Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guyana can do better in the longer term than living off the IMF/WB welfare system

Guyana can do better in the longer term than living off the IMF/WB welfare system

Posted By Stabroek staff On June 9, 2009 @ 5:03 am In Letters | 1 Comment

Dear Editor,

In my letter (‘After sixteen years the government still has not revealed a long-term economic plan,’ SN, May 29), I asked Dr. Henry B Jeffrey to share his view on “whether it was not practical and possible for the government to do a double-barrelled approach to dealing with our struggling economy by tackling both debt relief and a major economic recovery and development plan that allowed for the constructive exploitation of our natural resources.”

Dr Jeffrey responded with a letter, ‘If our leaders are to be blamed it is for not comprehending the context in which we find ourselves or for not having the political will to make changes,’ (SN, June 8), and so my instinctive reaction is to praise him for taking time to respond and offering a rather educational perspective. On my question of Guyana having a major economic recovery and development plan, he agreed that while it is always good to have an explicit national plan that at least can help integrate and focus national efforts, the favourable conditions needed for the successful implementation of such a plan in Guyana are not there because Guyana is an ethnically heterogeneous society caught in the spiral of competitive politics.

I am tempted to ask him if he ever advocated recommendations for making the conditions favourable during his tenure as a cabinet minister in the PPP/Civic administration from 1992 until January this year, and what these might look like if he’d care to share. Or whether he thought the ‘Civic’ component added by the late Dr Cheddi Jagan to the PPP in 1992 was a step in that direction. Or whether the best solution is for the PPP and PNC to engage in some form of shared governance at the executive level and not what is currently passing for ‘inclusive governance,’ but I will relent and focus on his actual response instead. Perhaps one day he will also tell us what being a member of the ‘Civic’ component of the PPP was like, because except for Prime Minister Sam Hinds, the Civic component is pretty much non-existent.

Anyway, Dr Jeffrey went on in his letter to cite the writings of several researchers whose works addressed the issue of multi-ethnic societies and their challenging effect on the social cohesiveness, politics and economics of those host countries. Guyana, he noted, was categorized as a ‘bicommunal state’ where social relationships are considered more problematical because political leaders sought to gain support (including votes) by “outbidding” each other on ethnic issues, but this only started after the British signalled their intention to leave, thus igniting the struggle for power between the major ethnic groups. Before that, according to Dr Jeffrey, one Ernst Halperin wrote in 1965, “Most of the Guianese with whom we spoke during our stay in the country insisted that tension between the Negroes and the East Indians was a very new phenomenon, and that up to the early 1950s the two races had lived together in harmony.”

If up to the early 1950s Indians and blacks lived together in racial harmony, and the race problem only started after the British signalled their intention to leave, then the essence of what I am deriving from Dr Jeffrey in answer to my question about Guyana needing a long-term economic recovery and development plan is that as long as Guyana is led by ethnic-based politics and politicians, ergo, the PPP and PNC, then the conditions will never be favourable for the implementation of such a plan. Bluntly put, the PPP and PNC are a drag on national unity and socioeconomic progress, even if Halperin did not fully agree.

According to Dr Jeffrey, Halperin found that Guyanese who were apolitical tended to blame politicians for the racial tension, in which “spokesmen of the Negro ‘People’s National Congress’ (PNC) consistently put the blame on the rival PPP, while PPP spokesmen blamed the PNC.” However, Halperin concluded that: “The root causes of racial tension undoubtedly lie far deeper; they are not to be found in the… the unscrupulous imaginations of local politicians, or in a real or in imagined partiality on the part of the British rulers,” but in the very nature of the specific type of multiethnic communities.

Well, this I find a dichotomy of sorts because if Halperin said that most Guyanese he spoke back with in the ’60s insisted that tension between the Negroes and East Indians was a very new phenomenon, and that up to the early 1950s the two races had lived together in harmony, then how did he arrive at the conclusion that the racial problems are not related to the race-based political rivalry after 1950, but are rooted in the very nature of the specific type of multiethnic communities? Am I missing something here?

Before I close, let me thank Dr Jeffrey again for his time and insightful perspective on the relationship between multiethnic politics and its bedevilled effect on our socioeconomic status. Nevertheless, I will retain the view that the PPP/C government, whether under the late Dr Cheddi Jagan or under President Bharrat Jagdeo, could have taken a double-barrelled approach to our economic situation by tackling both debt relief and accelerated economic recovery and development if they had a viable vision and plan, and ethnic politics would have been negligible. Most Guyanese, including Blacks, who witnessed what happened to our country under the PNC, felt there was no way the PPP could come into power and do any worse, so most Blacks, whether once supportive of or even sympathetic to the PNC, were pretty much open to what Dr Jagan had in mind for Guyana, and that was borne out in the fact that during the PNC orchestrated street protests and demonstrations, thousands of Blacks refused to join.

The truth is, Dr Jagan and the PPP blew it! They squandered their political currency in both the Indian and Black communities when they failed to come back with a comprehensive plan for Guyana and Guyanese, but only a plan for the party to go full blown socialist. It was Dr Jeffrey himself who brought to our attention in his first letter that Dr Jagan was actually looking to bolt the capitalist system for the socialist system, and even planned on not repaying the foreign debt his government inherited from the PNC. Only after the USSR collapsed and brought down the socialist system with it did Dr Jagan decide to remain with the capitalist system and deal with the IMF and WB. That’s no way to plan for a national economy!

Up to the time of Dr Jagan’s death, there was not even an economic blueprint the nation could advert to in giving support, and even though Forbes Burnham had more than one written ‘development plan’ and Desmond Hoyte only had one that is similar to what presently exists, our country still needs a medium to long-term economic recovery and development plan. One of the fundamental principles of management is planning, but when we are talking about a country, the importance of planning extends beyond what the government is now engaging in because the people of Guyana are left out of the loop in what government’s long-term forecast for the economy looks like, based on creating jobs through constructive exploitation of our resources, so the people would stop fleeing overseas. And even though Hoyte had only a plan similar to what exists, I am sure if he were re-elected in 1992 and in subsequent elections, he definitely would have come up with a medium to long-term plan beyond what currently exists, achieved the same results as President Jagdeo and then some.

So, where do we go from here? Is there no hope for Guyana’s real socioeconomic progress because of ethnic-based politics? Is it possible neither the PPP nor PNC can unite or rally all ethnic groups? Dr Jeffrey wrote, “I know of no politician who wants our roads, schools, hospitals, education, crime prevention, general administration and all else to be underfunded and in disrepair. If our leaders, and indeed many of us, are to be blamed, it is for either not truly comprehending the context in which we find ourselves or having done so, not having the political will to make the necessary changes,” however, “the dilemma is that in the process of democratic participation, the objective reality of an ethnically divided society such as ours gives rise to forces that are essentially counter-democratic. In this context, it is extremely optimistic to believe that it is mainly the malevolence of individuals, the PPP or the PNC or the lack of a national economic plan and strategy that has kept us in poverty.”

It would be good to hear what other Guyanese think, but for my part, I don’t know I can describe myself as being extremely optimistic in blaming the lack of a national economic plan and strategy, as well as the PPP and PNC or wickedness and ill will of people, for our socioeconomic predicament, but there is no one, including Dr Jeffrey, who can convince me otherwise. And unless this or some future government can come up with a viable vision and comprehensive plan behind which the people of all races can rally, we could well be looking at a country run by a government playing hop-scotch economics while living off the IMF/WB welfare system. We can do better than this!

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin
1 Comment (Open | Close)

1 Comment To "Guyana can do better in the longer term than living off the IMF/WB welfare system"

#1 Comment By eric phillips On June 9, 2009 @ 6:44 am

Hoyte was committed to implementing the Guyana 21 plan ..that was in the manifesto. MOUs for over USD$ 2 billion in investments were in place

Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com

URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/letters/06/09/guyana-can-do-better-in-the-longer-term-than-living-off-the-imfwb-welfare-system/

No comments: