Saturday, January 21, 2006


Transforming Guyana's Image is Crucial

(By Dr. C.A. Johnson)

I have watched with interest and intrigue at how sections of the national and international media have sought to besmirch Guyana's image by propagating the notion that the Republic is in a state of self-destruct and is equally, incapable of managing its affairs. As an overseas-based Guyanese, I would like to suggest a myriad of ways in which Guyana can revive its state governance thereby sustaining and building on today's global democratic traditions. PoliticalA re-examination of the country's political system is vital, to determine whether there is a complete dislocation of the nation's ideological and political sense of governance. The politics of revenge should be sanitised by fairness, meritocracy and reconciliation, given that the Eurocentric adaptation of racist ideologies has almost made Guyana democratically bankrupt in terms of sustaining its regional and international status, as a democratic nation. A great deal of creative energy is being dissipated by the totality of fears and insecurities reminiscent of early 20th century politics. This legacy has corrosively undermined Guyana's genuine desire for consensus politics, founded on harmony and respect, irrespective of differences across the political and social divide.A constructive debate is urgently needed to push for a viable alternative to the Republic's incestuous, partisan, patriarchal and party political culture. The idea of a national front government involving major political parties is not far-fetched. In the long term, it will reduce, if not alleviate ethnic tensions; provide a balanced representation of various ethnic groups in public and private sector agencies and institutions; strengthen voter confidence and stabilise the political apparatus of change management. The long overdue local government elections should be held at the earliest opportunity to infuse new dynamism in local governance. Local elections will also boost participative and representative democracy by providing citizens greater opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process in both urban and rural areas of Guyana. Economic Situation Maximising Guyana's resources are far more critical than any other time in history to deal with the perennial balance-of-payments issue. Revenge politics have blighted the country's economic fortunes. Boasting about infinite resources, and at the same time, lacking a definitive strategy for sustainable economic development is an exercise in tinker politics. Strong and credible leadership is a prerequisite towards harnessing the enterprise culture through innovation, competition and opportunity, so that our entrepreneurs can contribute meaningfully to the economy. Guyana needs a modern "rural economic" strategy, premised on encouraging citizens to play a strategic role in the development of the cottage industry which has major spin-offs for agriculture, tourism and the cultural sectors. For instance we can improve yields in fruits, vegetables and other farm produce if farm-to-market roads are maintained regularly and mini-canning factories are constructed to preserve the nation's food that is either spoilt or wasted. Such a strategy will help advance orderly, rural economic development. It will create increased employment opportunities, introduce new technical and vocational skills and add to existing local technologies as well. By stimulating new industries and services in rural areas, the population density in townships, including Georgetown, the capital, could be reduced considerably. In addition, Central Government should mandate the ten Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) to establish neighbourhood satellites to transform the present community enterprise system. Government must facilitate the drive towards urban renewal in partnership with NGOs and other grassroots organisations that can influence broad-based changes in diverse communities. Funds can be obtained from international agencies matched by Government set-aside resources. Guyana's history of collective self-help is well known and should be maximised at all levels of local and national development. A 5-10 year development plan is a must for every administrative region, done through extensive consultations and active participation by citizens from diverse backgrounds. The current Iwokrama Project is paying great dividends. The recent setting up of a training institute to equip Amerindians, including young people, with a variety of academic and vocational skills, is the beginning of a modernised approach to hinterland development in the Co-operative Republic. Social DimensionPoverty and ignorance have proven to be divisive in both the developed and developing world. In the case of Guyana this situation is evident by the way attitudes towards new ideas have hardened and become resistant to constructive or positive change. When economic deprivation is compounded by social exclusion, they have a debilitating effect on social governance. We must mobilise our social capital – both nationally and internationally. Guyana's diversity is a blessing not a curse. It makes the country deservedly special, rich and durable, since as citizens, we are major players in the global quest for peace and security. Another main ingredient towards lasting development in Guyana is the transformation of education and training systems to keep pace with global scientific and technological advances. The transformation of existing teaching and learning methods is an effective way of helping young citizens to access newer and greater opportunities in the job market. A case in point is the lack of key project management skills in Guyana and some parts of the Caribbean. This has resulted in either the partial development or the stultification of potentially viable projects earmarked for excluded communities. Excellence models in the arts and sciences should be encouraged through the incentive mechanism, particularly for citizens from impoverished or deprived backgrounds. Inventions and innovations should be rewarded and publicised widely to foster confidence, pride and civic renewal. From an international perspective, Guyanese-Caribbean citizens in the Diaspora are forging new pathways in race equalities, legislative affairs, economic policy, education and training strategy, business management, cultural unity and social development. Despite institutional racism and other prejudices in the metropolis, many have overcome barriers and are making considerable progress through combined private initiative and collective action. Guyana must therefore work in partnership with its Diasporic communities and other peace-loving nations, to combat its ills. I am confident that while we are beset by complex problems, the current struggle presented us with glorious opportunities to overcome. We can do so by goodwill, honour, perseverance and trust in our ability to modernise Guyana's political and social value systems. As a Guyanese and Caribbean citizen who have been immersed in the tedious process of human development – nationally and internationally - I am convinced that Guyana can help forge a better world, based on a lasting commitment to political consensus, economic pragmatism and social cohesion. It is time that we embrace modernity; we cannot fail Guyana. If we do, we will fail the rest of the Caribbean and those in our world hungry for peace and stability. This remains our real salvation!

About the Author: (Dr. Christopher A. Johnson is a Guyanese-Caribbean award-winning journalist and business management consultant. Through the culturally diversity model, he has empowered public, private and professional associations in valuing the importance of change management practices. His expertise is sought on business planning, funding, strategic management, cultural development, consumer affairs, research methodologies, conflict resolution and general policy. Dr. Johnson is writing the first detailed history of the Caribbean firm sector in Britain.Email: or and click on The Equivalent to see more features by this author)

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