We have no money, therefore we must think

Ian on Sunday
Stabroek News
October 10, 1999

The Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge is perhaps the most famous science building in the world. Out of it have come discoveries which have transformed the lives of all humanity: James Clerk Maxwell's work in electromagnetism in the 19th century; the splitting of the atom by Rutherford in 1919; the building of the first particle accelerator by Walton and Cockcroft in 1932; Crick and Watson breaking the molecular code of DNA in 1953.

Yet the Cavendish in its most famous years was housed in a cramped and nondescript building in an obscure back street called Free School Lane. It subsisted on meagre budgets. Its greatest Director, Ernest Rutherford, had a quiet injunction for all who worked there - it became a famous watchword: "We have no money, therefore we must think."

"We have no money, therefore we must think" - not a bad motto for poor countries, not a bad motto for Guyana. Yet the authorities who lead us have little time to think as they reel from crisis to crisis, rush from set speech to set speech, hurry from listening to the complaints of constituents to refuting opposition grievances, hurtle from the morning's problem into the afternoon's disaster. They are dedicated to coping desperately, but seem to have too little time to think and act for the long term.

"We have no money, therefore we must think." Here are a few simple thoughts as a new Presidency gets underway.

Thought. Key executives and public servants of the right calibre contribute or save a hundred times, a thousand times, any "super-salary" you may think of paying them. Do not hesitate to compete with the private sector, even internationally, for quality staff.

Thought. Guyana's progress will go hand in hand with improved education. Put teachers in a special category and double, redouble and triple their salaries. Then you have a real right to expect them to perform. Actively welcome private schools and in more and more state schools give Boards of Governors complete autonomy, including the right to charge fees and pay full-time teachers what they are worth.

Thought. Guyana is a big country with large resources and a tiny population already desperately depleted by too much emigration. All available talents, including those of all party political persuasions, must be pressed into service. Suspicion and tit for tat politics gets the country nowhere. "Turning the tables" is not a viable option. The politics of inclusion is the only politics worth pursuing. Share the future.

Thought. Lower levels of taxation lead to higher levels of revenue collection. Less red tape leads to more action. Reduce corporate and individual income taxes. Cut customs duties and simplify customs procedures. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Thought. Investment - foreign or local - in businesses which export will be our economic salvation. Welcome it actively and equally, attack the multi- departmental run-around, speed up the procedures. Cut and cut and cut bureaucracy.

Thought. There are sufficient funds in the pipeline from agencies to transform the infrastructural face of Guyana. But they tend to get struck there. Appoint persons expert in moving funds fast through pipelines into projects. Designate senior people whose only responsibility is to speed up the process.

Thought. Historians make the final judgement on politicians. If only to get into the historians' good books, the current crop of politicians would be well advised to do something decisive about the disgraceful state of the national archives - like voting a decent amount for their preservation and expansion and housing in the next Budget.

Thought. Derek Walcott from St. Lucia, Naipaul and Minshall and Sparrow from Trinidad, Wilson Harris and Martin Carter and Aubrey Williams from Guyana, Wint and Marley and Louise Bennett from Jamaica, and all our great West Indian cricketers: nothing lifts the spirit, raises the stature, secures the fame of a nation like its creative artists and sportsmen. Take some of even the pittance we have and use it in favour of our artists and sportsmen. It is the best investment in the soul of a nation.

Thought. Clean rivers are infinitely more important than gold.

Thought. No greater threat faces us in the new century than drugs, drug-related crime and crime in general growing more brutal and invasive by the week. Therefore from that pittance also give much more to the police for what they need in the battle against this plague. If friendly countries wish to help us this is where they can make an impact. We must not be too proud to appeal to them.

"Therefore we must think." But, of course, not only that. Act too. After all, Rutherford not only thought about splitting the atom - he actually split it.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples