Ms Sandra Khan, writing in Guyana Kaieteur News (KN Apr 20) stated that the private sector does help the poor. It is indisputable that some businesses engage in corporate social responsibility. But it is only a few. Big business hardly steps up to the plate to help the lower class. The recipients of assistance and those of us who have empathy for the working class are most grateful for the help for poor from the business class. (I applaud Ms. Sandra Khan, by means wealthy and with limited resources, for her personal, generous contributions to so many worthwhile causes and her invaluable service among the lower classes (and dispossessed) as well as promoting culture in Guyana; she is worthy of accolades and a national honor for her service to humanity.) Contrary to what Ms. Khan may feel, no one is knocking the private sector for making profits but is indeed criticizing those (big business) that don’t give generously (of their profits) to the less fortunate or to ameliorate disasters like pandemic. Kaieteur News and other private media outlets like Guyana Times, CN Sharma Broadcasting, etc. generously help during crises and by no means can they be classified as big business.
The entire private sector is not being criticized as not helping the public during the pandemic or past disasters. It is not those businesses that gave to charity that are criticized but the giant businesses (they know who they are) that don’t give or don’t show empathy for anyone (not even their own poor helpless cousins). As an illustration of big business not being generous, I have a cousin (billionaire) who is a big business owner without any kids; when approached to help the poor, he asked how that would benefit his business. If Ms. Khan were to conduct a survey, she would find that it is the smaller and medium sized businesses that provide the most help to the poor. Almost all small businesses help during crises but few big businesses rise to the occasions. And while a few big business may help the less fortunate or support NGOs or sponsor the arts, such helpful businesses and their assistance are far and between.
I agree with Ms. Khan that the private sector is the engine of growth in Guyana. Anyone who studies economics would know that the private sector is largely responsible for initiatives and growth in every country. In India, as indeed in the US, and almost every country, small and medium sized businesses and cottage industries play the lead role in growth and generate the most revenues (some 70%).
Profit is indeed the leitmotif of business including farming. But there is a big difference between the farmer (as well as working class) and big business. Businesses need profit to fuel their business and in order for the owners (shareholders) “to eat” just like how the farmer plants food to eat. But big business eats greedily while the farmer shares the food with many. The farmers tend to be generous historically. I remember as a child growing up, after the rice harvest and milling, my father would send sacks of rice to share with relatives and the poor in the neighborhood who did not grow rice. Other rice farmers did the same; it was a tradition in the farming communities. Ditto after the harvest of vegetables, fruits and production of coconut oil and other home made goods. Farmers in the village would perform a Jhandi or Katha or Koran Sharief and feed the village or farmers pooled resources together to perform same thanking the lord for the produce. The (small) farmers made generous contributions to the mandir, Masjid and church. So the farmers did not greedily eat everything by themselves. They shared. That was (probably still is?) the culture.
Ms. Khan is right that the political class is indeed greedy and selfish, but the political class is nourished and sustained by the corrupt (big) business class. The latter (by no means all businesses) offers large bribes to the political class in exchange for various concessions. The concessions (political investment) dwarfs the bribes paid – a handsome return of profits of hundreds of percent. Very little, if any, of these profits are shared with the poor or the working class. And politicians (not all are corrupt or in the pockets of big business) never share loot with anyone. The poor or middle class or professionals are not offered the same terms and incentives by the politicians. If the working class or poor farmers were to sum up their funds and bribe the corrupt politicians, would they be given the same concessions to reap hundreds of percent of profit from their investment? I think not. And I don’t know of any case where the poor or working class or middle classes are encouraged to get into business or to pool their resources and purchase property. (No party would allow the rise of a kulak class from among the poor). I am aware that sugar workers offered to pool their resources and purchased the closed estates. They were rebuffed. And recommendations and advise to the previous administration to distribute land to sugar workers to go into business was also turned down.
Yes Ms. Khan, the resources of the nation are viewed as the ownership of some in the political class. And it must be pointed out that not all in the political class benefit from corruption. Some politicians are decent, honest, compassionate, and caring. Regrettably, the poor and working class don’t always support politicians who stand for integrity; they vote against their own interest.
In sum, critics are not maligning the private sector but large businesses that exploit resources and don’t return a fair share to the underprivileged and the working class. I remember the enormous contributions and lead role of CN Sharma during the massive flooding around 2005 and so many other calamities; he certainly was not a big businessman. Mr. Glen Lall, CN Sharma, and other business persons have been very generous. Big business should emulate them.
I laud the Guyanese media for highlighting the contributions of selfless volunteers during the pandemic. And I wish to acknowledge and salute those who give generously of time and service, including medical staff, to help others during this pandemic.