by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 December 2006)
Let us get right to the point, Guyana needs money and gambling will bring money to Guyana. That is really all that needs to be said on the issue, but I suppose it would be terribly brash to be so inconsiderate of the concerns of the religious community.
However, since Jagdeo and his party are finally doing something to create economic growth, and they are attempting to do it legally, I could not be more tickled. Of course, I'm not naïve enough to think this opportunity for a little wealth will extend beyond the PPP faithful. Then again, what economic endeavour created under this administration would favour equitable distribution of wealth?
Countless investors have been chased away for no other reason than political persuasion, or rather the lack of allegiance to the current governing party. Bright economic reform measures have been shot down because the smart proposal was not from the right political party.
Moreover, in an attempt to keep the nation isolated from an invasion of investors from neighbouring Brazil, this administration has been opposed to the idea of connecting the two countries by road until recently.
It is very difficult to take a broad look at the overall economic progress, or rather the lack thereof, and not draw the conclusion that the governing party wants to maintain a level of economic starvation in Guyana. Personally, I think this is because a nation in poverty is so much easier to manipulate for the PPP's ongoing political agenda.
Therefore, I am jumping for joy over the prospect of introducing casino gambling. Again, I fully acknowledge that there is probably a pocket full of money somewhere that readily supports the PPP and is pushing for a way to make even more money through casino gambling and is offering kickbacks to politicians who are inclined to look favourably upon such an endeavour.
Regardless, I do not care about the PPP and its ongoing incestuous acts. All I care about is that the flow of income into Guyana will bring much needed economic growth to the nation. If even a small amount of this income trickles down to those who really need it, then I am even happier.
The introduction of casino gambling may indeed be intended to plump the pockets of those precious PPP elite, but in due time, it will have to be an industry in which any one can invest – whether it is now or in five years when the PPP no longer rules the roost.
As such, I am quite excited that Jagdeo finally wants to do something good for the economic situation of Guyana. Although, I also have to say that it is simply ludicrous to think about telling a resident Guyanese that he or she cannot gamble. This would be like making El Dorado Rum in Guyana but telling the people who make the rum that they cannot buy it.
Now let us return to the concerns of the religious community, many of which were very nicely addressed in Tuesday's editorial in Kaieteur News. The article said, "When radio bingo was first introduced in Guyana, there was nary a peep but that was a form of gambling. When lottery came it was the same thing. Today, lottery is entrenched and more than few churchgoers participate in this form of gambling."
The editorial continued with a very sound argument against the concerns of the religious community, "The harsh reality is that no group of people should decide for the majority. Casino gambling is not going to be compulsory. If an individual is opposed to casino gambling then he [or she] has the right to refuse to gamble. Horseracing and other forms of gambling abound in Guyana and there is nothing to compel an individual to be a part of the venture."
I share this sentiment as well; it cannot be enough to simply oppose an economic endeavour because it might have a negative outcome for a small number of people. Life cannot be lived in constant fear of the "what ifs."
If we applied this reasoning to life in general, then Guyana should not make rum because everyone might get drunk. Guyana should not grow rice because someone might choke on it and Guyana should not build any more houses because there is a chance one might catch on fire.
I prefer to live my life with a more optimistic outlook. Applied to this situation, my outlook would ponder the benefits of casino gambling and applaud the government for finally taking some measure of initiative toward economic growth – even if it is being done for a small few instead of the nation at large – because I know in time the nation at large will reap the profits too.