Passion may be the key ingredient To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
January 9, 2002

GUYANA'S next Ambassador to Brussels, Dr. Kenneth King's use of such terms as 'foreign investment,' 'Guyanese businesses,' 'potential markets,' and 'access' to 'development resources,' to explain what his new role would entail, clearly demonstrates that he strongly favours a business-oriented instead of a government-oriented approach to salvaging the Guyana economy.

Once politically aligned with the PNC, his decision to work via the PPP/Civic administration on behalf of the Guyanese people bears no stark political metamorphosis. His impressive resume and illustrious career may yet qualify him for higher office, but for now he comes across as the ideal candidate for the Brussels posting, and a much needed friend of the Guyana private business community.

Hopefully, Ambassador King's appointment reflects the start of a recruitment drive that targets Guyanese who, though not members of the PPP/Civic, possess the experience and qualifications for Cabinet and other high level government jobs.

Also, that his business-oriented outlook of his new job would inspire the Government to give greater overall support to the private business sector as the main engine for socioeconomic recovery and growth.

After almost 10 years in office, the PPP/Civic administration may be inclined to blame, partly or largely, bouts of post-election violence and the accompanying disruption of business activities for stymieing its economic development plans.

No one knows for sure if this forced it to settle for operating with a "safe-mode" mindset by going strictly with "fail-safe" plans. Particularly as the post-elections machinations seemed reminiscent of the sixties and made it leery about being too politically adventurous.

Nevertheless, even if the political climate after each election discouraged foreign investors, it still was up to the Government to start looking within to see what interim measures could be taken by giving existing local businesses and new local investors the requisite help needed to lurch forward the economy.

Call the measures a comprehensive and dynamic government-private sector economic initiative.

Such an initiative also could have sent a reassuring message to foreign investors that the Government and the local private sector, which is here to stay, are working together, despite post-elections hostilities.

In fact, the Government could have used the occasion to clearly underscore its recognition of the private sector as the main engine for economic growth. The destruction of private businesses by hooligans should never be cited as an excuse for not acting sooner, because after all the acts of destruction ceased, businesses soon reopened, indicating the owners did not lose their passion to succeed.

Ambassador's King's association of business-oriented terms with his new role should be seen, therefore, as what now is crucial to our country's survival and success.

The Government should give both the Ambassador and the local private sector unequivocal support and wider latitude in exploring the vast expanse of business opportunities abroad and at home.

Let there be less government but more private sector business involvement to jump start the economy.

To make the private sector community the engine for economic growth, the Government first has to honestly believe it can be.

Second, formulate and implement, in conjunction with the private sector, specific policies to give political support to the effort.

And third, work with the private sector to create an environment conducive for this to happen.

Above all at this time, let wisdom prevail in negotiations with the IMF. Argentina is an example of what we could well do without now or ever.

However, if there truly is a lethargic spirit blanketing the administration, it definitely would affect the administration's ability to come up with the kind of inspiring policies or to create the right kind of environment conducive for the private sector to function as the economy's main engine.

To shake off such lethargy in government, a determination has to be made as to the root cause.

An infusion of new blood may only be an apparent cure, but could the cause be found in the party's old guard battling the party's new thinking reformers?

Or could it be as a result of the earlier theorised playing-it-safe-method of approach?

Playing it safe obviously can negate any willingness to passionately support the private sector as the engine for growth or to take risks by hiring non-PPP/Civic members for key government positions.

But identifying the source is what is needed to avert prolonged bouts of lethargy in the future.

Regardless of which of the foregoing is the cause, the current snail's pace movement of the economy, combined with the perception that the PPP/Civic may not soon be dethroned based on racial voting trends, should be convincing reasons for the party to be willing to become more passionate and take more political and business risks.

The electorate will look not kindly on the party if it appears as continuing to operate out of fear and distrust, just to secure itself in power, when it could have taken the understandably calculated risks and do something different with passion and conviction as its fuel.

The private sector also cannot be spared the focus at this time. While it has been doing relatively well in a politically hostile environment, it has to pay greater attention to developing a cadre of production-oriented businesses (traditional and non-traditional) and avoid feeding into the consumer mentality in which local products are deserted and imports are the main course.

Private businesses also should continue giving back in greater measure to the communities that host such businesses.

Openly encourage and reward Guyanese who are passionate about developing new products or services. Learn to seize the moment by sponsoring educational programmes with a business acumen via the media. Collaborate with the Ministry of Education and other professional bodies to have classroom visits and talks with students.

Ordinary men, fuelled by a passion to achieve, did extraordinary things that later were considered as great accomplishments. Most great businesses today are led by people fuelled by passion.

A German philosopher, George Hegel, once said, "We affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world is ever accomplished without passion."

For the PPP/Civic administration, passion, in conjunction with a willingness to take some risks, may be the key ingredient in determining whether 2002 will be a year of remarkable and not routine achievements.