2017 was a tough year for the coalition government which lost much needed political capital due to some hiccups; most of which could have been avoided if Mark Benschop were elected President. Let us take a look at some of these issues which made headlines and demanded the spotlight on social media, but eluded Ruel Johnson’s Facebook page.
The year started relatively quietly since the economy was doing just as badly as the Finance Minister had predicted. It was just as bad for students who were forced to wear back their September school clothes because “things were tight” with their Brain Taxed parents.
Coupled with that was the fact that the $10,000 cash voucher which Priya Manickchand had given their parents to vote for the PPP was discontinued. But that was probably a good move by the administration since it meant more money to keep Moses abroad and out of the way.
But before the first week of the New Year could be completed, the President demoted Minister George Norton to the Ministry of Social Cohesion, where, after 12 months, he is still trying to figure out what his job is.
But his demotion augured well for Volda Lawrence who was promoted to Minister of Public Health after pelting PPP thug, Jason Abdulla with a glass lamp on Old Year’s Day. Then Exxon found more oil, a few accidents and fires occurred, and Chronicle continued publishing incorrectly captioned photos and misspellings.
Unfortunately the President did not confer an end-of-year Ministerial award, but it is certain that Education Minister Nicolette Henry would have been the lone nominee for Minister of the year.
Not only did she manage to displace Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, and take over what used to be two ministries while pursuing graduate studies, but the Minister even introduced a new hybrid holiday referred to as ‘Phagwali’ – a mix between Phagwah and Diwali, two Hindu celebrations.
While the origins of this celebration are still unknown, it is believed that Minister Henry will be working closely with the Social Cohesion Ministry, and with the aid of a Guyana Our Country Our Home textbook to have the details published before Hamilton Green goes into retirement.
On the not-so-good side of things, the year was an extremely challenging one for Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan; not only in liquor monitoring, but in national security issues as well.
After having his prison wardens roast the 133 year-old Georgetown Prison and prisoners fighting to save it, the Minister had to deal with 13 emotionally shaken escapees who bucked severe circumstances to reunite with their families.
Some, like Urie Vaswyck, unfortunately did not have a map in their possession and ended up as far away as Timehri. They were killed for wandering while the others were brought back to another prison waiting its turn to go up in flames.
Episode one of the parking meter fiascos quickly followed in the year with a couple thousand people joining a handful of bourgeoisie-turned-revolutionaries to protest the Georgetown City Council’s implementation of parking meters. Despite the wining and dining four of their Councillors in Mexico, the investors’ deal with the City Council remains to be consummated.
The year was also a rough one for former ‘Clean-up Georgetown’ activist, Sherod Duncan who opted not to contest for the Deputy Mayor’s post. It is believed that he needed the time to locate his moral scruples which disappeared after he was elected a councillor.
Nevertheless, the capital city has given great aesthetic pleasure since the coalition government assumed office. Not often will you visit a country where the public buildings are increasingly becoming comparable in pigmentation to half ripe mangoes; which by the way are now four for $100.
Sales of green and yellow paint have also escalated to the point where the economy is no longer dependent on sugar so the government has closed a few estates forcing thousands of happy sugar workers into early retirement.
However, for 2017, the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) disappointed thousands of Guyanese after they provided a few hours of electricity per day, when all Guyanese wanted was the blackout they were paying for.
Equally disappointing was the PPP Parliamentarians descending so low as to take away the jobs of local comedians who were already struggling. Former Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan “Nevertheless, He Persisted” Edghill emerged as an unlikely champion of transparency, though Transparency International isn’t about to name him as an Honorary Member anytime soon.
Speaking of taking jobs away, the tenure of the government’s official Chief Propagandist, Imran Khan became increasingly insecure in the face of valiant competition by an enterprising online “journalist” during the course of the year. Facts, not feelings was what the latter focused his energies on.
Meanwhile, the President said he has no intention of rigging the national elections, which is exactly what someone who plans to rig the election would say.
As the curtains were drawn on a most eventful year, it was delightful to see both the President and Opposition having a walkabout in Town, albeit separately. Irfaan Ail also got married and Minister Dawn Hastings-Williams is still receiving less than 10 likes on her daily selfies. Let’s hope 2018 brings much more positives than 2017. Here’s to a great one!