Contributing to our own peril
Kaieteur News
July 25, 2004

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For some time now, we have been talking about the absence of employment opportunities. However, we ourselves have been contributing to this situation. In the first instance, we simply fail to qualify for the positions that might be in demand at this time of our development.

In the United States, for example, the economy is largely private sector oriented. Whatever the government owns is for export. The radio station, Voice of America is not broadcast in the United States. This is because there is some constitutional requirement that dictates that the press shall be free from Government intervention.

That aspect of the constitution specifically states that Congress shall pass no laws that will affect the operation of the press. It has since been interpreted that the government involvement in the media is directly anti-constitutional once such broadcasts are beamed at the American public.

In that same country, there is a need for computer literate people because the way of the computer is what it should be today. As a result, the focus is not only on producing the best computers but also at getting the best people to operate them in the various offices and wherever the skill is needed.

And so we come to Guyana. Here we seem to crave things foreign, even if such cravings come at the cost of our own detriment. It is true that we make clothes here but we seem incapable of making the kind of clothing that our population desires. We are trend followers but there is nothing to stop our clothing manufacturers from copying those trends and making the necessary clothing.

Just about every piece of our garment bears a tag that suggests that they are produced outside our borders. We do have fashion designers but for some reason they do not have the kind of production line that would readily make such clothing available to the population in the desired quantity.

Then we come to the beverages we drink. It seems that in increasing numbers we chose things foreign to what we produce. We are a nation of rum producers but there are those who imbibe alcoholic beverages who would prefer the imported drinks such as vodka, whisky and even bourbon, which we in Guyana call brandy. It is not that people should not have a choice of their alcohol beverage. We all have our preferences but there are countries in which people sacrifice personal preferences for the greater good of the country. In the United States Budweiser is touted as the king of beers because Anheuser Busch has an American base these days. Such is the nationalism of the people.

There are other beers but American nationalism dictates that the vast majority drinks Budweiser. Whisky is also touted as a drink the Americans produce so most Americans who imbibe alcohol would go for whisky. Rum, an imported product, is considered a luxury drink but not one that they would drink in their everyday lives.

But Guyanese are different. We go for whatever we feel makes a status symbol. People complain that they drink certain imported beer because the local product gives them a headache. Utter nonsense. It must be a case of affordability.

We have Carib Beer and some other products that many of us crave. We purchase them in quantities that would make the producers proud. We do not stop to think that in purchasing the foreign beer that we are actually denying our own people employment. We do not stop to think that we are actually exporting labour. We do not even stop to consider that should we concentrate on our own, we would actually be saving ourselves money that we need for so many other things.

Banks DIH has a torrid time entering the Trinidad market because the Trinidadians are firm in their belief that their beer is the best. As a result of the imports under conditions that the government created to make the imported product as competitive as the locally produced goods, Banks DIH is hurting. It has had cause to sack Guyanese who cannot, by any stretch of imagination, go to Trinidad for jobs.

We need to rethink our values and our positions. We need to be made to realize that whenever we buy a foreign product when the counterpart exists right here we are actually denying our own people employment and placing even more burden on ourselves.