Presenting Guyana to South American Diplomats
Training at Itamaraty Palace
BY PREM MISIR
April 23, 2007
What’s up with Amerindian development? What is the relationship of Guyana with Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations? What is the ideology of the Guyana Government? What is the role of the State in education? What is the status of the Border Dispute with Venezuela? Excepting its geographical location, what affinity has Guyana with other South American countries? Does globalization have a negative effect? What is the New Global Human Order? Is this Government autocratic? How would you characterize GECOM? What is the status of the National Competitiveness Strategy? What is the relationship between race and politics in Guyana? How are Amerindians helped through the Ministry of Amerindian Development?
Diplomats presented these searching questions (and these are a mere few), to me at the end of my Lecture in the ‘Question & Answer’ section at the Itamaraty Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and the Institute of Research of International Relations in Brazil had invited me on April 18, 2007 to deliver a Lecture in this Course: ‘South America: Realities and Challenges’ for South American diplomats.
The whole idea of the Course is to strengthen diplomats’ knowledge of major issues that people of South America experience and to advance exchanges of such understandings among Foreign Ministries in South America. Participants were mainly First Secretary or Counselor in Foreign Ministries, two drawn from each country; Guyana sent one person.
During my Lecture, I presented 39 slides; and a sample in a nutshell of some areas I traversed, using here a mere ‘note’ format included the following:
1. Geography and demographics of Guyana; Guyana has a youthful population, and that about 65% of voters are aged 35 and under.
2. Sustaining democracy. The PPP/C inherited a legacy of 24 years of authoritarianism when no institution made the PNC Government accountable to its people; an age of coercion where PNC’s rulers recognized no limits to their authority, and regulated a good chunk of social life.
The PPP/C Government sees democracy as more than casting ballots at election times; it sees democracy as having to do with ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘election competitiveness’. Clearly, democracy can be measured through how the President is elected and the frequency and competitiveness of elections. The PPP/C does not limit political participation. Guyana is free with regard to civil rights and political liberties. Guyana is at very little risk of backsliding to autocracy.
3. Guyana’s economy has been rebounding for some years now. Decades of adverse external shocks affected many small, poor, and vulnerable economies, including Guyana, e.g., oil price increases, periodic deceleration in the global economy, debt crisis in 1980s, and globalization.
4. Government devised dual strategies of development: diversification and competitiveness with a technology vision. The Government then launched the National Competitiveness Strategy (NCS) in May 2006, with 10 Action Teams and 122 activities, to improve national & international competitiveness.
5. Guyana is developing policies to transforming ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain circulation’; locating Non-Resident Guyanese (NRG); NRG can make technology and know-how available to Guyana; NRG can make direct investments to Guyana; NRG involvement in Guyana may be guided not only by the profit motive but by a genuine desire for establishing and sustaining a base in their country of origin; greater tapping of the Guyanese Diaspora resources will bolster macroeconomic stability.
6. While they do not tell the full story, significant economic indicators highlighting the wealth of a nation show some positive signs in Guyana. The pillars of macroeconomic stability are inflation rate, interest rate, exchange rate, and the balance of payments. All did well over the last year and are projected to do even better in 2007.
7. The annual exports of Guyana’s major commodities – sugar, rice, dried bauxite, molasses, and timber/plywood - all have increased in volume in recent times. And, indeed, exports to the Caribbean look promising. Increased exports help to reduce the current account deficit.
8. As the education budget increases, the CXC success rate increases; and this Government continues to pump enormous sums into education annually because it understands the relationship between education and national development. General secondary enrolment was 35% in 1992; today, it stands at 72%; and in the 1992/2005 period, 84 schools were built – 21 Secondary; 24 Primary; and 39 Nursery.
9. Prior to PPP/C taking office in 1992, there was no national policy on housing. Under the PPP/C administration, a national housing plan was formulated and in 1998, the Government created the Ministry of Housing and Water.
10. The Ministry of health has a National Health Plan 2003-2007 that incorporates the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the National development Strategy, and the Millennium Development Goals.
11. The PPP/C Government has had a historic track record of promoting conflict management and equality before the law for all persons, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin; and has made discrimination against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, class, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, unlawful.
12. Introduction of the New Global Human Order (NGHO).
The Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and Brazil’s Institute of Research of International Relations have quite rightly recognized that regional integration through the South American Community of Nations (SACN) is gaining credence and is the most significant method of advancing its people’s quality of life; and so have provided this interactive platform to sensitize diplomats to their similarities, differences, and major issues in their lives. It was indeed a wonderful experience for me.
The full text of my paper will be published in DEP – Diplomacia, Estrategia y Politica, Institute of Research of International Relations, Brasilia, Brazil.