Castles in the sky

By Steve Ninvalle
in New York
Stabroek News
April 25, 2001

A senior academic after six months intimate exposure to the problems of executive government said that it had given him a completely different perspective on how difficult it often was to get things done. Talking or writing about programmes or projects is always so much easier than executing them.

Anyone who has tried to run a business, a club or any organisation of any size will be aware how hard it is to do so efficiently and the kind of commitment and perseverance it requires. There are always so many imponderables in the equation. Materials or equipment are not ready when they should be, people let you down or do the job badly, plans prove to have been misconceived or to have ignored certain factors and so on. The grind to keep things going never ends, you have to take up your cross daily.

People who have never run things have little idea of how complex it can be. This is often illustrated in our letter columns where splendid schemes are offered with no understanding of what it would take to actually implement them. We need this or that one writer says, we need the other says another. It is as if the only reason these things have not already been done is sheer perversity. The truth often is that the very ideas have been tried and found impractical, or there are a variety of problems which the writer would have foreseen if he had given the matter careful thought.

As every businessman in Guyana today knows there is an acute shortage of managerial, technical and administrative skills. This is largely due to the brain drain over the last forty-five years. The society has been exporting its skills, a critical and ongoing loss of human capital. People have to be trained on the job. Yet as the experience of the Institute for Private Enterprise Development has shown there are still thousands of small entrepreneurs who have borrowed money, sweated it out and survived. There is still some energy and know how but it is not nearly enough. The effects of the long experiment with state ownership of the economy were also catastrophic and are still being felt.

Indeed the road to recovery from our disastrous social and economic collapse is proving long and hard. Running a government with the resources now available must be a nightmare. The present political instability will set us back further. The completion of the National Development Strategy was the most significant achievement in the last few years. It has provided a blueprint for discussion, a way forward. It shows us how much real and challenging work there is to be done in so many sectors and how much can be achieved if we do so. Yet our energies are being consumed in other matters.

Former President Charles de Gaulle with characteristic Gallic hauteur once said of Brazil that it was a very promising country and always would be. One suspects that unless we can get our act together in the near future that might be a suitable epitaph for our disintegrating society and the myth of our undeveloped interior with its endless promise may remain just that.