Highways to happiness

Stabroek News
February 10, 2000

Peter d'Aguiar was a man ahead of his time. He was saying in the sixties what Mr Hoyte and President Jagdeo are saying today, we need a lot of new investment to develop the country. In the United Force's l984 manifesto titled "Highways to Happiness" he talked of a `magic circle' of new roads which would open up over a million acres of new lands and about capital expenditure of $900 million, $290 million from foreign governments and $284 million from foreign private sources. Though the manifesto was long on rhetoric and short on detail it had a sense of dynamic economic development that was refreshing and unheard of at that time.

Peter d'Aguiar was saying these things at a time when the brain drain had started but had not yet got into full swing and well before we had undertaken our experiment with nationalisation and the miniaturisation of the private sector. Thirty-six years later it may be harder to achieve similar objectives, given the shortage of experienced personnel. But the National Development Strategy, now in its final stages of preparation under the guidance of Dr Kenneth King, will open up wide and credible perspectives for social and economic development. It will, in fact, if the earlier draft is anything to go by, set out ideas for development in every area of the economy and every sector of the society. The first six volume draft dealt among other things with macroeconomic policies including social policies, policies for the productive sectors and infrastructural policies, the external sector and monetary management, fiscal policy, debt management, health, education and housing, the rice and sugar industries and other agriculture, mining, fisheries, manufacturing, tourism, transport, energy and water management. It is nothing less than a comprehensive overview of the problems and requirements for development.

The Strategy is being crafted with the assistance and involvement of persons from all the political parties and is not a product of the government. What it can certainly do, at a minimum, is to raise the level of debate and discussion on the whole question of social and economic development. One hopes that it will gain widespread acceptance, after public discussion, as a basis for future progress.

Economic and social progress will require many things including a dramatic improvement in educational standards, an understanding of and investment in information technology and an aggressive thrust to promote new investment. It will also, of course, require peace and stability. Without that the best conceived plans will have no chance of coming to fruition. Development does not take place overnight. It requires confidence in the future, planning and a long term commitment. It requires a vision that embraces all these things. It will also require draftsmen to prepare the new laws that will be required and administrators to implement the new policies. We believe those crafting the Strategy are taking this into consideration.

cess was so flawed as to be unable to accurately reflect the will of the people.