Achievements and 'shut eye' politics Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 28, 2001

GUYANA, like other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states, has to cope with the difficulties posed by the economic problems in the industrialised nations and the challenges of globalisation. But it has been holding its own and doing much better than some of the other economies of the Community.

This country's incremental expenditure in the social sector that is now estimated at no less than 20 per cent of the national budget, with rising allocations for education, health and housing, has attracted the commendation of Guyana's regional partners and institutions.

This may make no difference to the intellectually arrogant and political mischief makers in their media offerings, or those pretending to be media neutral but having difficulties hiding their evident political bias and preferences.

The reality is that the regional and international financial institutions and international donor agencies are among sources of reference in an objective assessment of the social and economic development of Guyana from the virtual 'basket case' it was under the dispensation of another governing party.

Some of the analyses that seek to misrepresent the government's achievements since the new dispensation of democracy that came with the free and fair election of 1992, often reflect the sentiments of the main political opposition.

But any independent assessment of the patterns of progress since 1992 to 2001 could hardly fail to note the strides, massive in some areas, made and how encouragingly different the situation is today from when Guyana was categorised as one of the "20 poorest nations of the world" by the World Bank, and a 'Haitianisation' process was threatening, as Sir Alister McIntyre was to report.

Except for about three difficult years, the economy has been growing at an average rate of five to six per cent over the 1992-2001 period.

The debt burden of US$2.1 Billion inherited from the People's National Congress government has been reduced to approximately US$1.1 Billion, or cut by 50 per cent.

Guyana's debt servicing was approximately US94 cents to every US dollar earned. Today it is about 50 cents. When the enhanced HIPIC Initiative funding arrangement is completed shortly, with the availability of US$25 million annually over the next 20 years, it is expected to decline to 12 or 15 cents of every dollar earned.

The declining debt burden that has resulted from painstaking negotiations by the government, with President Bharrat Jagdeo personally playing a lead role, must certainly rank among the government's more outstanding achievements.

Reduction of the debt burden has enabled increasing expenditures in the social sector with health and education for example rising to G$5.3 Billion and G$11.8 Billion respectively.

Poverty, once at a staggering 85 per cent under another administration with its rhetoric about helping the "working class" and "disadvantaged", has dropped to approximately 35 per cent. The hope is that this could be further significantly reduced as soon as possible in the efforts to generally improve the quality of life for the Guyanese people as a whole.

Public sector workers may still have valid grievances, having been neglected for so long under a different government, and efforts must continue to be made to address such grievances.

But another reality is that the country has moved in some 10 short years from a minimum wage of merely $3,000 to $19,000 and today the wages and salaries bill for public sector workers now account for about 60 per cent of recurrent expenditure.

It would seem from the surprising level of criticisms of the government's record of achievements that its opponents and detractors prefer to play `shut eye' to the analyses and data offered by Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar as well as the assessments of regional and international financial institutions

But the achievements are there as well as the problems yet to be overcome.