Guyana: From Cinderella to Princess – By Adam Harris – commentary

Kaieteur News – Adam Harris

It never fails to amaze me that when people are doing well they suddenly attract so many others. An individual who wins the lottery suddenly has relatives and friends, he never dreamed of. Prior to the lottery, he was left to himself, with hardly anyone giving him a second look.

There was the case of a grass cutter who won $100 million some years ago. While he was a grass cutter, he was ignored by just about everyone. At the time, he worked with the then head of Canadian Bank Note in Guyana, Simon Wall.   

The man wanted to go to Disney World with his family, but by then there were relatives who wanted to make the trip. Something went awry and the man never left. I heard that some shrewd businessman sold him a house and collected much more than the house was worth.

Today, I am not sure if the then lotto winner has any money.

His story is not unique. I have heard of many cases in the United States where lotto winners end up broke. Heaven knows what they did. That is why there are entities that offer money management services.

Some people contact the services before they claim their winnings. Then they proceed to change their phone numbers or simply move out, because of the crush of people who try to reach them for a share of the money.

I don’t play the lotto, so I would never be in that position. Already I attract a large number of people who seem to want to be my dependents. Imagine what would happen if I win mega millions through the lotto.

Suddenly, Guyana is an attractive destination. Up until a few years ago, Guyanese travelling to Caribbean countries were treated with scant respect. They were seen as a poverty-stricken people running away from a harsh land. Today, they are welcomed almost with open arms.

This change in attitude was magical and followed the news that Guyana had found oil. No oil is flowing to the surface as yet, but the number of people coming here to take up residence is astounding.

Trinidad, once the major oil producer in the region, is no longer the oil-rich Caribbean country it was. In fact, reports are that its oil has all but dried up after some one hundred years of exploration. One well in Guyana is touted to be as large as anything Trinidad was producing.

From the time it became known that Guyana was to become an oil-producing nation, Trinidad companies with experience began rushing here. They had the skills and so they secured the contracts ahead of Guyanese.

A few local businessmen who read up on the industry are investing and the returns are exciting. Some have won contracts in the transportation sector and are making the investment pay. Some have started developing shore-based facilities and those with waterfront properties that had lain idle for decades, suddenly see themselves sitting on gold mines.

They are demanding humongous prices for their property. On Thursday, on my way from the airport, I saw the signs proclaiming property for sale. Oil is now big money and people are salivating, although reports state that they will not get as much as they should.
We are trying to train people hand over fist, but we have a problem. Our education system that almost collapsed, churned out people who would face an uphill task in securing training. The result is that we would have to continue looking overseas for skills.

People are going to come for jobs that should have been available to Guyanese.

Another remarkable development is the entrance of some airlines that under previous conditions would never have looked in Guyana’s direction.

The Marriott that was once deemed a lesson in extravagance is now a booming enterprise. The rooms are booked solid and the once loss-making hotel has turned the corner.

Queen’s College would be celebrating its 175th anniversary in another few weeks. People are complaining that they cannot find accommodation in many of the hotels. People have come, and are bringing with them money that was never at a premium.

Not so long ago, Guyana had a foreign currency crisis. Local businesses could not get money for their imports. That has changed. Anyone can secure foreign currency. And the exchange rate is coming down.

But back to the airlines. Many thought that Guyana could not support the airline industry. Caribbean Airlines stayed over the years. On one occasion at an Annual General Meeting, a director described Guyana as the airline’s cash cow.

Indeed, Guyanese were asked to pay high prices for their tickets, but there was nothing that they could do. That is about to change, as was reflected when Fly Jamaica operated and controlled a share of the local market.

Delta pulled out in those not so profitable days although it controlled the lion’s share of the market. There is word that it is coming back.

Jet Blue, an airline that offers cheap rates out of the United States to various destinations but not to Guyana, is coming.

Qatar Airlines that operates out of the United Arab Emirates is also coming. Of course, the UAE is not a destination known to be frequented by Guyanese, but the airline sees money. Qatar is an oil-producing country and undoubtedly, people would be coming from that part of the world to Guyana.

American Airlines that came soon after oil finds were announced is extending its service to New York having been operating between Guyana and Miami.

Guyana is suddenly an attractive destination. Sadly, the people now have to fight to capitalise on whatever windfall is coming.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kaieteur News)

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