doing so poorly for the poor people of this country. As the President ought to know, charity begins at home, and while it is good to preach to our CARICOM neighbours, it would be more meaningful to apply the same standards right here in the homeland, where the poor and struggling are scraping to get by with food basics spiralling beyond their grasp. Guyanese poor and struggling could use, would welcome, a reduction in the intensity of their plight where food is concerned. The proposed monthly market hubs are too little, and looks like a loser from the inception.
Considering all this, we detect that President Ali is a walking, talking, grinning sensation where vagueness is concerned, and a practicing, failing, dismaying illusion when substance is involved. Food is one such substance.