Time for a reality check
Stabroek News
March 26, 2002

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Dear Editor,

My friend, the American, said to me " Shawn, you guys in Guyana have an over-inflated eco". I was amused. I know we boast about the late Dr. Jagan and Mr. Burnham as the best politicians ever in the Caribbean. I know that we never stop talking about our vast wealth of natural resources and our potential of being the "bread basket" of the hemisphere. And I know that we produce professionals, academics and intellectuals second to none . So, I was about to point out to him that he meant "ego" when he explained "you always talk big money - big income, big expenditure, big development- but in real terms it is all worth very little".Despite being annoyed by his bluntness, I had to agree that he was right on the money.

We have most of our workers, including teachers and public servants, earning in excess of 1/4 million dollars a year. We talk of owning an average home valued at more than 2 million dollars. We dream of buying a used car costing 1.5 million dollars. We gave 14 million dollars to charity for the people of India. And now we are beating drums over the biggest ever national budget of 68.9 billion dollars of which millions and billions will be spent on education, health, housing, security, economic ventures, and other such areas that are basic to managing the affairs of a nation. We are indeed talking big money here but the real question is how will it translate into bettering the lives of the people. 68.9 billion dollars is just a little over US362 million and a whole year's income of 1/4 million dollars is a mere US1300. Irrespective of our educational levels, we all understand by now that it is not the big money that is important but the goods and services we can buy with it to raise our standard of living and the quality of our lives.

Superstar of pop music, Mchael Jackson gives us serious advice in his lyric "look at the man in the mirror" and so does "Alcholic Annonymous's simple but powerful message that there can be no cure unless we admit that we do have a problem. As a nation we have to take a real good look at the reality of our economic situation and find answers to the simple question of why a people with such capacity for greatness cannot lift themselves out of the gutter. Rhetoric, innuendos and economic facade are not helping.

It is to the government's credit that this budget reflects good housekeeping and good husbandry. But the desperation of the situation cries out for bold and immaginative entrepreneurial measures. We have to stop parroting on " how blessed we are with the gift of a beautiful country with enormous potential" and start working to make it possible for this generation to stay and enjoy it. Our everyday experiences and the oldest of economic text books teach us that if we have so many natural resources, so many people in need of work but so little money then we have to team up with foreign investors with their US dollars, their technology and their culture of profit making. We have to hire a team of foreign consultants skilled in marketing our natural resources and cutting deals with multinational corporations.

This is not our grandparents world, although, like good grandchildren, we honor and respect their contributions and efforts to better our lives within the limitations and constraints of their time. This is the generation of well informed and knowledgeable students and graduates of high schools, teacher colleges, universities and other institutions of learning. It is up to you to end this "over-inflated eco/ego thing and examine this "biggest ever" budget by asking a little question "what's in it for me"?

Yours faithfully,

Shawn Mangru