PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Stanley Ming, M.P. To a Press Conference on Thursday 7th February, 2002 People's National Congress Reform, Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media. This morning the PNCR would like to focus your attention and the attention of the nation on two issues, the spiraling cost of living and the divisive and unjust practices of the PPP/C in its housing and land allocation policies.

The Cost of Living

We wish to register grave concern over the continuing spectacular rise in the cost of living which is taking place in Guyana, as a direct result of the misguided and callous policies of the PPP/C regime. This has lead to the increased impoverishment of the vast majority of Guyanese. Every day Guyanese are being asked to pay more for food and every other essential item and service and they are finding it increasingly difficult if not impossible to cope.

Their distress is exacerbated by:

• the inadequate levels of remuneration;
• increasing joblessness due to the closure of an unprecedented number of businesses of all types and sizes;
• the deliberate and systematic contraction of the public service as the spiteful and vindictive device to weed out those perceived as not being political supporters;
• the absence of new employment opportunities as a consequence of the contraction of the economy influenced by the regime’s inability to attract new investment of any consequence;
• and the reduction in remittances from relatives abroad, particularly the United States since September 11, which were a vital lifeline for many Guyanese.

There is no doubt that Guyana is in a deep recession and people’s real income (when they do ‘enjoy’ an income!) has been drastically reduced.

The PPP/C has resorted to denials and spin doctoring which cannot fool Guyanese who are bearing the brunt of these heavy burdens imposed by the incompetence and corruption of the government. The regime has proven that it is bankrupt of ideas of how to get the economy out of the mess it has created.

Water and Electricity

Recent increases in water rates and electricity charges with threats of further increases in telephone charges bear out our contention that it is the regime’s policies (or lack of them!) that are responsible for the spiraling cost of living.

At the beginning of this year the two agencies responsible for the nation’s water supply, GUYWA and the GS&WC, announced significant increases in charges to consumers. Both agencies have embarked on a programme of metering consumers who are now being made to pay on the basis of water used. No one can disagree with this principle. But while government has argued rather unpersuasively that metering is not a revenue generating measure it has become financially burdensome to most Guyanese. This wholesale metering programme should have been preceded by a comprehensive public awareness and education campaign to change the traditional culture of water usage by Guyanese. However, because of the hasty and haphazard manner in which it has been introduced, no such exercise was undertaken. The result of the measures now imposed on the unprepared (Guyana’s) consumer is that many persons are being deprived of something as basic as potable water because of their inability to meet the steep financial impositions of GUYWA and the GS&WC.

The sudden and draconian increase in electricity charges imposed by GPL on the heels of the recent significant rise in bills over the last three months will consign many Guyanese to penury and a darkened existence. The PNC/R has it on good authority that this is only the first of many such impositions. The PPP/C regime must accept much of the blame and responsibility for these wholly unjustified increases in electricity charges. The fact of the matter is that the dominant foreign partner in GPL, CDC/ESBI, is simply using the carte blanche provided by the weak agreement entered into with the PPP/C regime to raise charges astronomically and unilaterally without any fear of recourse to the Public Utilities Commission. We must remind citizens that the regulatory powers of the PUC which incidentally was created by the PNCR administration were deliberately watered down by this regime. In fact, the GPL management contemptuously submitted their proposals to the PUC on Monday 2002 January 28 then calmly and callously announced that the new rates would be effective from Friday 2002 February 01. The government has provided their partners CDC/ESBI with a cash cow. In there greed, they are mercilessly stomping on the Guyanese consumer who has been left unprotected and defenseless by this uncaring Government.

It should be recalled that the regime entered into this ill-advised agreement with CDC/ESBI in the face of strong criticism by the PNC/R, the Trades Union Congress and the Consumer bodies. Moreover, Prime Minister Sam Hinds was prominent and vociferous in acting as a virtual point man and public agent for the foreign entity, rationalising and justifying GPL’s every action despite rising public complaints and protests about its inefficient service and predatory billing. Guyanese will recall that President Jagdeo himself had to publicly rebuke the Prime Minister since it was becoming evident to all except Mr. Hinds that GPL was not meeting its contractual obligations. It has not improved the quality of our electricity supply nor has it reduced line-losses. Instead, the situation has become worse since October 1999, yet the GPL has the effrontery to demand that Guyanese consumers should pay more for its own managerial incompetence and inefficiencies.

The proverbial chickens have now come home to roost. The feeble mumblings of protest by government to GPL are both humiliating and laughable coming as they do from GPL’s biggest promoter, the Prime Minister. No magician’s trick, designed to fool the Guyanese public, can distract attention from the self-inflicted impotence of the PPP/C regime. It will not be lost on the Guyanese public that the regime’s own public relations czar was very much in charge of proceedings as the GPL’s expatriate management was announcing these unconscionable and totally unjustified rate increases. Their apparent protests will achieve nothing and the regime knows this! It has been hoist on its own petard!

The Guyanese public would also like to know what are the two government directors, Messrs Alli and Brassington, on the GPL Board of Directors doing to represent the nation's interest. Have they spoken up to protect Guyanese consumers from the predatory inclinations of CDC/ESBI? They should speak out and the PNCR calls on them to do so without further delay. If they remain silent we can only assume that they have been co-opted by the lucrative fees that are being paid to them. As our Martin Carter, perceptively observed, “When a man feeds you, he makes you dumb!”

House Lot Distribution

Recent investigations by the PNC/R have once again brought to the fore the discriminatory practices of the government in the distribution of house lots. In several areas of the country where the PPP/Civics’ supporters are in the majority, infrastructure for new housing schemes are being developed with some urgency even though in some cases no families or only a few persons are on the lands being developed. This is in stark contrast to areas such as Sophia – Georgetown, Mocha and Caneville – East Bank Demerara, which already have thousands of inhabitants but little or no infrastructure.

• During October, infrastructure works were started on a plot of land provided by Guysuco at #77 Village, Corentyne. At the end of January 2002, a network of access roads constructed drains and culverts of a reasonably high standard were constructed by ‘L & R Construction’. On January 15th, the Regional Housing Officer, Mr. K. Loknath, allocated 295 lots without the knowledge of the Regional Housing Committee members. The prices of these lots are not known by the members of the committee, who were advised by Mr. Loknath that he was not authorised to divulge this information.

• At Marthyrsville - Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, recipients of house lots were given a few years to pay for the house lots, all of which were sold for a sum of $58,000. Electricity, water and roads were installed during 2000, and the residents have since been given their Transports. Squatting on this plot of Guysuco land started during 1993.

• In Cumberland - Canje, Berbice, approximately 100 house lots 50’ x 100’ were distributed for a price of $60,000, during 2000 - 2001. This area already has access roads and telephone services. It must be noted that Mr. K. Loknath, the Regional Housing Officer for both Regions 5 and 6, is the beneficiary of one of these lots and has already constructed a middle-income house, which is unoccupied at the present time.

On the other hand, during 1999, potential applicants were advised to apply for house lots valued $200,000 in Glasgow - East Bank Berbice. However during July and August 2001, they were advised that low-income lots would cost between $58,000 - $90,000 and middle-income lots ranged from $360,000 - $440,000. Strong protests by residents led to discussions between representatives of the potential home owners and Minister Shaik Baksh which resulted in the Minister advising that he would accept a price of $300,000 across the board for the middle-income lots. The Housing Ministry, at the end of 2001, further advised the applicants that they are required to pay an initial deposit of 1/3 of the purchase price within 90 days and the full cost, within 1 year of the allocation date, failing which, the allocation would be cancelled.

Prior to Guysuco handing over the plot of land at Glasgow to the Ministry of Housing, they alocated to their employees,approximately 30 lots, each 50’ x 100’ for $45,000 each. These lots were provided with roads and drains, and are situated in the areathat the Ministry of Housing is now offering as middle-income lots for the reduced price of $300,000 each.

Construction of the roads and drains in the Glasgow area started long ago, but work has since been stopped, as the contractor ‘L & R Construction’ is presently engaged in constructing the roads, drains and culverts at No. 77 Village, Corentyne. Even though some of the Glasgow area roads have been constructed and some drains dug, most of the culverts have not been installed, resulting in severe flooding of the lands especially in the area designated for middle-income lots. Apart from the main road separating the low income and middle income areas, no access roads nor drains have been provided in the low income areas. The site plan is being controlled by a representative of the Housing Ministry, and persons who have been allocated lots are each being asked to pay $500 in order that they can be shown the actual locations of the lots.

It is evident in all areas where the lots have been sold for less than $100,000, the majority of inhabitants are supporters of the PPP, whilst in the high priced areas, the potential recipients are deemed to be supporters of the main opposition party.

Sophia residents have for a long time been promised by the government that the necessary infrastructure would have been provided for the over 6,000 house lots. However, it was only during 2000 that a few main access roads were constructed, and these have all, already fallen into disrepair. During 2001, residents were asked to dig drains by self-help, in order to install the water mains to provide a supply of water. In comparison, at Marthyrsville, the digging and installation of mains, were done by the Guyana Water Authority.

At Caneville, each household is being asked by Guyana Power and Light Inc., to pay the sum of $55,754 for electricity to be connected. In comparison, at Marthyrsville, each household was required to pay $6,000 for a similar connection.

Throughout Guyana, similar practices are being carried out and one can only conclude that the Government is acting in its usual partisan interests. Continuation of such discriminatory behaviour can only lead to further social breakdown\ and increased tension, to the detriment of our country.

The PNCR wises to assure all citizens that the battle against incompetence and discrimination, greed and poverty will not cease. The signs of economic collapse and social disintegration are hovering over us.

Enough is enough!

PNC Reform
Congress Place. Sophia
Thursday February 7th, 2002