Development Strategy – Time For Action
Page unreservedly congratulates all those Guyanese professionals and
other members of civil society who contributed to the completion of the
review and re-write of the National Development Strategy. It is a
comprehensive and thorough document. It is a bold and ambitious
document. It is a Guyanese document. Touching as it does the future of
the country over a ten-year period and in areas that run the gamut from
governance to economic and social issues it is expected that it would be
hotly debated not only among politicians who but at the level of civil
this approach was implicit in the speech made by Co-Chairperson Dr.
Kenneth King at the presentation ceremony when he said that “ the NDS
Committee and members of the various sectoral committees have asked me
to emphasise that they are aware that inevitably there would be
alterations to the strategy, and changes in detail and emphasis……
What we most fervently wish is that our NDS would be used as a framework
for the country’s social and economic development, and that from the
parliamentary discussions and debate would emerge a consensus
document of this scope will win the unanimous support of all the people.
Some may not be satisfied with the absence of a timetable for its
implementation or more specific recommendations on the thorny issue of
inclusivity in governance. In the one area where a specific dateline was
set i.e. tax reform, the implementation date of Jan.1, 2000 is
impracticable. Perhaps quite intentionally the NDS did not seek to
undertake a financial and economic analysis of the projects and
programme which it recommends or seek to quantify and identify their
sources of finance in any specific way.
the other hand one may see this approach as a strength leaving to those
with responsibility for implementation the exercise of their own
approaches and style of management to a particular project. This is not
a document produced by civil society for the politicians whose record on
implementation of their and their parties’ pet projects is far from
impressive. Civil society must continue to exercise ownership of and
responsibility for the NDS. This is no time to rest on their laurels and
to look back in self-satisfaction. Indeed the current period is critical
to promote and as necessary defend the document.
Each of the Co-Chairs and the heads and technical members of
the respective committees should make themselves available to discuss
and debate their recommendations. The Committee should embark on a
promotional campaign reducing some of the more abstract points to the
practical level so that the ordinary members of the public can see its
relevance to their daily lives. This discussion is particularly
necessary since there has been no public consultation on the current
Page will not seek to critique this very formidable document but in this
article will address a few general issues underlying the NDS and to
raise some that are specific to this Page. We will of course return to
the document as the issues are debated and discussed over the coming
months. Guyana has so many problems that it is difficult to identify the
platform from which to launch implementation. One columnist seems
pessimistic about the capacity of our human resources to achieve the
objectives of the Strategy.
document itself refers to the divisive nature of (Guyana’s) politics
as the major obstacle to development. Others will claim that it is a
matter of financial resources without which the best conceived plans are
no more than a wish list. Some have even suggested that it is all a
matter of opening the country with roads and aerial transportation. One
person has suggested that we cannot develop if our best brains continue
to leave these shores and unless we encourage inward migration on a
all these are correct and would therefore have to be addressed
simultaneously. The difficulty is that some things take longer to
produce results or remedies than others. Although some may want to
dispute this, in the absence of substantial and perhaps coercive
attempts at remedial education we have lost the majority of the current
young generation. Few were surprised when the Minister of Education
revealed the results of a survey which found that a high proportion of
our children cannot recognise two and three letter words. (One prudish
wag joked that at least they would not recognise the
NDS, while admitting that ‘the country does not produce the quality of
personnel, in the requisite numbers, that is desperately needed if we
are going to stand the slightest chance of modernising the economy
asserts rather boldly that the education system has displayed remarkable
recovery in the 1990s a statement with which columnists like Drs.
Surujbally and Ian McDonald will have considerable difficulty. In the
public perception our only University has deteriorated so badly that it
needs completely re-invention and perhaps in the spirit of closer
Caricom we should be considering re-entering the UWI arrangement which
will have advantages to both sides.
NDS re-affirms the lead role of the private sector in economic
development with that of the Government being the creation and
maintenance of a stable macro-economic framework and being a facilitator
and regulator rather than a participant in economic activity. Indeed
almost as a direct challenge to the PPP/Civic the NDS recommends the
privatisation of Guysuco. With respect to the private sector, the NDS
states that a comprehensive strategy not confined to companies in
financial distress will be implemented.
NDS goes on to say that approaches will be made to and agreements
entered into with the International Financial Institutions and bilateral
donors for technical assistance in restructuring those companies which
indicate that they wish to utilize these facilities. It continues that
government will seek sources of financing to enable those companies in
distress but whose undertakings have passed the most rigorous
feasibility tests to obtain credit at relatively low interest rates for
specific periods of time.
document does not address the role of the local banks whose liberal and
sometimes careless lending policies have contributed to the financial
difficulties of a number of those companies. I believe that this is a
serious omission which looks to external solutions to largely internally
created problems. Consistent with the general thrust of the NDS the role
of the government is not to go out there and find money but rather to
develop fiscal and other policies which encourage solutions.
Twice within the past year Business Page has addressed the
issue of distressed companies and we repeat our suggestions thereon:
- Those entities which a rigorous evaluation indicates can be saved
should be identified.
- The lenders should grant such relief by way of interest and debt
write-offs that would return them to viability.
- The government would grant tax relief to lenders on the amounts
- The entities would agree to close supervision and perfecting such
security that would give comfort to the lender.
course if the Government can obtain external, supplementary assistance
as part of the country’s debt relief package so much the better but it
seems a mistake to develop a strategy on uncertain external funding
while the problem of distressed companies is so pressing. This
recommendation has to be among priority issues to be addressed and
indeed should be initiated by the present Administration as a matter of
urgency. This is a common sense imperative and need not wait for
approval of the NDS.
experience of the first incarnation drafted in 1997 in the months prior
to the general elections and perhaps more importantly the lead role
played by the Carter Center in that exercise effectively killed any
chances of its success. There has not been any public acknowledgement of
the facilitating role played by the Center in this current draft
although this must not be interpreted as an attempt at concealing
anything. Like in 1997 the revised draft has been handed over to
President Bharrat Jagdeo in a pre-election period but the fact that
there was not an outright rejection of it by the political opposition
gives some cause for hope.
King has publicly admitted that in hindsight it may have been preferable
to hand the NDS over to the Speaker of the National Assembly. This
document contains much of what any political party or Guyanese would
consider necessary to take Guyana forward. It would be tragic if those
who spent so much time were to allow it to become a victim of political
circumstances. It is indeed a well-written document but it has far more
than academic value. It is for implementation and the sooner the better.