Recognizing the private sector as the engine of growth To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
January 16, 2002

I thank John DaSilva, whose writings in the letters columns portray him as a defender of the PPP/Civic administration, for his few comments in a letter captioned, "King was not the first approached," (GC, Jan. 14). A letter written in response to mine, "Passion may be the key ingredient," (GC, Jan. 9), which addressed Ambassador Kenneth King's appointment and the benefits it may have on boosting the Guyana private sector.

There really was not anything revealing in Mr. DaSilva's comments that profoundly changed my belief that there still need to be more non-PPP members in high positions in government, and a totally different approach to revitalizing the economy with the private sector as the main engine for movement in that direction.

The slow movement of the economy, at a time when Venezuela's political antics over the mineral rich and resourceful lands we own but cannot develop or exploit, and at a time when Suriname has successfully forced us to negotiate over oil drilling on property we believe belongs to us, really begs for a departure from the norm and a thrust into the new.

My letter may have sounded a bit harsh on the Government, as indeed it was intended to, but only to prod the Government to move zestfully in the areas of attracting more non-PPP members to key government positions, while recognizing the private sector as the engine for growth. The odds are in its favour to take political and business risks, rather than settle for the routine process of running Government.

It is one thing to simply and continuously blame past political confrontations for hampering efforts at recovery and growth, or to pinpoint some achievements here or there despite such confrontations, but it is another thing to be perceived as moving too slow. What is worse is if the majority of people begin to accept slow movement as better than no movement, so that there is no need to call on government to change gear.

I still hold the view that government does not have a monopoly on ideas for moving the country upward and forward, and that based on existing conditions, it will take a greater amount of creativity within the private sector to help get Guyana going a lot faster. Policies and a suitable environment are what Government needs to focus on, while the private sector has to come up with brainstorming initiatives.

I also have an aversion to be continually reading of comparisons between what the PPP/Civic has done or is doing with what the PNC has done, to show that the PPP/Civic is doing better. The point here should not be about doing better than the PNC, but better since taking office.

The PNC did not truly represent the Guyanese electorate nor run our country via the ballot boxes, so its programmes, guided by self-serving policies, amounted to what now is a mess in need of cleaning up. Did the PNC not do anything good? It did, but the end result should speak for itself, even as its illegitimate stranglehold on power held off better contenders with better ideas.

The PPP/Civic is legitimate (despite known deficiencies in the elections machinery) and now has to find another yardstick by which to measure its progress. Right now, people's publicised perception of what is happening or not happening, is the only yardstick observers are using to determine how Government is doing. Some people obviously see nothing wrong, while others see something or many things wrong.

It will be sad, though, if Government is fooled by those supporters and sympathisers who see nothing wrong and everything is okay, and, like the Hans Christen Andersen story of the King's new suit, continues merrily down the road believing everything is okay, only to eventually discover it was being lied to all along and end up being seriously embarrassed. The Forbes Burnham administration is a typical example of this exercise.

Not every criticism of Government warrants a defense, therefore, for some are constructive and instructive especially if enough public voices are heard continuously harping the same thing over and over again through the noise of paper shuffling and telephones ringing in Government offices. And not every criticism or public chant warrants a response, for some are basic distractions intended for political mileage. Government and its supporters/sympathisers must be matured enough to discern what is constructive and what is destructive.

One final point, related to the reality of the road carnage that is taking a devastating toll on a sparsely populated and poor country like Guyana, and the perception of racism at the root of police killing alleged criminals or at the root of victims of criminal elements marauding specific sections of the Guyanese community.

Everything does not have to have a political solution, nor does Government always have to become directly involved, lest by persistent direct involvement, it becomes readily consumed by flaming passions fanned by political winds. Or it may easily become distracted from its main duties.

Society has a responsibility to protect itself against criminals, bad cops, and speeding or drunken drivers. Self-preservation is not selfishness, but a useful recognition of what is needed when society becomes a jungle. Society, led by its community leaders at the religious, business, and social levels have to be responsible by getting involved through community groups and establishing protective parameters within which each community can effectively and safely function. It can be done within the confines of the law.

Government may be contacted for technical help and such help should be speedily forthcoming, for it is society, not Government, that loses more in these circumstances. If society's nonpolitical leaders determine the problems are intractable, then Government should step in with a political solution.
Emile Mervin,
Brooklyn, New York