Guyana needs a sense of direction

To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 2001

THE President of Guyana talks of global recession but the Guyanese economy has been in recession for the last three years. There has been no growth and this is the reason why many businesses are facing grave difficulties. Despite this problem, there is no appreciation of the part big businesses play in creating jobs, paying taxes and providing opportunities for service industries to grow up and employ people also.

Currently, the rice industry is in a mess, production will be at the lowest level in 2001. The reason is falling prices and the debt burden to the banks and the structure of the industry. The late President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan had exhorted the banks to lend to farmers and millers when he took office in 1992/93 and the banks went out of their way to help the farmers and millers to expand. The rice industry had four booming years between 1993-97, then prices started to decline to the point where today they cannot even cover cost of production. So farmers as well as millers are in serious financial trouble.

The Guyana Rice Board should have had greater powers of control in dealing with export marketing. The President had described some of the larger farmers and millers as "fat cats", an utterly distasteful and disgraceful statement. The President admits that he is only looking after the small people. This is reminiscent of the late President, Mr. Forbes Burnham who maintained that "the small man will be the real man". Instead, the small man became the poverty-stricken man and the country was left in ruins. Our genius of a President is following in Burnham's footsteps and the small man is becoming poorer every day. Jobs are difficult to obtain because the economy is at a standstill. In the meantime too, the exodus is escalating.

Another productive sector that is in serious trouble without the Government realising it is the sugar industry. Production this year will be much lower than last year despite excellent weather and the reason for this is simple. The Guyana Sugar Corporation has ignored the replanting cycle and good agricultural husbandry. Many fields have more grass than sugar cane and that is why production will be low this year and also next year as the field operations of the corporation have been ignored. Despite all of this, the President will be expanding the sugar operations in Berbice by spending $200M in erecting a new factory and creating new acreages for sugar. There is no way Guyana can produce sugar for the world market at seven cents per pound, so this is likely to be another white elephant, especially in the light that all preferences will disappear within six years.

Bauxite has been highly subsidised for years and is as good as dead; the best thing would be to offer it to whoever wants to take it at no cost to ensure continuity of operations and people can continue to be in jobs.

The forestry sector is in a mess and needs huge capital exchange for retooling but where will the money come from?

Gold prices have been static and are not likely to rise, so where is this growth going to come from, garments? Garment manufacturing is an industry that depends on very cheap labour as the Governments of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic (D.R) could tell our young President how they had to lay off thousands of workers because the United States buyers of the garments have changed their sources of supply from Jamaica to the D.R to cheaper sources.

What we need in Guyana is a sense of direction and as the Bible says, "Where there is no vision the people will perish." We have heard of party paramountcy in the PNC but under this Government it is worse - PPP at the zenith of party paramountcy! How much more can we, the people, take? When will our "great young President grow up and get serious?" He is acting like Superman trying to do everything, ignoring the few very good ministers on board. When will he get real advisors and sound advice? What is our faith while we wait...and hope? Maybe those people who are leaving have the answers. Why wait? Tomorrow may be too late.