Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday Ramblings-Blackjack and blondes

Wednesday Ramblings-Blackjack and blondes
Stabroek News weekly column. Wednesday May 21, 2008

Blackjack and blondes
Twas, alas, a rather tawdry week for news. Tuesday morning we were accosted by a front page photo of a balding man in a polo shirt wearing a much younger woman over his knee with absurdly exaggerated painted eyebrows and a stick-on mole.
Bleary eyed, we wondered why this couple had the nerve to be grinning so happily, so confidently from the newspaper of “Gloom and Doom”?
Then we saw the headline… A Turk…a Turkmen…a Turkoman… an Ottoman had decided to buy the taxpayer-financed - with a five-year tax holiday and US$1M in concessions – Buddy’s International Hotel for a cool US$25M. Suffering scimitars! Our immediate reaction was that this was another massive investment showing a deep confidence in Guyana. If this did not confirm the wisdom of the fiscal and economic policies of the PPP government; if this did not show that crime was a figment of the media’s imagination, then what did? When would the cynics, the non-patriots admit this? Money talks; bull&*^! writes letters to the newspapers. After all that hotel had enabled Guyana to host the Cricket World Cup, and the government, having expended US$55M on infrastructure and BMWs, recouped a whopping $1.3M in ticket sales. Now that’s the kind of sensible investment this country needs.
Our second thought was that the perpetually “tight lipped” Buddy Shivraj has to be a genius salesman to fob off the most absurd hospitality establishment since John Cleese goose-stepped through the lobby of Fawlty Towers.
Then we thought some more. Oh now we got it: Euro wannabes (Turkey is not yet part of the EU) were intent on setting up a little gambling fiefdom on The East Bank. After casinos were shut down in Turkey, swilling in cash and looking for an easy country to park it, Mr Ozkan might have done a due diligence on the hotel but we wondered if the government had done any background checks on him. A cursory Google search – do it – soon found a quite public question mark that might spur one to avoid allowing him to set up his playground on state land and bring a special kind of sleaze to a country some still feel has a modicum of decency.
But what the heck, beggars can’t be choosers and given the government’s motto “Show us the money and we’ll give you all the tax holidays you need” it seems El Presidente spent a few minutes with the Turk and thought he was a man with whom he could do business.

So what can we expect? Ozkan vaguely referred to other investments in mining and petroleum. But he apparently went straight from his private jet to a couple of meetings at his two-star hotel. We wager he could not find Guyana on an unmarked map.
What instead we can safely predict is a parade of sweaty Eastern European businessmen in wide collared silk shirts, their belts hidden by “visky”-fuelled paunches waddling through the airport – there will be a separate VIP line at immigration - before being chauffeured along the East Bank road, avoiding the cows, for a few nights of throwing away their money in some dark room. Let us not kid ourselves that many, if any of these sartorially challenged “highish rollers”, will show any genuine interest in Guyana’s culture or its natural splendor. They may not even make it to the Red Dragon for Chrissakes! What a travesty!
Far likelier their presence will encourage a boom in the prostitution sector. Wherever there are gamblers, sex for sale soon follows.
But don’t worry mothers. This will be a closed shop. We predict that right behind the waddling Gucci loafers will be a gaggle of transparent high heels teetering through immigration replete with thick Slavic accents and names like Ivanna Bendova, on their way to work as “hostesses”.
So this is Nouveau Colonialism. No more about cutting cane in the midday sun; more like suntan oil and complicated cocktails by the poolside of what we are reliably informed will be called the “Princess Buddy”. As an aside Cary Fraser’s withering appraisal of this deal in this paper’s Monday edition entitled “Casino Capitalism” is a must read.
They’ll be quality jobs for the natives, cleaning toilets, and picking up condoms from under the beds, perhaps even opening doors.
Sure enough we can expect more casino related crime, likely Eastern European style which “mek Colombians look like joke”. The Russian mafia and their counterparts are a cruel set of people who wipe out your whole family and just to spite you spare your mother-in-law.
Meanwhile we will not sully these august pages with a reference to the rantings of the unmentionable Go Invest director, save to say if he had any decency he would issue an apology to Judy Fitzpatrick or else go commune at Liliendaal, at the site of the other hotel he promised the nation many moons ago. The one Jagdeo even dug the sod for.
Yes it was indeed a tawdry week for news, including the arrest of Corbin’s driver. What a non-story. Held for a few minutes on station bail. Not even Corbin’s valet, or his gardener. As for the allegations of whether police refused to teargas his protestors we can’t recall the PNC getting this upset when the Keystone Cops opened up on the Lusignan crowd, and succeeded in gassing a school.
Yer we all know the food prices have gone up but if you just read the Chronic you would know it’s simply world commodity prices and the president is doing the best he can. Goebbels does indeed remain relevant today. Hey when people start quoting Nazis you know we’re really having a bad week.
Then came Friday evening’s channa bombing. Shameful. As the news wafted along Main St on the delightful evening breeze and the cellphones chirped at the Peg Poolside we were informed by an expert that the reason the building did not catch alight is that the channa was not sufficiently soaked. Apparently the optimum recipe is that it must be immersed in gasoline for a minimum of four days so that when the nutritious pellets are scattered into buildings they stay alight. “But doesn’t that make the channa mushy?” Apparently mushy is good.
Guyana must be the only country where food is used as a weapon. What next? Boulanger mortars? Bunker busting pumpkin bombs? And why in this food crisis waste valuable high protein legumes on the Ministry of Misspent Youth, corporate sponsored Sport and Kulture?
However this attack had a strangely comforting and retro feel to it. An event from the late 1990s. No one was injured, no buildings burnt down. A little excitement, a last minute rearranging of headlines, and something to talk about over drinks. Perhaps with the recent massacres we need more tawdry weeks like this, after all.

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