`We need to ensure the rule of law'
- United Nations envoy stresses

Guyana Chronicle
October 19, 2000

THE head of an international donor agency supporting the process towards the upcoming general elections here says Guyana has to ensure the rule of law prevails if it is succeed in its development efforts.

"We need a suitable climate for business," he said, "Or to put it more directly, we need to ensure the rule of law", United Nations Resident Representative, Mr Richard Olver, stressed yesterday.

Olver heads the local office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is providing financial and other aid with other members of the donor community for holding general elections by January 17.

Crucial is an environment in which poor entrepreneurs business can flourish, in which they know where they can act, what their limits are, and how they should interact with the rest of society, he argued.

The UN official reiterated the need for the further development of a legal framework and infrastructure to support private sector growth so that it is pro-poor and pro-jobs.

To this end, he complimented President Bharrat Jagdeo for giving strong impetus to private sector development, citing and supporting the development of an Investment Code for Guyana.

In the feature address to the 14th annual general meeting of the Institute of Private Enterprise development (IPED) at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Olver expressed confidence that this code will lead to greater investment and growth for the country.

"Without greater private investment - particularly foreign investment, Guyana simply cannot mobilise the capital it needs for growth and poverty alleviation", he said.

He added: "Like it or not, a far greater presence of foreign capital is needed to fuel prosperity."

He also stressed the need for the matching of the mobilisation of foreign capital with the marshalling and deployment of domestic capital.

He hailed the outstanding role being played by the poor - particularly women - in the area of business, noting that the fiction that such persons must be given the means to subsist must finally be put to rest.

"The poor are not dependent," he declared as IPED, the leading small business support agency, paid tribute to its top beneficiaries.

"They work extremely hard (and) are enterprising in the original sense of the term, marshalling extremely scarce resources to provide income", Olver told a gathering of small business people, other diplomats and representatives of several agencies.

President Jagdeo, who presented prizes to the top performers of IPED also recognised the sterling contributions from small business people.

The poor "are the best entrepreneurs of all", the UN envoy said, adding, "For no one who has not lived in poverty, who has not had to provide for a family in the absence of fixed income, can know the treasures of ingenuity, the mountains of resourcefulness that must be expended every day to ensure that children are not hungry."

Olver's points came in a blueprint for the elimination of poverty in Guyana he submitted for the consideration of the private enterprise in his feature address.

Congratulating the institute as a highly valued partner of the UNDP, Olver said: "Together we have broken new ground in the eradication of poverty..."

"We have acted on the conviction that if poverty is to be eradicated in Guyana, the poor must be given the opportunity to create economic growth for themselves. Our programme gives the support people need to help themselves establish sustainable livelihoods."

Referring to the contribution the poor can make towards their own development and ultimately the development of society, the UN official said: "To this resourcefulness and ingenuity, we must add support with pro-poor policies and institutions, with capital, with skills in designing projects, with mentoring of entrepreneurs by more experienced business people, and with training and entrepreneurial development."

This is the area in which IPED excelled, he said, adding that he looks forward to more collaboration with that body as he sought to debate on poverty eradication from a culture of entitlement, to a culture of enterprise.

He asked the private sector to consider three ways in which a strong enterprise culture, a vibrant private business sector, supports the elimination of poverty:

** creating a "Culture of Enterprise" for poor people;

** creating for the poor, a suitable business climate or an environment in which business can flourish;

** ensuring good governance.

Olver said a `Culture of enterprise' is "the most important way in which the private sector development can help the eradication of poverty."

He said that for the private sector to develop outside the narrow confines of traditional businesses, the culture of enterprise must become more firmly rooted among all Guyanese, and become so generalised that it fosters the development of enterprises in every sector of society.

He placed a high premium on what he termed the most underutilised capital - the 'human capital of the poor', and said society must help unlock these energies in new ways - such as legislation.

"By this I mean the skills, energies, hopes, and relationships of ordinary people," he said.

And seeing the need for good governance as equally important, he quoted Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, who, speaking at the Ministerial meeting of the UNDP last month said:

"Good governance comprises the rule of law, effective state-institutions, transparency and accountability on the management of public affairs, respect for human rights, and the participation of all citizens in the decisions that affect their lives...People who have that platform to stand on will have a chance to board the train of globalisation, and ride it to a better future.

"Those who do not, will be left behind, or may even be crushed by the train as it moves forward."

Noting that there can be no lasting elimination of poverty without first increasing the national economy, Olver said: "Yes, poverty eradication is a matter of equity, but there can be no equity without growth."

He pointed to the recent Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper produced by the Government of Guyana, and observed that it focuses rightly on the imperative of economic growth for the elimination of poverty.

Mention was made of a one-to-one relationship between percentage growth of the gross national product, and percentage decline in poverty in Guyana, guarding against the risk of looking at the big picture, and losing the details so important in development work.

In effect, one per cent growth should equal one per cent fewer people in poverty, he said. (SHIRLEY THOMAS)

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