January 1, 2004
Let us look at some of the worst case scenarios and the best case scenarios for this new year. But before doing this, let us start by counting our blessings.
Guyana suffers from no major natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. There is no large scale industrial pollution and we largely breathe fresh, pure air. All our disasters are man- made which is depressing but it means they are curable, in principle. We are also well supplied with water and could easily become self-sufficient in food. Many countries would envy us these simple but basic things. We should not take them for granted.
The worst case scenario is obvious namely that the dialogue process breaks down and ethnic tensions rise again. This would be an enormous setback. There have been some achievements though the pace of progress is unsatisfactory. What is needed, as has been said many times before, is a more structured dialogue process with secretarial and executive back up facilities to ensure that minutes are made of discussions and decisions and that steps are taken to implement the latter in a timely way. This should surely be one of the top priorities for this new year.
It would also be a setback if armed crime continues and citizens cannot live in peace. There is now a class of criminals who have access to and use guns routinely which did not exist five years ago and it has introduced a terrifying element in the situation. Hopefully, the soon to be appointed new Commissioner of Police will bring a fresh energy to the problem.
The border problems remain. In the case of Venezuela, diplomatic initiatives with Brazil in particular but with other potential allies as well remains an important part of the solution to this vexatious claim. As for Suriname, it continues to be almost impossible to deal with the government of that Caricom member state productively and progressively given their obdurate tactics and it seems clear that unless the government adopts a more forceful policy the CGX offshore exploration for oil will remain indefinitely shelved and the harassment of fishermen in the Corentyne river will continue.
On the economic front the movement to a Caribbean Single Market and Economy continues at a leisurely pace while uncertainty shrouds the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas and at the World Trade Organisation. What is clear is that Guyana is not yet geared for free trade and open competition and must press for as long a period as possible of special and differential treatment. What is also clear is that major new investment is still required to avoid continuing stagnation and to reduce unemployment. There are also unsettled wage disputes.
The best case scenario also starts with the dialogue, and that is that it blossoms and proves productive and de facto introduces a new form of governance based on regular meetings between the two political leaders and the implementation of their decisions. Coupled with this, one looks forward to the effective functioning of the parliamentary management committee and the new committees with supervisory powers. That would go some way to creating a level of trust that does not now exist and to give more experience of working together, already gained in the process of constitutional reform.
The finding of oil onshore by CGX would also provide the kind of confidence booster the economy so badly needs and could lead to further investment. Mr Geoffrey da Silva has shown energy at Go-Invest and hopefully some of the projects still at the stage of discussion will fructify.
With the service commissions in place gaps in the various institutions will hopefully be filled expeditiously, and some of the current frustrations will be reduced.
2004 could be a positive year but do we dare to hope? Our politicians have let us down so often with their endless bickering and manoeuvring for shallow advantage. The threat of failure still hangs in the air but there are perhaps more than glimmers of hope as the new year dawns.