A change in our fortunes
February 13, 2007
There is a saying that when you are poor you do not advertise your poverty. And indeed, to advertise one's poverty is to condemn one to utter disrespect and pity. Beggars attract some pity but no one would ever sit and listen to the tales of a beggar unless that beggar is the subject of an interview for some human interest feature.
Some beggars may be very rich from begging and could command a lifestyle far better than many in our society but habit dies hard and so they continue to beg. Should they decide to move off the streets their previous lifestyle would prevent them from being integrated into mainstream society regardless of how much money they have.
So it is with a country although a change in fortunes often allows the country to rebound and command its place. But for all this the previous stigma of poverty remains. The countries of Asia—Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan—have done so well that they now control a sizeable portion of the global economy. Close on their heels are the large countries, India and China.
These were all peasant economies not so long ago. Today they are rich, so rich that the developed world cannot but help make use of their services and keep doing business with them. China is said to be the world's fastest growing economy and the country with the largest market. It has come a long way from the peasant days because it modified its economic outlook. It opened its doors to visitors.
In the days when these countries were considered backward they did not make the things that were consistent with life in the developed world. They did not make cars; they had no skyscrapers; and their people lived simple lives. In the end development came and things are so different.
Guyana is poor. It must be the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Like the Asian countries of yesteryear, many of which were poorer than Guyana is now, Guyana is still to make a car or even a bicycle.
Not so long ago this country found it almost impossible to host international events. The accommodation was inadequate; Guyana would have been hard pressed to host 200 people. And some of the hotels would have found it almost impossible to provide meals for even 50 people at one go.
However, within weeks all this would change. It is not that Guyana has become rich; rather it is about presenting an image and at the same time creating conditions that could help move this country away from the current level of poverty.
Sometimes one has to spend to get and although money is not at a premium in Guyana it has had to secure money to the point that at one stage it had actually dug itself further into the hole of debt. Local investors used their large surpluses that earned little or no interest in the banks to put up structures while creating employment and aiding in lowering inflation.
One is often left to wonder about the thinking of the local investors. It is true that within recent times Guyana happened to be a country that appeared to be incapable of offering a reasonable return on investment packages. Yet the rate of return would have been far greater than any interest payment by the banks.
At the same time there would have been tax write-offs. But failing to invest offered a risky option. The money in the banks risked devaluation and consequent loss to the account holder. It helped fuel inflation and did nothing for the levels of unemployment in the country.
In short shrift we have changed that. We have invested heavily in accommodation for visitors. When these visitors come no one would believe that the country is poor. There has been the issue of the state of the accommodation once the visitors leave but no one has considered that whatever the case there would now be the continued presence of visitors.
Guyana would be able to host a variety of events necessitating constant use of the new accommodations which in turn would have the spin-off effect of ensuring more money into the economy.
And so it is that we are anxiously awaiting the opening of the Rio Summit and the hosting of Cricket World Cup 2007. This could be the turning point in our economic fortunes.