by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 7 May 2006)
I will wait while you stop laughing after having read the title of my column. I could hardly believe it myself, but it's true folks. The President is holding a summit this week on Private Sector Development. It seems he wants to see more businesses spring up in Guyana.
Whew! I had to laugh a little bit more too. Okay, I think I have control once again, but can you imagine how many jokes that can be created for this summit? It is very difficult to restrain myself from deeming this summit is a joke in itself – though I am sure there are many who have already had this thought too.
I'm sorry, but I just can't resist. I have to tell at least one joke. Hey, did you hear the one about when Jagdeo held a summit to promote private business in Guyana? (I'm laughing so hard and I haven't even created a punch line yet!)
Does His Majesty really think anyone takes this whole charade seriously when the entire country knows that unless you are a PPP loyalist or a drug lord, you cannot even through the first round of red tape before the money well runs dry?
Which makes me wonder if the majority of the participants in this Presidential Summit will be PPP supporters. Or maybe this is a trick and what will really happen if someone shows up thinking this summit is in fact genuine, a clown will jump out from behind a corner and yell, "gotcha."
I read about the summit in the PPP's pure propaganda paper, The Mirror. The article said, "This specific Summit is timely, as the private sector must utilize all the opportunities made available in Guyana in expanding to meet all the challenges facing Guyana."
All the opportunities made available in Guyana?
Since President Jagdeo himself will be delivering the keynote speech, perhaps he can start by listing "all the opportunities made available in Guyana." The language of this sentence makes it sound as if Guyana is bursting at the seams with opportunities.
I can just envision Jagdeo at the summit this week trying to sell people on the notion that Guyana is overflowing with opportunities. He is wearing a newsboy bag and cap as he bellows, "Opportunities! I've got opportunities here!! Get your opportunity quick before they're all gone."
Sure, he has opportunities to pass out, if you cast the right vote in the last elections. (Wink, wink) Speaking of the last elections, I cannot help but wonder how many new businesses have started in the past five years. Better yet, I wonder how many businesses have been successful.
In fact, I would love to see someone try to list 25 substantial business opportunities available in Guyana that can bring in enough money to sustain just ten full-time employees and show an annual growth of only 15 percent.
The guidelines for this list are that the businesses must be legal, the opportunities must be open and accessible to ordinary people and there should be a record of racially inclusive equal opportunity for the past five years.
Oh, I do hope someone takes me up on my challenge. My heart truly wants to believe the best about this summit, but my sceptical brain tells me that this is just another way for the PPP to justify the nation's poor economic state.
After all, if they are holding workshops on how to run a successful business, then the lack of such entities in the nation cannot be their fault. It has to be someone else's fault - like the PNC/R or even the people – and Jagdeo can rest easy at night while he tells himself that he really did try to help people start businesses.
Meanwhile, back in reality, bureaucracy prevents the average Joe and Jill from starting a business and crime and corruption runs the already existing businesses into obscurity. From where I stand, this does not look like a very friendly investment environment at all.
The summit is a nice thought though. It would even be laudable if I thought for one second it was credible. However, the only way the President can get up this week and face those expectant faces of his fellow countrymen and women without being embarrassed is if he can also say that his administration has indeed followed up on his speech from last year's GuyExpo.
During the expo he said, "We have made historic progress putting in place many of the necessary building blocks – better, more transparent laws that protect business from political interference and establish greater accountability of both Government and business; a stable macro-economic environment that allows businesses to plan and make sensible business projections; an open economy that supports the competition that is necessary for business success."
It is because of statements like this that makes me laugh. The PPP is promising transparent laws to protect businesses from political interference? They are instituting greater accountability? Guyana has an open economy?
Unless the President has found a way to implement these promises since his last September speech, then his presentation at the summit this week will be nothing more than a joke. But the joke is on the people – and it is not funny anymore.