May 3, 2015

Populism: Recipe for disaster

The People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition has finally come out with their manifesto. They held out as long as they could, but finally had to open up their plans for development to public scrutiny. It can now be seen that they had solid grounds for their trepidation.
What the manifesto confirmed is that if the country was worried about the possibility of a militarised Opposition talking office in Guyana, they should be absolutely petrified about the populism such a Government will undertake.
Populism has long been common in Latin America, especially with their military governments. One definition of populism is an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice.”
In Guyana, the Opposition PNC/APNU and its new junior sidekick AFC – with the help of their media allies – have successfully defined the PPP/C Government as the “dangerous other” to the APNU’s traditional constituency, who are supposedly being “marginalised”. The AFC is attempting the interesting gymnastic feat of supporting the APNU’s line, by denying its membership in the other, even while seeking votes from them.
There can be populists from the right and the left, but as we saw from the example of Forbes Burnham, even the populists from the left – he claimed to be a “cooperative socialist” – will define the “other” as dangerous.
In the modern era, as the new-liberal ideology swept across the Third World, they claimed they could solve the crises that were entrenched by the 1980s. What Granger and his coalition are attempting to do is to deploy the rhetoric of “new-liberalism”, but actually implementing the old left-wing utopian fantasies of Forbes Burnham that had failed so miserably.
For instance, the APNU/AFC manifesto claims to be committed to “macroeconomic stability” as a “foundational principle” of its manifesto (number 14):
“APNU+AFC will institute a macro-economic policy framework that promotes external and internal balance outcomes, along with a more diversified economic structure, so as to ensure economic stability. In so doing, exchange rate movements will be minimised and the well being of the most vulnerable sections of the population more effectively protected.”
But what does this jumbo jumbo mean? As the PPP/C Government’s several Finance Ministers since 1992 have taken pains to point out, their overarching goal has always been to achieve macro-economic stability. And for this they were constantly derided by the Opposition in its several incarnations – PNC, PNCR, PNCR1G, APNU and now APNU/AFC. What does macroeconomic stability require? At least low and stable inflation rates, low long-term interest rates, low national debt relative to GDP (which implies that Government can use revenues for domestic demands rather than servicing foreign debt), low budget deficits and currency stability.
For each of these criteria, the PPP/C has had to painstakingly bring back Guyana from the disasters of the PNC. Runaway inflation rates have been brought to below five per cent, interests far below the plus-20 per cent prevalent under the PNC, low Debt/GDP ratio compared to the stultifying one under the PNC which demanded 94 per cent of the Government’s revenue to service, budget deficits that are quite low and currency stability for a decade.
But the irony is that while the APNU/AFC claims it can better that record – the best in the region – it is planning to raise the salaries of the governmental non-productive workers (50,000 or one-sixth of the labour force) within 100 days without any linkage to productivity increases. This will precipitate immediate macroeconomic instability.
The APNU/AFC coalition is a sure recipe for the destruction of the Guyanese economy if it continues on the populist path that will be enforced by its top-heavy military leadership. Populism, whether of the left or the right, is a threat to democracy.

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Clean elections campaign

Today close to 7000 members of the joint services will vote in this year’s historic General and Regional elections- one week ahead of the rest of the population to facilitate their availability to man polling stations and be on standby should there be any violence or other emergencies on May 11.

D-Day as it is commonly called is usually a dry run for some of the polling day staff and though our men and women in uniform usually conduct this process very smoothly keen eyes are often trained on them, given this country’s history regarding the military’s involvement in the voting process. Also significant at this juncture is the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPP/C) concerns about possible double-voting. The Guyana Elections Commission has adamantly opposed removing the names of members of the joint services from the Voter’s list once they would have cast their ballots or creating two separate lists as was proposed by the party.

To date GECOM has given all the assurances that every possible angle has been covered to prevent double-voting and even urged parties not to “lose sleep” over the issue. Whatever happens today in terms of the conduct of the polls will likely give an indication as to how prepared is the elections’ body and what is likely to follow on May 11, when the general population cast their ballots.

It is to be noted as well, that despite all the pleas and exhortations from all quarters, the current campaign season has not been altogether clean. Starting out with APNU’s Vanessa Kissoon’s over-exuberance during two events in Linden, one of which landed her in court; to the stoning of PPP/C’s supporters returning home from a rally in Albion and the latest acts of terror in Warlock, East Ruimveldt all have sent mixed messages of the maturity of our people and the ability of political leaders to rein their own supporters.

Despite all the accusations levelled against the PPP/C by the opposition, Wednesday night’s disruption of that party’s meeting in Warlock, by persons draped in APNU/AFC colours must be condemned and so too the mounting of two effigies of David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo hanged on a pole on the Essequibo Coast. These acts can only serve to disrupt the peace and engender violence against groups in this tense political season. Whatever our differences as a people, and there are many, electoral violence is not one of the solutions. What will solve the problem is democracy, which is made possible only when we have an election with integrity; when our leaders engage in issue-based debates and campaign meetings are focussed on outlining one’s vision for the development of this country.

To this end, political and religious leaders must begin to educate their followers on the need to show restraint. Hence, the half-hearted statement of condemnation of the Warlock incident by the opposition will not suffice. Instead of forthrightly condemning the acts the PNC-led APNU/AFC in a statement on Friday described the incident as an isolated case and tied it to alleged years of marginalisation of the community by the PPP/C Government.

Elections are not a do or die affair as some tend to say- we can wait for the next cycle. GECOM too has the biggest role in ensuring that it conducts an election that is beyond reproach. Already one observer mission- Organisation of American States has expressed its concern at the “escalation of provocative language being used in the run-up to the May 11 General and Regional Elections and calls on all stakeholders to engage in a respectful exchange of ideas during the political campaign.”

What could be more profitable, if parties and candidates trade remarks on key issues in contention, setting aside personal attacks and insults. The alternative to this is that both the process and outcome of the election will lead to a government that lacks public confidence and trust.

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Food security for the Region

Three years ago, Guyana was among the first countries to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal ahead of the 2015 deadline – to halve the number of percentage of persons in the country that were hungry compared to baseline figures from 1990. The PPP/C Government had kept their promise to end hunger in Guyana.

That we were only one of 18 to have achieved the more stringent World Food Summit goal set in 1996 – to halve the number of undernourished persons by 2012 – was astounding for a country that had been plunged to the level of sub-Saharan Africa by the PNC by 1992, when the PPP/C took office.

What our experience has demonstrated is that good intentions in this area are simply not good enough. The PNC, in its 1972-1976 Five-Year Plan, had explicitly stated their goals were to “feed, clothe and house” the nation by the end of the plan. But the policies that it undertook proved to be so disastrous that thousands ended up contracting “white mouth” as a visible sign of rampant malnutrition.

We can look at those plans as an object lesson as “what not to do” if we are to achieve the new “Zero Hunger Challenge” launched by the UN in 2012. The first lesson is that farmers must be given incentives to remain on the land. Appeals to “patriotism” will not suffice. One of the pillars of Guyanese food security has been the rice industry since that grain is our main staple by far.

Due to the knowledge of wet rice cultivation brought over from their native north-India by the post-1838 indentured labourers, Guyana moved from being an importer of rice to an exporter at the beginning of the 20th century.

The incentives were the profits gleaned by the farmers enabling them to claw their way up the economic ladder. The PNC’s plan was supposedly rational – on paper. They would purchase all paddy and rice from the farmers, invest initially in large scale milling facilities and control all exports. The profits were supposed to be ploughed back into the economy to fund the thrust into manufacture so that the country could climb up the value added staircase.

The fatal flaw was that the Government and its planners were either too greedy or they overestimated the patriotism of the farmers. Or vindictive. Their price to the farmers were so low that based on the foreign sale price there was an implicit tax on the rice farmers of 118 per cent.

The result, not surprisingly, was that farmers left the industry in droves and those that remained did so because there were no alternative sources of employment. Just as unsurprisingly, when the PPP/C Government reversed the policies of the PNC and also pumped money into agricultural infrastructure such as drainage and irrigation, production escalated to the present record breaking 600,000+ tonnes per annum.

From the PPP/C’s manifesto, the same policy – and results – will be followed in all the other areas of food production. Guyana’s comparative advantage has always been in its vast areas of available farmland and Guyana is now poised to move from food self-sufficient to becoming the breadbasket of the Caribbean.

As promised, this would involve “fully implementing the National Agriculture Strategy; improving farm-to-market transportation, including boats to assist farmers to transport produce to markets; and establishing packaging/canning factories in various geographical locations to preserve and add value to agricultural produce”.

There would also be the “transformation of the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) to purchase produce from farmers and to re-sell to large users, like hospitals, manufacturers and for exports; strengthening and expanding rural credit facilities; and encouraging large scale soya and corn production and new crops such as quinoa, rubber and palm oil”.

It is said in the vernacular that “don’t fix what ain’t broken”. It is clear that the food security of Guyana and the region is assured under the PPP/C.

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Remembering the message

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo on Sunday told supporters of the PPP/C gathered at the party’s mammoth Stewartville rally that they must be vigilant and very observant on May 11 when thousands of Guyanese move to the polls to cast their ballots.

Jagdeo, speaking from various political platforms over the past month, has stressed the importance of PPP/C supporters not becoming complacent ahead of, and on elections day. He has been encouraging them to do all that is necessary to ensure that they vote, along with every eligible member of their families and communities.

He has also spent much time on the platform reminding citizens here of the hardships endured by their foreparents in their seemingly never ending fight for freedom, equality and democracy.

He has called out PNC-led APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate David Granger and ex-PPP/C Executive Moses Nagamootoo to account for their track records, which he pointed out that this bares the true nature of both men, and the gist of their characters.

Jagdeo himself has had to respond to questions about some of the decisions he made while serving as Guyana’s President. On the campaign trail, he appears brutally frank about the realities in which Guyanese live now compared to the period of PNC rule.

He has highlighted weaknesses and inconsistencies in the policies articulated by what appears to be a desperate Opposition anxious to garner votes ahead of the elections.

In other words, Jagdeo has placed the Opposition on the back foot, forcing them to develop a new strategy of campaigning that focuses on policies, plans and issues, as well as their many missteps over the past three years, rather than attacking the personalities within the PPP/C’s leadership.

But his most important message is being decoded by thousands of Guyanese and while some may not have made up their minds to speak with their ballots in favour of the PPP/C, they have understood that the choices they make come May 11 will impact the future of this country for decades to come.

Jagdeo’s style and presentation has been so effective against an ailing Opposition and aging  APNU+AFC Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates that the messages they are repeating appear to be exposing their uncertainties about their own political future and career after the May 11 polls.

The other leaders in the Opposition know that it would be foolish to enter a debate with Jagdeo and win especially given the lack of progress and accomplishments made in the 10th Parliament which was deliberately frustrated by an opportunistic and selfish Opposition agenda, which stalled Guyana’s overall progress and development.

But Jagdeo has given President Ramotar’s bid to be reelected a massive boost energizing support at the grass roots levels of the PPP/C and causing a massive remigration of original PPP/C supporters back to their home.

In other words, Jagdeo and Ramotar together have weakened the AFC’s grip on thousands of PPP/C supporters who felt that the AFC represented change and hope, but are currently feeling betrayed because of its decision to coalesce with APNU.

Additionally, Elisabeth Harper has successfully avoided muddying her image by becoming engaged in the traditional nature of politics here which has been crass, dominated by ‘cuss’ outs, personal attacks, below the belt punches and a culture of scandals egged on and manufactured by sections of the media.

Her deportment and commitment to a specific agenda has earned her the respect of many women and conservatives who do not believe that the country’s PM should be vile, bitter, revengeful and a political attack-dog.

The long and short of it, is that Jagdeo has been a very skillful messenger for the PPP/C and has spoken directly to the soft spots of its support base. He has connected in both an emotional and political way with supporters and the results of his hardcore campaigning and trust he has placed in Ramotar would be known on E-day.

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Teachers for Guyana

As they have done before every election, the Opposition PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition announced that “when” they assume office they will raise teachers’ salaries.

Their Manifesto does not spell out as to the quantum of the increase, but since David Granger has said teachers would be the “highest paid” Government workers and armed forces personnel are promised a 20 per cent increase, teachers are expected to flock to the Opposition’s banner.

But in its populist vote getting rhetoric, the Opposition ignores the reality that the pay scale is not necessarily the cause of teachers not operating as professionals in what should be their vocation.

The PPP/C Government has raised teachers’ salaries tenfold since they took office in 1992, yet we witness only marginal improvement in the poor results achieved at each level of our educational system.

It raises the question as to whether we have a “teaching profession” or whether teaching has become just a place holder for bodies in transition to something better. We have to bear in mind that the Ministry of Education is also churning out hundreds of teachers annually from the several teachers’ training programmes it conducts in addition to the Cyril Potter College in conjunction with UG.

The word “profession”, according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, is “a calling requiring specialised knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation”. The Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary also defined “profession” as “a type of job that needs special training or skill especially that needs a high level of education”.

One would agree that there are several definitions for “teaching”, but can settle on the one by Albert Koomson. He advises that teaching can be defined as an activity performed by a more experienced and knowledgeable person and aimed at helping the less experienced person to learn.

He further explains that teaching also involves assisting the learner to either gain or change some knowledge, skills or attitudes. Teaching, we would agree, should therefore involve the full participation of pupils.

Koomson also cites many traditional activities which are involved in teaching. These include “talking and chalking”, marking pupils’ work, listening to pupils and reinforcing their behaviour, arranging classroom materials, encouraging and motivating pupils to carry out their work and helping weak ones, explaining questions and organising pupils in smaller groups.

From the definition above, the teaching practice surely requires special training and skills to be able to guide or assist learners, pupils or students perform creditably in examinations and other problem-solving tasks in and outside the classroom.

But nowadays, teachers and the education system as a whole face the challenges due to social, economical, technological changes and other political forces that have evolved within the 20th and 21st century.

They have to deal with the “Googled” learner, who has grown up on virtual reality games and can find out almost everything with a few taps of the finger; work with a student body that’s increasingly diverse; and prepare kids to compete for jobs in a global marketplace where communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creative problem-solving are the “new basics”.

The Opposition should join with the thrust of the PPP/C Government to prepare teachers, both in training and in practice, to be equipped in rendering those services fixed in the international and modern standard teaching practices. We believe that the Government has done a yeoman task in the area of teachers’ training even with the challenge of attrition.

Teachers, like all workers should receive larger salaries, but they should not expect the Government and the Ministry to accept shoddy unprofessional behaviour. After all, professional qualities such as patience, tolerance, empathy, discipline, neatness, was clearly inculcated in their training.

It behooves teachers, therefore to see themselves as change agents in an attempt to realising the comprehensive evidence-based teaching profession that is being preached across the globe.

Teachers must reject the crass appeal at bribery by the Opposition. They must aspire to be professionals.

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ICT services for growth

The quest for growth should have been on the top of the agenda of both sides of political divide once the campaigns had been launched. Very sadly, however, just as it has done for the last three years, the Opposition promises “the moon and the stars” with nary a thought as to where the money will be coming from.

But while doling out money to the populace may garner some votes, it is ultimately a zero-sum activity: we are only redistributing a pie of fixed size. The question must be rephrased: “How do we increase the size of the pie?”

In our Sunday editorial we elaborated on the effect of transformative infrastructural projects as recommended by the World Bank and the IDB. We do not have to look at the just launched Manifesto to appreciate that the PPP/C Government will continue in this direction, once they remove the Opposition majority in the Assembly.

But another of the Government’s initiatives to increase growth rates is its thrust into ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development) already launched. The domestic impact of the new infrastructure, comprising of fibre-optics linking the entire coastland and the hinterland which will improve e-governance and lower bandwidth costs for the internet savvy populated augmented with 60,000+ internet-ready laptops is massive.

But the potential to alter the structural foundations of our economy by opening up the export of services has been completely blanked by the Opposition.

The Opposition seems stuck in 19th century economic dogma that saw “development” as a transition from agricultural to industrial production, with manufacturing being the prime ‘engine of growth’.

Only material products are suitable for exports and services confined to the domestic market in this view. But the PPP/C is obviously au fait with the revolution in delivering services across borders via ICT.

As a platform for growth and development, the phenomenon was encapsulated as the “3Ts” – technology, transportability, and tradeability. “Outsourcing” of services became a catchword as billions of dollars flowed from the developed countries into the ICT-savvy developing nations.

Trade in services is becoming increasingly more viable, with many businesses now dividing their operations across the world.

The rapid growth of China and India, which have been driven along two different paths, has

rekindled the debate on the drivers of growth and development. China’s growth is led by traditional manufacturing, while India’s growth focuses heavily on services – representing the two different paths towards rapid development.

And India has not been alone in exploiting the new opportunity: In the last decade, services have grown as a share of the world’s GDP, accounting for 70 per cent of global GDP; and service exports in developing countries have almost tripled between 1997 and 2007.

It is very unlikely that we can match the economies of scale to compete with behemoths like China in industrial exports but with our comparative advantage of English as our first language and a populace that still has a collective drive for education we can certainly carve out a niche in the ICT service exports.

These exports have primarily been in such areas as information technology, business-related, transcribing medical records, data services, call centres, education, entertainment production services, etc. These services differ significantly from the traditional services, which demand face-to-face interaction.

But we will not be in a position to exploit this new driver of growth unless we have both the human and infrastructural resources in place to be capable of offering the service. One recent World Bank study has shown that exports’ ‘quality’ in services is positively associated with growth performance: even one per cent involvement generated significant growth.

For countries like ours where businesses are stuck in a “trader mentality”, ICT based exports will also ensure that traditional service activities gain in productivity from the 3Ts.

The Opposition should debate ICT not just hand-outs.

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PPP/C financing

Over the course of the last three years, the Guyanese populace has had the opportunity to actually witness in action the PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition’s position on infrastructural development in general and in its financing through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in particular.

Now that they may do a volte face while on the hustings or in their Manifesto, their statements should be evaluated from an informed perspective.

When APNU/AFC criticises the infrastructural thrust of the PPP/C’s development programme, they insist that this will lead to a top-heavy debt portfolio. What they first have to accept is that at this stage of our development we are right where the sub-Saharan economies are – woefully lacking in infrastructure as compared to the Asian economies that are forging ahead.

In its report, “Rethinking Reforms: How Latin America and the Caribbean Can Escape Suppressed World Growth”, of March 2013, the Inter American Bank (IDB), which distributed loans and grants worth US$11.4-billion to 26 Latin American countries in 2012, also offered some policy advice.
It said that the key to moving beyond the four-five per cent growth rate where we have been stuck for a while, we need to focus on “infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure”. The World Bank has also made the same point.

Hopefully, we can now move to the question as to how the infrastructure can be financed – outside the traditional route of acquiring debt. The PNC-led Opposition is understandably traumatised by the latter facility, having plunged Guyana into bankruptcy in the 1980s via that route.

In light of the reduced concessional funding available from the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), which had traditionally filled that need, both institutions emphasised the attractiveness of the PPP/C model for infrastructural development.

Hoping that concerned Guyanese would consider the World Bank a neutral, but knowledgeable institution in the financing large infrastructural projects, we submit some highlights from their report: “Attracting investors to African public-private partnerships: a project preparation guide.”

In addition to offering policy makers an opportunity to improve the delivery of services and the management of facilities through securing private funding without increasing public debt, Governments are also turning to PPPs as a means to improve the procurement of public services.

“The PPP process usually requires information about the true long-term cost of service delivery which generates a more realistic debate on project selection. By improving the identification of a project’s long-term risks and the allocation of those risks between the public and private sectors, the PPP process enables a more efficient use of resources.”

While there are several types of PPP structures, they all concentrate on the “bankability” of the project: “The majority of third-party funding for PPP projects normally consists of long-term debt finance, which typically varies from 70 percent to as much as 90 percent of the total funding requirement, depending on the perceived risks of the project.”

In the case of Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project (AFHEP), which was condemned and scuttled by the Opposition – and which utilised the PPP financing model – there were raised eyebrows at the hight debt-to-equity ratios, but we can now see that this is normal.

The Report explains: “Debt is a cheaper source of funding than equity, as it carries relatively less risk. Lending to PPP projects looks to the cash flow of the project as the principal source of security.

“This is quite different from corporate financing, where lenders rely on the value of the company’s assets. Infrastructure assets are effectively worthless without the underlying contractual structure, which is why the detailed terms and conditions, and legal effectiveness, of the PPP contract are so important.”

We hope all Guyanese will take the time to be educated on PPP financing for our infrastructural development – as for example the projected new, permanent, fixed Bridge across the Demerara River.
We cannot fall victim of the Luddite PNC-led APNU/AFC.

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Housing development

Guyana is said to be developing rapidly, with an improved economy and infrastructure, and homes and business seeing much growth over the years. Many persons are moving towards the city in search of jobs and subsequently a better standard of living.

Housing development has therefore led to more homes and housing schemes being built not only on the outskirts of the city, but also along the coastal areas. For this population, and those already established, comfort is an important issue and includes the natural right to a safe community in which to reside after work is over.

Perhaps the biggest story of the current Administration is the success in housing development. It is indeed a far cry now when compared to what existed under the PNC regime, when housing development was not only stunted, but it was also confined to certain areas linked to support of the then Government. At that time, a PNC party card was the only sure way to obtain the basic necessities of life.

Along with national development comes personal income improvement, and persons in these suburban residential communities construct not only their homes in these neighbourhoods for their comfort and security, but also recreational parks and sometimes, family entertainment venues to relax on weekends or holidays. These amenities would have been luxuries and were largely unimaginable under the PNC mis-rule.

Recently, the Government announced that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has committed to releasing more lands to the Ministry of Housing’s Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) in an effort to meet the growing demands for housing across the country.

This is testimony to the fact that more and more Guyanese, especially young professionals, are applying for lands to begin constructing their homes. This forces the Government to look at alternative means in helping every Guyanese achieve their dream of home ownership.

As pointed out in a previous editorial, prior to 1992, this level of optimism among young people, and citizens in general, to own their own home was unheard of, as it was very difficult to acquire a plot of land. In addition to having to deal with a very difficult bureaucracy, there was simply a lack of vision on the part of the then government in relation to housing development.

This has now changed as the present Administration’s policies on housing development make it much easier for one to own their own home. The transformation currently being experienced in the housing sector is one that every Guyanese citizen can boast of.

While there were tremendous achievements made in the areas of education, health care delivery, improving social services, etc, the gains made in Guyana’s housing sector have surpassed all others.

The incumbent Government has every right to highlight these achievements as they face the electorate to ask for another term to continue along this path. Voters no doubt will be looking closely to see which of the parties have the best policies for Guyana’s development; and housing is a key concern for many.

About 100,000 Guyanese families have received house lots across the country. A number of new housing schemes have been (and are being) developed. The Government has spent huge amounts of money for infrastructural works. These house lots that are being awarded are highly subsidized as the intention is to ensure that lands are made available for every single category of individuals.

It is worthwhile to highlight some of the useful initiatives undertaken by the Housing Ministry which resulted in the level of success we are currently experiencing. The Ministry hosted a number of “one stop shops” where applications for house lots were fast-tracked.

There are many challenges to overcome as there are quite a number of applicants who are still awaiting word from the Ministry as to the status of their applications. But an objective analysis will prove that Guyana has indeed travelled a long road since 1992, especially as it relates to gains made in housing development.

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A proud achievement

After many stumbling blocks placed in the way from its inception, mainly by the PNC-led APNU/AFC, Guyana’s only five-star hotel was officially declared open for business.

The Marriott is a name known around the world as one of the most prestigious and quality hotel brands. The hotel chain is present in 72 countries, comprising more than 3600 hotels, and a staff complement of 129,000.

The fact that the owners of the Marriott brand have placed this much confidence in this country to have one of their chains here speaks volumes in relation to the high level of confidence that is placed in the economy and the country as a whole.

This shows that Guyana is moving ahead. No longer are we known for being a backward, poor and unstable country, we can now boast of having one of the world’s best brands of hotels. This is a major achievement by any standard that every Guyanese should be proud of.

While many in the society, including the diplomatic community, have lauded the efforts of the Government and other stakeholders that were involved in this massive venture, there are a few among us who always seem to see everything from a negative perspective. Their most recent actions in relation to the Marriott project did not escape our attention.

We have taken note of the many unjustified attacks and criticisms that were targeted at officials involved in the project, as we have seen in the case of every other major development project undertaken by the Government.

From the time the sod was turned to commence construction of the hotel to this day, the attacks have not ceased. This is inspite of the fact that the authorities have made every attempt to provide all the necessary clarifications etc. to the public.

When one considers the enormous benefits of such an international brand to the economy and the country as a whole, one is forced to question the sincerity of the persons behind these attacks.

Why is it that some Opposition members and some persons who claim to be independent commentators cannot for once put aside their partisan interest and support something that is good for the nation?

The ongoing assault by two dailies has not gone unnoticed. It seems as if their intention is to discredit every development initiative undertaken by the authorities here aimed at creating opportunities for citizens to develop themselves and their communities.

But it is not for us to defend those who are libeled and attacked almost daily, they are quite capable of representing themselves and we hope they do.

The pessimists are belabouring the point that the Marriott investment was a bad one. They have expressed the view that it is not practical for the Hotel to bring in the kind of returns expected as the tourism industry here does not attract a large number of tourists. This is far from the truth.

According to NICIL, an estimated 12.2 per cent of GDP came from travel and tourism in 2011, up from 11.5 per cent in 2010. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that this sector will grow from $35.1 billion to $42.3 billion by 2021, nearly doubling from 2011 to 2021, making this hotel a worthwhile investment.

It is not only its location at the mouth of Demerara River, on the Atlantic sea coast of Guyana, but it is the most likely impact on the entertainment, hospitality, travel and tourism sectors of the economy of Guyana that will forever be noteworthy. The hotel has already begun to set new standards of professional service to which its competitors will need to aspire.

The Marriott is what this country needs as it will help to raise its profile in the international market place. It is very unfortunate that for once the pessimists among us cannot put aside their own partisan views and be happy for Guyana.

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Aid for Trade

Developing our trading linkages is crucial to our transitioning to a developed country status and we hope that, now that the parties’ manifestos are imminent, subjects like these will be debated.

The Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative launched by Caricom five years ago is a crucial element in our efforts to boost our trade. AfT had been proposed unilaterally by G-7 in 2005 at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Ostensibly launched in reaction to the growing gap in exploiting the opportunities in trade opened up by globalisation, the AfT regime is intended to assist developing countries with building their trade capabilities in line with their own development plans. The catch phrase was that “market access must be converted into market presence.”

This capacity building is critical since with the freezing of the Doha Round of the WTO, the developed world has focused on creating trading regimes in which the less developed countries are not in a position to benefit from their trade commitments.

A good example was the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that Caricom entered into in 2008 with the European Union (EU). The Caricom nations were by and large in no position to exploit the “trade opportunities”, unlike the case with the EU nations.

As part of the EPA, the EU had made a commitment to proceed with the AfT and to work with both Government and the private sector, especially the latter to boost their trade capacity. However, only Britain and one other EU nation followed through with their commitment – and this to five of the smallest states.

The WTO has more specifically emphasised that AfT must be deployed to assist developing countries to enter the Global Value Chain (GVC) in which production is spread among any number of countries and value is added at each stage of the transfer. Much of today’s global trade is in intermediate goods which are imported, value added and then exported.

The problem is that most value is captured in the design and conceptual stage of the value chain, as well as in the final sales and marketing end of the GVC. However, this is not where most developing countries are located. They are generally located in the lower value manufacturing section of the GVC, and even then, this is true for some, not all developing countries.

The benefit a country gets from participating in the GVC will depend on where a country is lined up in terms of it technological capacities; the depth of their manufacturing capacities; how developed their services sectors are; the size of their enterprises; their managerial expertise; their ability to meet the standards of the international markets, to name only a few criteria.

Due to these and other limitations, developing countries could open up, and they could become more integrated, but the quality of their integration may not be of real benefit. Mere liberalisation will not upgrade countries’ technological or services supply side capacities. Nor will Trade Facilitation Agreements – expediting the entry of imports through a range of customs procedures.

So the focus of AfT to increase trade via GVC’s has to be deepening the production capacities of developing countries so that they can garner a bigger share of the value added.

We suggest that the impetus must be more directed to engender the movement of our manufacturing capacities beyond being assembly lines; creating a more vibrant agricultural sector – including agro-processing and increased production capacities in a range of services sectors.

The latter is crucial because with the entry and exit of intermediate goods between countries, the service component of the GVC has grown exponentially. It now surpasses trade in manufactured goods.

Failure to engage in structural transformation especially of services and deepening of production capacities could mean that our countries will continue supplying raw materials or at best, sites for low value added manufacturing tasks.

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