A spirit of patriotism

Stabroek News
September 9, 1999

For decades now there has been a serious disease crippling Guyana. This malaise is endemic in the public sector.

It fosters a devil-may-care attitude particularly when it comes to building, vehicles and equipment, and thrives on the phrase: "There's more where that came from." In fact, one may presume that this phrase was coined by a Guyanese official and it's the first thing they learn when they join government service. This illness has resulted in a loss of patriotism and pride of ownership among Guyanese.

A typical and recent example is the Stabroek Market. Once spoken of as the best in the West Indies, Stabroek Market was opened on November 1, 1881. According to James Rodway in the Story of Georgetown, it was built of iron by contractor Mr Nath McKay and the whole including river wall and foundations cost $200,000.

Some 118 years later, the Mayor of Georgetown, was willing to condemn and close down the entire structure last month. It was only the intervention of the vendors that prevented this. Some $60 million to $70 million is needed for repairs. A section of the market has been cordoned off and the eastern canopy removed, but the money for repairs is still to be found, despite the fact that one vendor had claimed that, according to his calculations, the city garnered some $48 million in rent from Stabroek Market alone each year.

The Mayor had said last month that Bourda Market was in worse shape and needed to be repaired before Stabroek Market. However, so far nothing has been done at Bourda either. Also among the old markets in the city are the ones at La Penitence and Kitty. No maintenance has been done of any of these structures for years.

The city also owns few refuse collection trucks, and pays private contractors to perform this service in some parts of Georgetown. And what has happened to the city's fleet? Broken down for want of maintenance and money to buy spare parts.

A parallel can be drawn with the former public transportation system, which collapsed at least three times for the same reasons.

Government departments frequently advertise 'unserviceable vehicles' for sale by public tender. And in some agencies, there's always a telephone, photocopier or other equipment which needs repair. In some cases it's the building itself.

Roads develop pot-holes, but they are not fixed until the whole street is impassable. Street lamps have gone bad, leaving once well-lit areas in complete darkness.

Somehow, these phenomena rarely occur in the private sector. And why? The key is maintenance.

As any student who wrote Principles of Accunts at the recent CXC exams will tell you, you have to cater for deterioration. This means putting aside, in your accounts, a sum each year that would be used to repair or replace assets - equipment, machinery, etc. - that have become obsolete. If an asset is a revenue earner then it stands to reason that part of what it earns should be set aside to keep it earning.

Huge contacts are awarded to rehabilitate buildings that have completely run down and rebuild roads which are beyond repair in the name of progress. Real progressive thinking would have seen us repairing as is needed and using the hard-to-acquire financing to build new structures, roads, bridges.

It is time for a renewal of the spirit of patriotism. We need to care for the things we own as it should by now be obvious to all that the government is in no position to replace them.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples