Monday, January 23, 2006


REA as a modern instrument of National Reform

In an article dated 18th December 2005 in the Guyana Gazette, mention was made of the importance of another structural tier to complement the existing Regional Democratic Council (RDC) in Guyana. On that occasion, I alluded to the primary aim of the RDC – to citizens to participate in the democratic process. The creation of Regional Enterprise Agencies represents another step towards economic reform in Guyana.

In its current form, the RDC is historically flawed: too politicised, unadaptive, inflexible and unable to articulate a consistent economic and social policy conducive to the demands of local communities. The suggested REA system has a comparative advantage from a policy instrument position, since philosophically, it avoids the pitfalls of ideological correctness in an environment where expediency tends to be outweighed by the imperatives of market forces.

Within reason, REAs can be integrated in the constitutional provisions, including the 1996 reforms under the Local Government Act. Detailed parameters of this initiative can be set out, along with the necessary institutional arrangements that required ensuring that it works coherently. REAs can facilitate space for various organisations, agencies and groups to take part in enterprise activities and events and are designed to promote regional co-operation among diverse communities. The suggested format for the REA system is wide and varied, but it represents nevertheless, a logical step towards broadening the scope of regional democracy.

Legislative Process

It is proposed that, as a start, the authority responsible for Local Government or Regional Affairs, should devise a Concept Paper after extensive discussions with interested parties - business, education, training, social, cultural among others. A Bill outlining terms of reference for the RDA system and principled aims and objectives, should be framed for debate in Parliament. The legislation should cover too, a clear timetable and a feedback mechanism.

At the end of the consultation process, roadshow seminars should be organised to promote this initiative especially to rural parts of Guyana. Once approved, the Bill should have cross- Party support and feed into the views of experts to strengthen its legislative framework. The legislation should then be given a gestation period of 8-10 months before actual implementation, during which time, there will be reflection and consideration of emerging views from the Regions, as well as an opportunity for clarification.

The implementation of the REA Bill should allow for further pre-testing of delivery and this means that piloting the initiative in at least six Regions - 2, 3,4,5,6 and 10 respectively – where more than 70% of Guyana’s productive sectors are located .This is approach is crucial for success of the REA system. Naturally, these pilots will test the efficiency and effectiveness of the new structure and its impact on communities in selected Regions. An evaluation of each pilot should be carried out; measuring outcomes and outputs, since each Region may have unique features along political, economic, social and cultural lines. Different methods of intervention would be required to determine the results or outcomes of this initiative.

The REA Implementation

The implementation of the REA system is sine qui non to regional liberalisation. It tests the Establishment’s `fairness doctrine’ as it applies to local government politics. It offers fresh impetus for the creation of regional excellence models and stimulates a series of innovations underpinned by education, training and social (investment) provision. It frees spare capacity for infrastructure, labour and other resources within each of the 10 Administrative Regions. In effect, it offers maximum advantage for growth and development all round, not forgetting value for money. The REA will enable skills retention, increased growth of new local economies, improved managerial competence, accountability and enhanced fiscal discipline.

From a practical standpoint, the REA system is premised on a fundamental shift of economic policy aimed at citizens in far-flung areas who will be the main beneficiaries in accessing manifold opportunities through the creation of enterprise and entrepreneurship activities in the Regions. The challenge in all of this, will be the medium-term impact, apart from its lasting benefits. The current RDC system is limited in scope for a real economic breakthrough for regional viability. So then, what are the implications and how will it translate into meaningful benefits for both the `haves’ and have-nots’? The following implications of the REA are possible: -

1. Its structural framework will have to adapt to the variations and variables in each of the 10 Administrative Regions.

2. Though qualitative and quantitative in character, aims and objectives should demonstrate the intention of improving production and productivity yields. Realism should prevail rather than flawed assumptions of one type or another.

3. REAs activity profile should be specific and tailored to meet the demands of the regional populace. Accurate information and reliable data are necessary to ensure that programmes are not overly ambitious or based on the whim of partisan interests.

4. The management structure should reflect an array of legal composites; namely, limited companies with charitable objectives, social enterprises or quasi-corporate entities less share holding and profit motive considerations or tendencies. Boards with multidisciplinary foci should be instituted and balanced by executives. These personnel should have considerable experience in economic affairs, regeneration, business management, project development, financial and accounting, as well as relevant cultural and social skills. There should be scope for a sub-regional element to take care of larger regions such as those found in the Berbice and Essequibo counties. Sub-regional Chairs should be appointed to sit on Regional Boards to ensure sound decision making and realistic programme delivery.

5. Apart from the ideological flexibility, possibly the greatest challenge, will be the political will of Central Government; that is, testing the Executive’s long-term commitment to additional reform to reinvigorate the national economy through the creative use, and application of modern approaches to local governance to bring about greater prosperity and stability in deprived and excluded communities in Guyana.

6. The REA system will contribute to economic buoyancy through additional jobs, new skills, innovation, technology developments, improved physical infrastructure, confidence and a morale boost for citizens.

7. Partnership working would be further enhanced, with better co-ordination and the harmonisation of various segments of the Guyanese economy. Increased procurement and tender opportunities will benefit micro firms and social enterprises. The challenge for large companies will be how to `play ball’ within the regional context.

8. Equality and equity standards (for everyone irrespective of race, class or creed) would also be tested to the hilt.

Ultimately, the REA system will demonstrate the validity of its actual creation. Would be seen as another legislative hurdle to implement? Would it be regarded as another tool of economic expediency? Would it be considered an invaluable instrument for unleashing the potential of citizens in poor districts and neighbourhood-villages in Guyana? The answer to these questions would be judged by the desperate need to spur economic growth by implementing practical and responsible reform measures, whilst balancing the risk of current economic necessity with quaint ideological models.

Yet, this is an opportune moment for Guyana to harness the necessary resources to generate sustainable development. That is why it is important to have a constructive debate on a Regional Enterprise Agency system to strengthen economic governance in 21st century Guyana.

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