Aid, debt relief and sustainable development

By Dr Martin Jagdeo Boodhoo
Guyana Chronicle
July 5, 1999

I OFTEN wonder whether developing countries will be able to shed the paternalistic "dependency syndrome" by which I mean relying on the other person or agency to solve one's own problems. Look around developing countries especially in the Caribbean and particularly in Guyana, and we will find, with few exceptions, that they still expect external agents to provide finance technology and expertise. Given this factual backdrop, let us pose the question, "What progress have we made since political independence?"

All the platitudes being bandied about that we are now our own masters and will govern in the best interest of our people, have not, unfortunately, taught us to be more self-reliant, industrious and tolerant in both the work place and social relationships. Without doubt the situation is depressing.

Instead of working out strategies and modalities to promote efficient and effective socioeconomic development, we seem to take pleasure in finding fault, widening loop-holes, and writing malicious and offensive letters to the press, rather than working constructively as a "team" to deal with our internal problems with our own material and human resources, we turn to external avenues to do the things we ought to be doing ourselves. Not that the engagement of external assistance, per se, is not desirable and necessary - having myself been associated for many years in such assignments in various parts of the world; but undue reliance on aid and debt relief could and often does breed inertia.

Without doubt there is an urgent need for serious stock-taking and re-orientation of the way in which we behave and carry out our respective responsibilities. We should not expect 19th century strategies to solve the problems of the next millennium.

What then is required in a new dispensation to alleviate our woes?

I wish to suggest the following:

Adjust our attitudes and modalities of collaboration to serve the national interest as opposed to sectional preferences. End petty differences through enlightened human relationships and get on with the task of development in a concerted manner.

Restructure the entire educational system to focus on subjects of relevance to identified national needs. Above all, continue to strengthen the programmes for a sound basic education for living; and more importantly, improve facilities for vocational and technical training at secondary and tertiary levels.

Improve basic infrastructural facilities especially communications, health, housing and industrial parks in all regions. This is a pre-condition for "economic take-off".

Revamp the financial systems to ensure monetary stability, easy and equitable access to credit and persuade the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to re-appraise their strategies and methodologies. The Bretton Woods approach has not alleviated our problems in a meaningful way. This would require negotiating skills and socioeconomic formulations to realise a just and equitable system for underprivileged countries. The present system and its ally Globalisation promotes social and financial Darwinism. The "haves" would continue to amass assets while the poor would be divested of the little they possess.

Encourage and assist private sector entrepreneurs to utilise the most modern technology and grant attractive incentives in order to produce goods and services of an internationally acceptable quality at competitive prices. Half measures with outdated technology would leave us even further behind in an already handicapped environment.

Bury the historical economic bogey that our country and region is too small with a limited market. Re-energise the current discussions for a Caricom Single Market and forge new alignments with various regions especially South America.

Break new ground in public-private partnerships to provide Management and Professional training to enhance our Productive, Distributive and Competitive capacity with emphasis on creating a new generation of young men and women to manage our affairs.

Ensure that workers' rights are protected and social responsibility is observed by all partners in development. The rules of Collective Bargaining must be adhered to and not undermined by extraneous pressures.

Give our people a stake in the country through a revised Constitution with a liberal and effective decentralised system in which people will participate in the process of meaningful governance. This is absolutely necessary to rationalise the monolithic and autocratic system of government which has resulted from the 1980 Constitution. Proportional Representation should be complemented with "First-Past-The-Post", the latter especially at Regional and Community levels.

Finally, politicians, advisors, administrators and citizens must ensure the protection of the environment not only for this generation but posterity as well.

In my view, Guyana can become one of the most attractive developing countries but we can only create such an image if we wash away old wrongs and wounds and pull ourselves up our own "Boot-straps"! Debt relief and aid will assist but we have to lead the way by example and not words alone. Let us Row and Reason but afterwards Run together for Guyana.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples