The future of the city

Guyana Chronicle
January 19, 2000

IT HAS been happening but few apparently wanted to acknowledge it, perhaps giving into the common tendency to try to ignore harsh reality.

But President Bharrat Jagdeo last week found himself touching on the subject.

Business firms in Georgetown, he acknowledged, have been taking their operations outside of the city because of political instability.

They have not been proclaiming it, preferring to do it quietly, but several firms seem to have decided that enough is enough and it is time to shift base outside of Georgetown.

Georgetown is still the capital and the government and commercial centre of the country.

It is also located in the most populous region of Guyana and would continue to be an important base for some time, come what may.

But business people are astute and would have realised from the traumatic experiences of the street troubles in Georgetown after the general elections in December 1997 up to early last year, that the city is no longer the safest of places.

No businessman would want to go through the constant torture of wondering whether his assets and property will ever be safe from street demonstrators and looters.

Business people cannot be expected to forever endure doing business in a hostile environment and will quickly scout around for and move to safer places.

As President Jagdeo observed last week:

"You cannot have political instability without it affecting people somehow or the other...if people feel insecure about expanding their business in Georgetown, they will move."

"If you examine what's happening across the country, some of the businessmen are going to other areas...if you talk with them, it is a deliberate strategy to move from Georgetown", he told reporters.

If the big business firms shift base from Georgetown, it would soon lose its main attraction as the commercial centre of the country and a major population drift could follow.

Its importance in the national scheme of things would diminish and unemployment, among other things would mount.

We do not expect that right-thinking politicians on any side would want to countenance such a scenario but the reality is that a business shift is under way from Georgetown and if political stability continues to be elusive, it would gain momentum.

The opening of ports in Berbice and Essequibo would also add to this momentum.

The history of Guyana is too deeply rooted in Georgetown for the city to be allowed to drift into being a museum piece and it can retain its importance even with accelerated development in other parts of the country.

But it loses its attraction as long as entrepreneurs do not feel safe setting up business along its streets and the faster all politicians realise this the more secure would the future of Georgetown be.

President Jagdeo has urged opposition parties to recognise this, stating the obvious: "our primary task as Guyanese is to provide a better living for our people, and our actions must not in any way affect that."

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples