by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 November 2006)
If President Jagdeo and his administration had any foresight at all, Guyana would be poised to rake in the big bucks right now as the borders of South American countries become more open for all nationals.
According to a recent article from CNN.com, “Nationals from all 12 South American nations will soon be able to travel throughout the region without visas, regional foreign ministers agreed Friday.”
The article continued, “[Brazilian Minister Celso Amorin] said integration is imperative ‘because in a world that in the future will be a world of large blocs, we will be stronger if we are united’.”
If Guyana had started a road to Brazil five years ago, it could be near completion today and ready to welcome easy trade with this neighbouring country. However, the last we heard about this situation is that Guyana’s president still has reservations about finishing the road to Brazil.
Jagdeo, the educated economist, does not think Guyana will see a return on its investment if the road is built. This proves the PPP has no capacity for vision for a thriving economy or national infrastructure.
Jagdeo does not have the vision to see the towns that could be established along the road, the new businesses that could develop due to increased trade or how current businesses could grow because of increased demand.
A Stabroek News article from October 31 in regards to this subject said, “Jagdeo also mentioned that when he looked at the traffic flow on the road he prefers ‘to keep my money in the bank’.”
It is a communist mentality that thinks only about the money the government has in the bank instead of how the nation as a whole will benefit through individual successes from a project such as this. That money in the bank, if there is even anything there, is not bringing any benefit whatsoever to the local businesses as it just sits there.
The Stabroek News article also said that according to Former Chief Works and Hydraulics Officer and Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the National Development Strategy, Philip Allsopp, “A feasible plan can be prepared to give an acceptable rate of return to satisfy the economists and vindicate the contention of the engineers.”
Allsopp, who was also a former Guyana ambassador to Brazil, went on to say in the article that “transportation is often credited with initiating development by itself. Examples of such effectiveness were seen in large scale projects such as the transcontinental railroad in the USA, the Trans Amazon highway in Brazil, the Pan American highway in Brazil and the Pan American highway in South and Central America.”
Meanwhile, Brazil is itching to be connected with Guyana because this neighbour has the foresight to see a positive impact on its economy. The Brazilians are ready to take the necessary risks to bring growth, a requisite for all modern day investors as well as 21st century governments.
If Guyana never takes its money out of the bank, how does it expect to graduate from a “developing country” into a “developed country”? In order to be considered developed - a nation must actually spend some money on the concept of developing itself.
Certain economic commentators have even talked about the need to establish a free trade zone in Lethem. This is another brilliant idea that will never see the light of day if the Jagdeo administration cannot grasp the vision of the benefits a road to Brazil could foster for Guyana.
What did Jagdeo learned from his economics degree? To keep his money in the bank? To shy away from promising investments? To be shortsighted in regards to the overall prospectus?
Jagdeo’s approach reminds me of the kindly grandma who stashes her money under her mattress because she cannot even trust a bank to keep it for her. Though it may be endearing for those of us who have a grandma like that, in today’s world this mentality is simply outdated.
Jagdeo might trust a bank with the nation’s money, but like the kindly grandma, he is stuck in an ideological time warp that will not allow him to fully embrace progress. The result of Jagdeo’s apparent pause to economic evolution has been a sloth like advancement for the nation.
India has graduated to economic heights that far surpass any economist’s expectations. Likewise, other Caribbean countries have transitioned from their reliance on colonial industries into contemporary fortunes by capitalising on valuable assets, many of which are also found in Guyana or could be developed – if the government would allow it.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo likes to keep his money in the bank, shies away from foreign investors and does not see the potential of a road that would bridge two countries. It is almost as if he would like to wrap a big bedspread around Guyana and never share her with anyone else.
As South American countries prepare to unite for additional strength in a very competitive world, Guyana still has leaders who would rather stay isolated from its neighbours and who suffer from a foresight deficiency.
Jagdeo’s big bedspread does not protect Guyana from the outside world. It stifles the nation economically and smothers progress so that any growth that does occur is only that which is approved by the very one who pretends to protect the nation.
In China, because the men liked small feet, they used to wrap the feet of little girls to keep them abnormally tiny. This practice was called foot binding and the wrapping for the feet was called “lotus shoes.” Similarly, Jagdeo and the PPP have wrapped Guyana up so tight that it cannot grow beyond what he determines as an acceptable measure.
It is time to take the lotus shoes off of Guyana and allow for proper growth. Otherwise, the rest of South America will continue to develop naturally and only Guyana will remain the stunted irregularity of the continent.