Where are the positive results of the free economy?

Stabroek News
August 27, 2001

Dear Editor,

ROAR MP, Mr. Ravi Dev wrote a letter (4.8.200l) regarding the state of Guyana's economy, as measured by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation, in the annual 2001 Economic Freedom Index of the World. Since I have read the report, and have ordered a few extra copies to share with fellow Guyanese, I felt it important that I address the vague response from the Minister of Finance.

The Minister of Finance responded without addressing the issues raised in the 2001 Economic Freedom Index. In his letter, the Minister took time to point out a number of factors, using dates that are convenient to him.

The Minister stated that in 1992 the PPP instituted "wide-ranging and far-reaching reforms ...unequalled or unmatched in the Caribbean." Well, Sir, where are the results? If your party's reforms were sound and sensible, Guyana's economy should have grown dramatically, like Ireland in the early 90's or New Zealand in the late 80's.

Minister, readers of your letter would have been happy if you had taken the time to explain why the PPP's wide-ranging, far-reaching, unequalled and unmatched reforms did not lead to growth? Were PPP policies too weak?

The Minister did not explain in his letter why Guyana, once a jewel of the Caribbean, has a lower growth rate than embargoed Cuba and blighted Haiti. Blaming the PNC can only account for the period ending in 1992. After "major" PPP reforms initiated in 1992, why is the Guyanese economy weaker than that of Haiti?

In addition, the Finance Minister goes on in his letter to state that the "inflation rate averaged 8.2% between 1992 and 2000." I know he will say someone else is to be blamed for the high inflation, but come now, the PPP has been there for 8 years, and its policies are responsible for the state of the economy, not anyone else. For the average Guyanese family, the rate of inflation means that between 1992 and 2000, it cost 87.8% more to buy a can of curry powder, a bag of rice, or tyres for our cars.

The Minister should be talking about saving the sugar industry by removing the levy, but we hear nothing. Is this what you call the "freest economy" in the Caribbean?

The Minister stated that "outlays on wages and salaries rose from "$3 billion in 1992 to $14.3 billion in 2001." Did the 'outlays' in wages take into account the depreciation of the dollar, and inflation?

The fact remains that Guyana's economy performed worse last year than the year before. Our economic growth is worse than that of Haiti and Cuba. Our economy's production is the lowest in the Caribbean - and that means less food on our tables. Aside from posturing about old economic numbers, the PPP Finance Minister is incapable of refuting the facts in the 2001 Index of Economic Freedom as compiled by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.

In concluding his comments, the Minister pointed out that the Executive Board of the IMF commended Guyana's "satisfactory track record of good economic performance." The claim that the PPP have received positive comments about their management of the economy is false and misleading.

Let us quote the Chairman of the National Association of Regional Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Ramdial Bhookmohan in Sunday's papers, when he said "Guyana's competitors for scarce investment dollars must be cheering these retrogressive tendencies that surface too frequently from our government."

Minister, it is time Guyanese begin to look at new ideas: ideas that generate wealth; ideas that expand the economy; ideas that increase foreign investments; and ideas that will strengthen our democracy.

In ROAR's Blueprint, Mr. Dev outlined his party's proposals to help Guyana leapfrog the Caribbean and become the largest, most successful nation in CARICOM. ROAR's proposals use principles which worked in Ireland and New Zealand - and they can work right here in Guyana. I urge you and President Jagdeo to work with Mr. Dev and ROAR to move this country forward.

Yours faithfully,

Naresh Raghubeer