Pennies from heaven Editorial
Stabroek News
October 9, 2001

The American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, had written a famous book about the power of positive thinking. It is a philosophy we badly need to adopt in Guyana. Is a glass half full or half empty? That depends on whether you see the situation as an opportunity or as a problem. With an optimistic and creative attitude a great deal can be achieved in what appear to be unpromising or even difficult circumstances.

Partly because of our history and also due to our long, failed experiment with a form of socialism there is a prevalence of negative and sceptical attitudes in our society. Everyone can tell you what is wrong with this businessman or this organisation or that project, very few people look at the positive side. And there is still much to be glad about in our country, even in these testing economic and political times. Take the Institute for Private Enterprise Development chaired by Mr Yesu Persaud which has helped thousands of small business people with loans and advice. That is by any standards an innovative and successful institution. Take a company like John Fernandes Limited, a model employer, which has in place a non-contributory medical scheme and a non-contributory pension scheme, in addition to the National Insurance Scheme. It also gives 25% of its profit before tax to its entire workforce, from the office assistant to the managing director, on a pro rata basis. This is paid in three quarterly instalments in the following year.

Speaking recently at the Guyana Trades Union Congress Conference the managing director of John Fernandes Limited, Mr Chris Fernandes, noted that Albert Einstein had said that "in the middle of difficulties lies opportunity". He referred to the fact that our economy was vulnerable to world market forces over which we had no control and that America was in a recession which had been aggravated by the terrorist attacks. This calls, he said, for the creative and effective management of our human, natural and financial resources. Without "a deep sense of trust and confidence between unions, government, all organs of civil society and private enterprise, there will be no progress. Failing this, we must admit that the current generation of leaders - our generation - in all sectors, has failed miserably".

Using the example of his own business Mr Fernandes argued that we need teamwork and good communication to be competitive and create a productive working environment. He ended: "We know that we have a beautiful country. Everyone speaks about its tremendous potential. Let us join hands as Government, Labour and Capital and work together to showcase our beauty, find the opportunities that lay hidden among our difficult circumstances and realise our true potential and make Guyana one of the leading economies in the Caribbean".

And indeed our plight is by no means as severe as the mass poverty that exists in many parts of Africa and Asia. Seen in global terms we might almost be considered relatively fortunate. We have, so to speak, as a people won a prize in the global lottery of life, though not one of the major ones. Perhaps because of the high level of education we once enjoyed and the images of prosperity in the diaspora our expectations are high and our dissatisfaction great.

It is this dissatisfaction that can be corrected by a positive attitude and turned into achievements. Let us start, for a change, by looking on the bright side of things,counting the blessings we still enjoy, our diverse people, our climate, our rainforests, our rivers and our waterfalls. So much could be possible. Let us, in the words of the song, turn our umbrellas upside down to catch those pennies from heaven instead of moaning about the rain. Let us imbibe some of the `can do' attitude preached and practised by Mr Carnegie.