We need heavy doses of investment

Stabroek News
August 6, 2001

Dear Editor,

Intrigued as I am with the origins of life, I find myself more concerned with life in Guyana that is, and life that will be. It is crucial to our survival both as a people and as a nation that we focus more on what civilization would be like in the year 2020 and beyond, and what we must do to be part of that civilization.

The world of today is moving at the speed of technology. National development plans and strategies are being reevaluated, reviewed and implemented within the most cost efficient time frame relative to the changing circumstances. Research and development in biotechnology and genetic engineering will soon have a decisive impact on production and the export market. And the new hi-tech generation, free of religious, moral, and ethnic constraints, is poised to take society to the outer limits of the unknown.

Within this new world setting, Guyana no longer has the luxury of time nor can it formulate developmental strategies in isolation, exclusive of world events. Ten years from now, when the rice yield is expected to be 40 bags per acre, the rest of the world will be producing twice as much in less land space at half the cost.

King sugar has already lost its crown and will continue on the down trend because of sugar cane substitutes and non-preferential markets. Further research in plastics and experimentation with other alloys will impact on the demand for aluminum which will discourage additional investment in our bauxite mining, moreso because of the high cost of extraction and unpredictable political climate. Fish and shrimp will either be forced to give way to their genetically engineered counterparts, or may just migrate to different waters due to pollution or changes in marine conditions. And the world will be too sophisticated or too busy to play with our rum.

And what about our underdeveloped and virgin natural and mineral resources that have categorised Guyana as the richest of the poorest nations of the world? Investments in paper production will be negatively influenced by advances in electronics such as electronic notebooks and stuff. Timber is already being substituted for manufactured building supplies while the world is moving closer to forest conservation. Gold and diamonds are fast losing their appeal as precious metals and eventually there may be no reason to maintain a reserve at Fort Knox, as hard currency gives way to credit instruments. Oil, the mineral that has long held the dream of transforming us from rags to riches will lose its demand and value due to America's decision to exploit its own resources, the increasing efforts to find non-pollution substitutes, and of course, the border dispute with scary little Suriname. The rest of our natural and mineral resources are expected to suffer the same fate because they will either be too costly or too risky to attract large scale or long term investments.

Indeed, the future does not look too good for us. It is imperative, therefore, that we change our old approach and our old strategy to national development. If we do not exploit our natural and mineral resources within the next two decades, they will either diminish in value or just fade into obsolescence. We desperately need heavy doses of capital - money, lots of money into the economy now. The root cause of our problem is economic and the real solution lies in the creation of wealth, not the distribution of power over the poor.

If we are to survive and prosper beyond the next generations, each one of us, irrespective of political affiliation, must in no uncertain terms, tell Mr Jagdeo and Mr Hoyte to focus their dialogue on creating the conditions to attract foreign investors to Guyana with manifest assurances that politics and change of government will not pose a threat to their investments. We have to cut deals. It is the way to the future.

Yours faithfully,
Shawn Mangru