Just like that, Christmas 2019 is here. My family and I wish every one of our Guyanese sisters and brothers a blessed Christmas and a joyous holiday season. We are hopeful that in some way, no matter how small, every family can find something that brings happiness and celebration. Guyana has always been a country where Christmas is a unifying time, when all Guyanese share in the festivities. Christians will observe with religious significance, but they will be joined by other Guyanese in the festivities. Christmas is a visible evidence of Guyanese living in, and revelling in, religious harmony. I am therefore confident that we will put aside our many differences, whether political, cultural, religious or other, to have a joyous holiday season 2019.Christmas 2019 comes at a time when hopes are high, but when despair also clouds our entry into 2020. Some will argue, rightfully, that hope and despair are always partners in our lives, and every Christmas season finds us with both hope and despair. But Christmas 2019 is more pregnant with the presence of hope and despair, their co-existence being more pronounced than ever before. Thus, when Guyanese celebrate this Christmas season, they will harbour the exhilarating possibilities of hope for a better future for Guyana and for families living everywhere in our country. At the same time, there is the sinking feeling of despair as we face the many challenges that have knotted our forward trajectory into a more prosperous country.We are more hopeful than usual this Christmas 2019, because Guyana is now officially an oil-producing country. Oil brings wealth, and this can only raise the hopes that every Guyanese citizen has for not just a better future for Guyana, not just for a handful, but for every citizen, no matter where they live, no matter which political party they support, no matter which religion, no matter whether they are presently employed or not, no matter what their personal economic circumstance might be.There are sound reasons why oil has brought and heightened the hopes we have in our bosoms. In one whirlwind swoop, Guyana has doubled its economy. In 2019, our per capita GDP was just US$4,500. In 2020, it will likely be almost US$10,000 per capita. Our country’s overall GDP will bounce up from about US$5B to US$10B. This is a whopping increase, and rarely in the history of the world has such enormous economic movement occurred with such swiftness.Hopefully, this new-found wealth will not leave anyone out; that, in some way, every Guyanese citizen, no matter their age, will benefit. Oil wealth brings enough equity to meaningfully change the lives of all of our citizens.So, as we celebrate Christmas, there are high hopes in every corner of our country, and this should make Christmas 2019 very special.But amidst the euphoria of hope that oil presents this Christmas, there are obvious reasons for despair. Our oil resources are being managed, so far, in a way that clearly is incompetent and clueless enough to dim the high hopes we embrace. There is a sinking feeling we might have given away our oil, and that the wealth of oil will not benefit every Guyanese; in fact, leave too many Guyanese behind. There already appears too much corruption tied to oil, such that our country will produce oil but the vast majority of citizens will become poorer, as in Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and other countries. There is a sinking feeling that citizens of other countries will benefit more than Guyanese. We are still hopeful that oil will transform Guyana and the lives of Guyanese, but this hope is dimmed by the despair on how our Government is managing oil.As Christmas 2019 swoops down on us, our celebration is muted by knowledge that, for the first time since 1926 — that is, 95 years ago — Guyana will not produce 100,000 tons of sugar. In fact, 2019 will be a rare year, since it will be one of only three years that Guyana has failed to produce 100,000 tons of sugar since 1876; that is, for almost 150 years.In the throes of this shame, more than 7,000 sugar workers are living day to day without a job, their children not able to go to school, their Government abandoning them, never taking a single day since 2016 to visit them to reassure them. Clearly, the hope that oil brings is dimmed by the prospect that things can only get worse for the sugar communities. In fact, there is that feeling that this Government is deliberately setting sugar up for failure as an excuse to end sugar in Guyana.Unfortunately, sugar workers will celebrate Christmas with the ugly possibility that 2020 will see another dramatic downsizing of sugar.In 2019, Guyanese witnessed the absolute raping of the constitution, flagrant violation of many laws by our Government, spiralling crime, our roads being a death trap, our Government trying to rig elections again. After almost three decades of a democracy, during which we ended hunger in Guyana, we see hunger reappearing as dictatorship re-emerges. That is why this Christmas is being celebrated with both hope and despair together.