the National Development Strategy
a unique, forward-looking, creative vision. It is development with a human
face. It frankly addresses our most basic social problems including health,
education, housing, poverty, the role of women and the role of the
Amerindians." These are the words of the former President, Dr Cheddi Jagan
at The Carter Center's Global Development Initiative (GDI) Advisory Group
meeting in June 1996, six months before then Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo
presented Dr Jagan with the first copy of the historic policy document, the
National Development Strategy (NDS).
one thinks that this ringing endorsement alone is not reason enough for the
PPP/Civic to embrace and pursue the recommendations of the NDS, Business
Page hopes that a restatement of the objectives and process would be useful
at this time. It seems fair to assume from the press statement by President
Carter at the end of his recent visit to Guyana that his Center's continued
support for Guyana is predicated on the NDS being put on the national
agenda, while Mr Robert Corbin in his address to the PNCR's Biennial
Congress on Friday gave strong support for the NDS as the framework for the
future of Guyana.
Powers of persuasion
understand why President Carter has such faith in the NDS, one needs to go
back to the history of that document, examine its goals of promoting sound
resource use as a priority, the acceleration of growth with equity, and
attracting investments, and the entire inclusionary process under which it
was created and is expected to be executed.
has been described accurately as a people-first document about participatory
democracy within which opposition parties would share fully in shaping
policies of the nation.
the persons who attended the meeting in
Georgia, at which Dr Jagan's quote was made, were the former President Hugh
Desmond Hoyte and representatives of some of the most powerful bodies in the
world. That a person who holds no governmental position could bring such a
group together is a measure of the influence and stature of President Carter
and his commitment to Guyana. Among the organisations represented were the
Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank, the USAID, CIDA, European Commission, UNDP, World Health Organisation,
Global Coalition of Africa, Overseas Development Council, Carnegie
Foundation, Emory University and the University of Georgia.
meeting, President Carter used all his powers of persuasion, his deep
development and his unquestioned admiration for Dr Jagan's commitment to
encourage the donors to take an active role in supporting the NDS. I recall
President Carter singling out Mr Jagdeo for special praise for his efforts
in coordinating the process and the leadership of President Hoyte in
contributing to the process.
The vision of President Jagan
meeting was an attempt to change the way development is approached by
governments and donor agencies. It also sought to ensure that the policies
and programmes were not only indigenous but had widespread domestic
participation and support, a point made by Mr Hoyte in his presentation in
which he also referred to other attempts at previous plans, including the
one done by West Indian economist and Nobel Laureate, Professor Arthur
According to a 1997 publication of the
Center, the NDS which was coordinated by Mr Bharrat Jagdeo "is a testament
to the vision of President Cheddi Jagan, a life-long champion of human
rights and Third World Development." President Carter was obviously
impressed by Dr Jagan`s commitment to democracy including free and fair
elections which returned to Guyana in 1992. The publication continued that
"in 1994, President Carter accepted Dr Jagan's invitation to be his guest at
the 1994 meeting of the Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic
Development (CGCED), where his government would present
broad vision and development strategy statement to international donors." It
went on to state that "subsequent meetings demonstrated Guyana's active
search for innovative approaches to meet development goals, and donors'
positive response to such efforts. Following the meeting, the Government of
Guyana requested that the
Center, under the auspices of GDI, assist in further developing the vision
of a comprehensive, long-term development strategy."
Prototypal development model
what perhaps the most famous former President said in his recent press
statement about his involvement in Guyana and the NDS: "Since then ,
we have worked for several years with political leaders and private citizens
to develop a National Development Strategy, which prescribes a future for
Guyana based on a shared commitment of private citizens and political
leaders working in harmony, regardless of their social status, ethnic
origin, or political party affiliation. This plan was developed under the
direction of President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was then an official in the
Finance Ministry. One of its key provisions was a call for participatory
democracy, within which opposition parties would share fully in shaping
policies of the nation."
confirms that President Carter's belief in the NDS as a prototypal
development model for this country and indeed the rest of the developing
world has not changed. The press statement called for (i) all the provisions
of the National Development Strategy to be debated in parliament, with as
many as possible implemented into law and (ii) an independent civil society
forum to be created to lead a structured national discussion on a vision for
governance of the country to promote reconciliation and the NDS.
key Guyanese players, it has been a huge turnaround which followers of
successive national budgets would not find too surprising.
1996 meeting, it was Mr Hoyte who was the most cautious suggesting for
example that the strategy give more consideration to the role of private
capital in the modernization of the economy. Now, it is Mr Hoyte's successor
as party leader who is the first to embrace President Carter's call for the
refocusing of attention to the NDS while the PPP/C is the one reluctant to
make any substantive moves to implement the NDS.
other hand the NDS has effectively been abandoned by Dr Jagan's successors,
replaced by the amorphous and partisan party elections manifesto, and more
recently the Poverty Reduction Strategy, a document that is poor on vision
and substance, high on rhetoric and directed ironically by some of the
highest paid individuals in the government.
more surprisingly, the very multilateral financial institutions which so
warmly embraced the NDS are now throwing money behind projects and
programmes outside of any coordinated plan and without adequate studies
being carried out. It would be interesting to learn what President Carter
would have said to the modern-day representatives of those bodies he met
during his visit to
how the NDS appeared to have evolved into oblivion in the government:
budget speech - then Minister of Finance Bharrat Jagdeo, spoke of the then
evolving National Development Strategy as a major and defining exercise in
pursuit of the vision for unleashing the vast potential of our people and
the natural resources.
budget speech - Minister of Finance Bharrat Jagdeo announced that the
National Development Strategy, which had been unveiled about two weeks
before, "would help to guide us in making... choices because it embodies
many recommendations that, once implemented, will help us to achieve the
kind of society we are aspiring to create." He described the NDS as "a
unique and invaluable blueprint for the development of our country for the
Something strange happened in 1998 - the year after the death of President
Cheddi Jagan - not a single mention of the strategy in the entire fifty
pages of the budget, including the government's agenda for the second term.
Could there be such a glaring omission or did this signal the abandonment of
To support the view that 1998 was no oversight, the blanking out was
In the first budget to be presented by newly appointed Minister of Finance
Saisnarine Kowlessar, the PPP/C's manifesto was presented as the blueprint
for the development of the country.
Mr Kowlessar advised the National Assembly that "mindful of the impatience
of our people and acknowledging the enormity of the tasks that lie ahead, we
have developed a comprehensive economic strategy for implementation over the
next five years. We envisage that by 2006, we will have a very robust,
diversified economy that is both capable of withstanding adverse external
shocks and competing effectively within the new globalised environment."
could this document be? Could it be the reformatted NDS? Unlikely, since as
his predecessors had said, the NDS was more than an economic development
strategy - it addressed political, ethnic and social issues which underlay
economic progress. But more importantly, the NDS Mark II was a ten-year
policy framework, not a five-year strategy. Was this then a phantom economic
plan? We cannot be certain and in the absence of a Freedom of Information
Act, there is no way to find out.
Mr Kowlessar again refers to the PPP manifesto for the 2001 general
elections, and for the first time, the PRSP and "to some extent" the NDS
To these statements, Mr Kowlessar added various public statements and
pronouncements made periodically by the government.
In the concluding remarks of his budget speech, the Minister of Finance
announced: "From the beginning of this renewed mandate, we have sought to
chart a course and pursue an agenda to meet the goals and objectives that we
set in our manifesto, and which we have subsequently developed in the
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper."
then is the hope for reviving the NDS? We will look at this next week.
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