By   stabroek news February 19, 2017

The pacu is a fish related to the pirhana. The sweet water pacu has fearsome, human-like, teeth. However, unlike the pirhana, it feeds principally on nuts, fruit, insects and small fish. Its love for ‘nuts’ is not related to its rumoured taste for men’s testicles. It appears that this rumour is not true. The salt water pacu, which has no teeth and no resemblance, is a popular dish in Guyana.

There is another meaning of ‘pacu.’ It refers to a person who can be easily deceived. Sniffing out for a quick buck, some foreigners were led to believe that Guyanese are a bunch of pacus. They are finding out differently.

As a poor country Guyana is a prey for all those pedalling get-rich-quick schemes. There is no shortage of Guyanese ready to jump on the bandwagon. But something changed in 2015. An accumulation of developments in democracy, accountability and transparency since the establishment of the Stabroek News thirty years ago, came together on a wave of promises of transparency by APNU+AFC. The people of Guyana took them seriously, culminating in relatively large numbers in the street protests, rejecting the monopolistic parking meter secret deal.

A less than transparent City Council entered into a secret agreement with foreigners and a Guyanese ex-con, who believed that we can be shafted. The plot emerged in secret: take total possession of our city streets for twenty years, with a potential of twenty more, rent them out to us at exorbitant prices, pocket and take away millions in foreign exchange, leave only a pittance for Guyanese. As MAPM’s latest pamphlet put it, the City Council contributed the major part of the investment, our land, and will receive the minor part of the return, 20 per cent. One person described it as a contract from hell.

The Smart City Solutions (SCS) people deceived us with a plagiarized website from its sister company (KN Feb 15, 16), pretending to have first world experience. It is on this basis that its first charges, as shown in MAPM’s pamphlet, were higher than the highest in the US. With the 50 per cent reduction it will still be higher than the highest. It is still unaffordable to most Guyanese.

Ralph-Ramkarran (1)Among the other elements of the secret agreement is the granting to SCS of a monopoly. Monopolies are unlawful under the Civil Law of Guyana Act. This is one of the complaints against the monopoly of GT&T created by agreement during the Hoyte administration (a case challenging the lawfulness of its monopoly status, among other things, is before the court).

Part of the scheme for the GT&T monopoly was the establishment of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which is required to fix the rates. It has public hearings in which the public can take part. GPL, a monopoly created by law, and Digicel are subject to the jurisdiction of the PUC. The secret parking meter deal has now been challenged in court as unlawful on the ground that there was no tender process and that it is a monopoly.

The objective of utility commissions, like the PUC, is to protect the public interest. No sane Guyanese can now rely on the City Council to do so. The parking meter charges and their reduction were fixed in secret discussions between the City Council and SCS, without any regard for the economy of Guyana and the capacity of vehicle owners to pay. What is to prevent the SCS monopoly, in collusion with the City Council, in the absence of a utility commission, or public scrutiny, to unilaterally increase charges? It is an unregulated monopoly, which would be unacceptable anywhere else.

Everything is wrong with this horrible deal from hell – secrecy, monopoly, disadvantage, profiteering, exploitation, plagiarism.

The divide and rule policy of the City Council and the SCS is in full force. Concessions are granted to those who negotiate, thereby giving credibility to the monopolistic secret deal. The danger of some people being entrapped by concessions could potentially weaken or even derail the movement to resist the monopolistic secret deal. If more people park and pay, the City Council and SCS will feel that it would be only a matter of time before we all cave in and their obduracy will be strengthened.

It is therefore necessary for the MAPM to continue to lead and inspire the peaceful resistance. Motor vehicles owners must starve the green monsters. They must park outside the zone. If the city is prepared to resist for as long as it takes, the green monsters will starve and die.

If SCS and the City Council expand the metered area to make it difficult to park outside the metered zone and walk, the city must be prepared to take other measures ‒ to park but not to pay. Penalties cannot be imposed on everyone and for those against whom penalties are imposed, employers should be asked to pay the fine. Where that is not possible, a fund can be started to assist those who cannot afford. The review of the charges and the draconian penalties show that the SCS and the City Council are on the run! Keep them running!