July 25, 2014

Frankenstein’s monster…

…from Linden

Most people are confused about the Frankenstein story. Who exactly was the villain? You see, “Frankenstein” WASN’T the monster, he was the doctor who actually CREATED the monster. And if the truth be told, the doctor was the real villain. After all, whatever evil things the monster did, it wouldn’t have happened if Dr Frankenstein hadn’t created him.

And we arrive at the internecine warfare that’s simmering down in Linden within the PNC camp. And will erupt like a sore full of nasty pus in GT this weekend. Solomon Sharma was created because of the weak and vacillating leadership of David Granger. And this was exposed right after the elections.

Everyone’s jumping up and down like chickens without their heads, accusing President Ramotar of not accepting the “new dispensation” in the National Assembly. They’re conveniently feigning amnesia of the statesmanlike action of Ramotar to constitute a formal body with the leaders of the three parliamentary parties – the Tripartite Talks – to consult on concrete policy initiatives going forward.

From the beginning, the AFC was the spoiler: Ramjattan refused to attend. There was the proposal by the Government to gradually bring the electricity tariffs in Linden up to the national rate.

Granger agreed!!! He extracted his quid pro quo, of course, but he agreed that the entire country must be treated equally. But then like the weak-kneed, invertebrate “leader” he is, he buckled to the racial incitement of the AFC – especially Nigel Hughes, who’d fired up some PNC supporters in the town. Among them being Solomon Sharma, the newly elected Regional 10 Chairman.

Granger was warned by many, when he caved in and went along with the Linden hotheads. We warned that he was creating “warlords” who would act totally to feather their own nests – in the Region – and the devil take the rest of the country – including him and the rest of the PNC. Like most ambitious but myopic politicians, however, Granger went for the short-term gains – and created the monsters. Who’re now devouring him!!

Solomon Sharma is only out to ‘big-up’ himself. He’s challenging not only Granger – but also Aubrey Norton! Norton was the reason the PNC and their candidates – including Solomon – even won their positions. So this monster created by Dr “Frankenstein” David Granger has stabbed Norton in the back. But this is par for the course, with such creatures, no??

Let’s see if Granger’ll survive this monster he has by the tail!

…from Richmond Hill

Poor, pathetic Mike Persaud – the taxi driver from Richmond Hill who’s solved all the problems of Guyana – if only the politicians would listen!!! The solution?? The PNC should make an “Indian” – any Indian!! – their leader and the PPP/C should follow suit with an “African”!! Well, it looks like he might have had a recent epiphany.

After inviting David Granger to dinner in his Queens basement, he wrote a panegyric to his erstwhile guest, who not-so-incidentally is fighting to salvage his short-lived political career as leader of the PNC. Mike thinks Granger IS the man to lead the PNC. But hold it!! Granger isn’t an Indian, is he?? Not to worry: in the words of Mike the “Indian”, Granger is “just like one of us”!!

“I have observed him fraternising among Indo-Guyanese and frankly, I don’t think there was any awareness that this man was of another race. He was just like one of us.” So the PNC don’t need an “Indian” leader no mo. Why!! Granger can pass for one!!

If this doesn’t illustrate the kind of obsequious, brown noser Granger is, to earn this racist, condescending endorsement, nothing else will.

…in Gaza

While the horror unfolds in Gaza, let’s not forget that Israel can do what it wants with impunity because of the influence of the Jewish lobby in the US. Who is the “Frankenstein”? The US or Israel??

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Innovation and entrepreneurship

In yesterday’s editorial, we alluded to management genius Peter Drucker’s seminal work, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Principles and Practices”, while exhorting our educators not to dilly dally in introducing the new CAPE subject “Entrepreneurship”.

Today, we publish excerpts from the paper, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Global Economy”, which was published last year in the “Journal of Business Management and Social Sciences Research”. It expatiates on the present understanding of what constitutes “innovation and entrepreneurship” today:

“Wikipedia defines innovation as simply ‘a new way of doing something’. It may refer to incremental, radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes or organisations. A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully. Peter Drucker viewed innovation as the tool or instrument used by entrepreneurs to exploit change as an opportunity.

“He argued that innovation, as a discipline, is capable of being learned, as well as practised. While he never agreed to a theory of innovation, he realised enough was known to develop it as a practice – a practice based on when, where and how one looks systematically for (innovative) opportunities and how one judges the chances for their success or the risks of their failure.

“From Drucker’s perspective, systematic innovation consisted of the purposeful and organised search for changes, and in the systematic analysis of the opportunities such changes might offer for economic or social innovation.

“Since Drucker’s time, new ideas about innovation have emerged. One researcher referred to “indigenous innovation” – the development of a collective type of learning within the organisation. The strategy driving the innovation, he argued, was set in motion socially rather than process-driven. He believed that the pursuit of innovation required much more than taking up a practical course of action.

“Another offshoot is “disruptive innovation,” which improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect. Coined in 1995, disruptive innovations are predominantly intimidating to existing market leaders, because they represent competition coming from an unexpected direction. The concept of disruptive innovation carries on a long practice of recognising radical technical change in the study of innovation by economists.

“A little over 200 years ago, French economist JB Say remarked, ‘The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield’. But, who is this entrepreneur Say speaks of?

In the United States, an entrepreneur was defined as “one who starts his own, new and small business,” although Drucker noted that not every new small business is entrepreneurial or represents entrepreneurship. Also, not every entrepreneurial business is innovative.

Drucker identified entrepreneurs as people who see ‘change’ as the standard, echoing Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Greek philosopher who said, ‘The only constant in life is change’. Entrepreneurs regard change as essential and welcome it as beneficial to the lives of big corporations and small businesses alike.

However, the kind of change implied here, Drucker clarified, is typically not the kind that can be brought about simply by deciding to create it. Rather, it is created by entrepreneurs who actively go looking for existing change in order to exploit it.

One example Drucker presented was the entrepreneurial genius behind the early days of McDonald’s. The truth was Ray Kroc never invented anything. In fact, hamburgers, French fries and soda had been available for years. Kroc simply asked the question, ‘How does our customer define value’? Once he had the answer, he developed, standardised and branded it. That, Drucker believed, represented entrepreneurial instinct at its best. In terms of innovation and entrepreneurship Drucker added, ‘Above all it needs to be based on purposeful information’.”

The truth of the matter is that in Guyana we are only “muddling through” by doing only “what we know”. We have not consciously set out to create individuals who are innovators and entrepreneurs. We must begin now.

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Missing the education boat

Yesterday, there were two articles published together in this newspaper, through pure serendipity: “Local businesses must focus on innovation – GCCI forum hears”, and “Top schools ‘iffy’ about new CAPE subjects rollout…despite Education Ministry’s optimism”. One of the “new” CAPE subjects that is most iffy is “Entrepreneurship”. On one hand, the cry from the business community is “more innovation” and from our education system, there is vacillation on the readiness to teach “Entrepreneurship” in the 6th Forms.

Yet almost 30 years ago, the management giant, Peter Drucker, who was literally worshipped in Japan for providing most of the conceptual tools that made them into economic world beaters, published his seminal work, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Principles and Practices”. He outlined the seminal nexus between these two concepts and postulated that unless they were fostered and connected, countries in the 21st century would be unable to lift themselves out of poverty, much less compete in the global economy.

Yet in Guyana, there is lassitude about finally imparting the fundamentals of “entrepreneurship” into the minds of our youth. When the British ended slavery, they introduced an educational system that was designed to keep the descendants of slaves and indentured slaves in an inferior status. We were to be the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to keep the local representatives of the Empire in comfort, and the plantocracy wealthy.

At the very best we were to be the clerks in the civil service. The economy was kept in the hands of the “agents” based in Britain, which simply sold goods produced in the “Mother Country”. “Business”, to us natives, was simply “buying and selling” – preferably buying from the aforementioned “Mother Country”.

The highest education, as the article on the lagging CAPE introduction pointed out, focused on the Classics – including Latin and Greek. We could not produce a needle, but we could, like Burnham, Guyana’s scholar from Queens in 1942, parse the difference between “casus belli” and “causa belli”.

This mis-education of the natives was part of a deliberate policy that furthered what Dr Walter Rodney and others was to label the “underdevelopment” of the colonies. Generations of the descendants of ex-slaves were blamed for not having a “business head” – even though whatever enterprise they might have had in Africa had been brutally beaten out of them. And the “education” they had to imbibe was intended to make them accept their “lot”.

In the post-emancipation period, their economic progress lagged behind the immigrants who had two advantages: the virtues of deferred gratification and planning for the future, qualities that slavery made ironic, in denying them the right to property. The immigrants had arrived with the conscious drive for economic advancement. Modern African-West Indians to the US, for instance, are as industrious and entrepreneurial minded in their new milieu as any other group.

In the post-Independence era, while the founding fathers recognised the need for “education”, all too often, it was a perpetuation of the old British curriculum. One hundred and sixty years after Queens College was founded, it still teaches French rather than Entrepreneurship. But one will be told that the latter subject will not be taught because it is a “science” school. One is left to ponder the “scientific” content of French.

The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) is one of the most successful institutions to have emerged in the elusive goal of a functional Caribbean unity. Gradually, they have built a most credible reputation on the subjects they introduced at CSEC and CAPE to replace the London GCE “O” and “A” Levels. Their introduction of Entrepreneurship as one of five new subjects including Agricultural Science, Performing Arts, Physical Education and Sport, and Tourism are obviously geared towards making education more relevant to our pressing needs.

We hope the Education Ministry will ensure our schools are ready by the new school year.

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Cricket in nation building

There is the cliché, “Sports: it’s not just a game!” The three games played by the Guyana Amazon Warriors during the last week proved in so many ways, that like all clichés, it expresses an almost universal truth. That is why expressions become clichéd.

For such a small nation as ours, commentators of all persuasions have been forced to remark on the deleterious impact of our “divisiveness”. Of recent, there has been greater openness in accepting that our salient cleavage, as far as negative outcomes are concerned, is “ethnicity”. Even those who cleave to ideologies such as Marxism, which denies the “reality” of such divisions and once dubbed it “false consciousness”, have been forced to grapple with its salience.

The question posed is: “What is it that can make us see past our ethnic divisions and begin to act and work as a nation that accepts its fate as the fruits of a collective endeavour?” There have been several proposals – not the least being the said ideologies undergirding the programmes of most of the political parties in the post WWII era and operationalised in their activities in and out of Government. Most kindly, they can all be said to have “failed”.

Like most human behavioural patterns, ethnic salience is not the result of any one factor, and as a corollary, it cannot be addressed through any one “silver bullet”. But what we do know is that ethnicity is an affective orientation – much of its salience is not due to the “rational choice” premise of the social sciences, but also on emotions and feelings. And one of the ways to move past its gravitational pull, without necessarily invalidating its relevance for identity, is to cultivate positive emotions in the populace as a whole, around events that are not tied to ethnicity.

And this is where sport, in general, and cricket, in particular, comes in. Cricket is not a game tied to any one group in Guyana, or even in the wider Caribbean. It is the game of all our people. In that remarkable book of his, “Beyond the Boundary”, CLR James exposed us to the deep and wide wellsprings of the game in our psyches. And during the aforementioned three games at the National Stadium,Providence by the Warriors, the truth of James’ epiphany came alive.

Guyanese of all ethnicities became as one when they cheered, fretted, screamed and waved their flags for THEIR team. They wore the Warriors colours to identify with their talisman. Strangers hugged and gave high fives when victory came; and consoled each other (“they did their best”) when victory was finally denied.

Cricket demonstrated that we can be united. What we would like to suggest is that the Government must design a national sport policy, with cricket at its centre, as an integral part of our overall thrust to create “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.

While it may be claimed that we do, in fact, have a “sports policy”, in our estimation, as executed in practice, it does not demonstrate adequate acceptance of the vital importance of sport in the holistic development of the individual, the community and the nation. And, especially of its importance in transcending cleavages, of all types. The Football World Cup in Brazil recently demonstrated the effect of another “national sport” in bringing together a nation of 200 million. Imagine what a focused, national programme in cricket can do for us.

One immediate action by a Government pushing cricket in a national sports programme is to make the game part of the school curriculum from nursery to university. As shown by the success of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League (CPL), modern cricket is big business and can be significant contributors to the GDP, as any of the “traditional” industries.

In the language of the economists, the transcendence of ethnic boundaries can eventually become merely a positive “externality”.

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Traducing the law

In Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”, the court advises Mr Bumble, “… the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. The henpecked husband then blurted out, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass.” The point being, of course, that sometimes there are people who apply the law contrary to all common sense. With its complaint to the Police about the Minister of Finance on spending “unauthorised monies” the Alliance For Change (AFC) is determined to make the law in Guyana, “an ass”.

This move on their part is very unfortunate since ordinary citizens can easily develop a cynicism about our system of law and order, as they have already done with the political system, after the gymnastics routinely practised, by the Opposition. If the AFC were ignorant, unlettered denizens of the forest – feral or otherwise – they may be excused. But with several aspiring “Senior Counsels” in their leadership corps, their behaviour begs the question as to their motives.

The underlying facts are simple and undisputed. The Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Government of Guyana as specified by the Constitution, brought the Budget known as the “Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure” for the current year, to Parliament at the end of March. These “Estimates of Expenditure” represented the Executive’s projected spending for the year in pursuit of its programme on which it was elected to office.

After the Opposition excised a whopping $37.4 billion from the original allocation of $220 billion, the Minister of Finance immediately signalled that as was done in the previous two years, monies for critical areas that were excised would have to be found. “I can assure that action is imminent… we intend to be guided by the Constitution and statutory provision and by the Acting Chief Justice’s ruling to address the budget cuts and any instance of appropriations being inadequate to meet a public purpose.”

Under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, the Minister has the authority to spend “in excess” of what had been appropriated to meet the aforementioned “public purpose”. In both 2012 and 2013, the Minister had returned to Parliament, spelled out the additional spending and received approval. As the Minister pointed out, “The instrument of the Statement of Excess has been used in the Parliament before, in fact the same Opposition that is now speaking about disrespect for the Parliament and speaking about wanting to make a report to the Police… What they are not saying is that they themselves, in the Parliament controlled by them, have approved previous Statement of Excess; this Statement of Excess going to Parliament is not the first Statement of Excess that has gone to the Parliament, is not the second or third, it is the fourth Statement of Excess to be considered by this Parliament in 2012.”

In addition to the authority conferred by precedence to the Government on “excess spending”, Article 220:1 of the Constitution explicitly provides for the Finance Minister to make advances from the Contingencies Fund if there is an urgent need for expenditure for which no other provision exists. Section 41 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act of 2003 gives the Finance Minister the “sole authority” to release monies from the Contingencies Fund.

Even though Latin is no longer taught in Guyana, Guyanese have become familiar with the distinction between “casus belli” – the “occasion for the war” – and “causa belli” – the “real reason for the war”. The AFC and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) are using the $4.5 billion spent to fund the Government programmes chopped by them from the Budget to simply justify the declaration of war to oust the Government through their threatened “no-confidence” motion.

But they did not have to go through all this rigmarole: they always had that option. They are simply trying to justify their politics of expedience, even if it makes the highest law of the land, “an ass”.

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Opposition day of infamy

Friday marked the second anniversary of the Opposition-sponsored protests in Linden that saw their Leaders encouraging Lindeners to illegally occupy the critical bridge connecting the coastland to the interior, and in effect, cutting off that region from the rest of the country.

This was the conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that investigated the protests, which resulted in the deaths of three protestors after billions had gone up in smoke – including the largest primary school in the region – and business in the community had ground to a halt.

That CoI was assembled at great cost to this country. The government acquiesced to the opposition’s demand for a dominant foreign component. The chairman and two of the commissioners were eminent jurists from the Caribbean Community (CariCom). The government went along because they wanted justice not only to be done, but for it to also be seen as done.

It is critical that Guyanese remember the conclusions about what can only be described as an Opposition “Day of Infamy”, so that present-day efforts of that same Opposition to repeat it are rejected.

The CoI explained the genesis of the illegal protests. “The Lindeners applied to the appropriate regional police authority for permission and received same with conditions attached to ensure that the rights of the citizens were balanced. The evidence revealed that the conditions were breached and therein was the birth of the ensuing problems.”

The CoI was not shy about naming the Opposition instigators for “breaching” the law. “It is noteworthy that a Member of Parliament (Desmond Trotman) who was at the scene on July 18 when much of this was taking place or had already taken place stubbornly refused to accept that the protesters had resorted to unlawful means to carry out what would otherwise have been a lawful endeavour.”

APNU Member of Parliament and Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon and another APNU Member of Parliament Vanessa Kissoon, admitted that they knew they were encouraging protesters to do something illegal.

Yet, “both Assistant Superintendent Walter Stanton and Senior Superintendent Clifton Hicken testified that they approached Aubrey Norton, Lincoln Lewis and Kissoon to have the protesters leave the bridge, but without success. Assistant Superintendent Stanton further stated that he overheard the activists, Norton, Kissoon and Dr David Hinds, encouraging the protesters to remain on the bridge as it was a just cause.”

The CoI had no hesitation in concluding bluntly: “The organisers of the protest must accept some responsibility for what subsequently transpired on July 18, 2012.” And yet, just two years later, as if the entire nation is suffering from collective amnesia, the Opposition are trumpeting tributes to “the Linden Martyrs” without even a passing reference to their seminal role in the tragedy.

The role of the Police was also examined, especially after the Chairman of the AFC, in his role as a lawyer for some of the relatives of the deceased, claimed that the Minister of Home Affairs had given instructions directly to the police, prior to the shootings. In reference to those shootings, the bullets that killed the three men were proven by an independent expert, brought in by the AFC, not to be of the type used by the police. There wasn’t even circumstantial evidence for proving the police’s “guilt.”

But in what appears to be an act of mercy for the deceased the CoI, not bound by the strict rules of a court of law, said the police were “responsible” only because they could not find evidence of any other persons firing guns. In this way, the state could provide compensation to the survivors and estate of those killed, which it did.

But the AFC, which was the original instigator of the Linden tragedy, has not learnt anything. It went on to provoke riots in Agricola and most recently protests by rice farmers in Essequibo. Let us not forget the lessons of history.

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National Youth Policy

Guyana is desperately in need of a National Youth Policy that would respond to the challenges facing youth here, while creating opportunities for them to further transform their lives through equitable access to education, housing, health services and economic opportunities.

This policy is the missing link between the state of hopelessness that is hovering over youth and their ability to make more meaningful contributions to the growth and development of Guyana.

Any procrastination on the part of the Executive and Legislature in advancing such a policy is almost criminal. No excuse is sufficed to justify a delay in producing a hallmark policy that has the potential to tackle youth crime and violence, the needs of differently able youth, unemployment and social-ills.

As a matter of fact, the report of the Caricom Commission on Youth Development, “Eye on the Future: Invest in Youth Now for the Community tomorrow”, states that there is an urgent need for governments to respond to the school dropout rate which was at “a staggering height”.

It noted that youth unemployment and joblessness remain high, at a rate of 23 per cent, when compared to other developed countries. It advised too that urgent focus should be placed on the involvement of youth at all levels of the decision making strata, through a well-formulated policy.

There have not been much statistics available about the circumstances under which youth exist here, and it is hoped that the just concluded National Population Census will dedicate parts of its overall report to this area.

Culture, Youth and Sport Minister, Dr Frank Anthony has promised to deliver such a policy to thousands of Guyanese youth time and time again, but is yet to do so.

There can be no rational excuse for the Culture, Youth and Sport Ministry failing to produce a document it has been working on for more than six years.

It should be noted that the finalisation and consultations of the National Development Strategy, the National Competiveness Strategy and the Low Carbon Development Strategy, together, took less time, compared to the National Youth Policy which is still incomplete.

In 2011, the Minister announced the commencement of countrywide consultations on the document to meet the changing socioeconomic circumstances facing Guyanese youth.

These consultations and distribution of 2500 questionnaires concluded about three years after, but all the Minister is saying is that the document is being completed. One wonders what is causing the delay.

It is situations like these that jeopardise the outstanding work done by the Government over the last 22 years to advance the interests of youth in the areas of health, education and sport.

It also sends the wrong message to young people who have been eagerly awaiting the impact of Government policy that would have emanated from their direct input.

In 2014, youths want to redefine the role they play in the world through Information and Communication Technology (ICT), science and research, social media and sport. Such a policy, which could be revised every two years, could provide them the platform to grow and advance in this regard.

Other problems such as juvenile delinquency and the emergence of a new cadre of youth criminals could be effectively tackled through prudent planning at the community level. Issues related to domestic abuse, rape, incest and teenage pregnancy are also matters which should be adequately dealt with in this document.

Guyana has to become the guiding light for the other Caricom countries and South American neighbours. It must advance the best National Youth Policy to further advance the spirit and aspirations of young Guyanese, who are already making sterling contributions to the world over.

President Donald Ramotar, who has the overwhelming support of Guyanese youth, can ill-afford to allow the implementation of a National Youth Policy to be an opportunity missed and squandered during his tenure in office.

It is time he intervenes, and brings the long overdue visionary and guiding document to fruition.

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MDGs update

A new report launched last week by UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon points to the fact that millions of people’s lives have improved due to concerted global, regional, national and local efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which serve as the foundation for the next global development agenda.

The MDGs report is based on comprehensive official statistics andprovides the most up-to-date summary of all Goals and their targets at global and regional levels, with additional national statistics available online. Results show that concentrated efforts to achieve MDG targets by national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector are working to lift people out of extreme poverty and improve their futures.

Increasing access to improved drinking-water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary school, many more targets are within reach by their 2015 target date. The world will likely surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment, and the hunger target looks within reach.

Big MDG gains continue. For example, over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half, which means about 17,000 children are saved every day. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

Antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected people has saved 6.6 million lives since 1995, and expanding its coverage could save many more. Between 2000 and 2012, an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria were averted due to substantial expansion of malaria interventions. Since 1995, efforts to fight tuberculosis saved an estimated 22 million lives.

Guyana has made tremendous gains in achieving the MDG targets. This country has advanced in its efforts to reduce hunger, increase access to social services and benefits, improve enrolment in and completion of primary education, increase empowerment of women and achieve environmental sustainability.

There is still a need for more concerted efforts to be made on all fronts in confronting the challenges we face in relation to the other MDGs. The prospects of achieving all the MDGs will be vastly improved with the sustained economic growth and its effects on household income, revenue generation and public expenditure outlays. The broader political climate will remain critical in creating a conducive environment to encourage greater capital investment in the country and slow down the outward migration of critical professional and technical skills.

Some MDG targets related to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are slipping away from achievement by 2015.

Since 1990, 2.3 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking water source. Over one-quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet one billion people still resort to open defecation. Therefore, much greater effort and investment will be needed to alter inadequate sanitation facilities.

In relation to maternity deaths, worldwide, almost 300,000 women died in 2013 from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Most pregnant women in developing regions see a skilled health provider at least once, but only half get the recommended four antenatal check-ups. Of note too is that preventable conditions, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, are the main killers for children under age five.

In 2012, an estimated 25 per cent of children under age five were stunted — having inadequate height for their age. While this is a significant decline from 40 per cent in 1990, 162 million young children still suffer frompreventable,   chronic   under-nutrition.

With the targets for the MDGs set to conclude at the end of 2015, UN member states are in the midst of considering a broader set of goals to follow that are likely to be agreed by world leaders in September 2015. We are in agreement with the report’s conclusion which states: “Continued progress towards the MDGs in the remaining year is essential for what comes next.”


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Youth development

The area of youth development has been receiving considerable attention from Government, mainly because it sees investment in youth as an investment for the future, but notwithstanding the good effort, some serious problems still abound in society.

The prevailing situation points to the need for all stakeholders to see youth development not only from the perspective of individual families, but as a collective community effort, with the country at heart.

The Administration no doubt has been doing its part, as this is evident in the national budget where the education sector receives the largest slice of the pie year after year.

Naturally, the chief policymakers recognise the transformative impact education can have on the lives of young people and national development in not only bridging the gap in poverty, but also helping to create a society where peace, harmony and cultural understanding flourish.

And in a multi-racial, multi-cultural society as Guyana, where symptoms of ethnic fractures still exist, this level of investment which includes free education from nursery to secondary, examination subsidies, a variety of skills training programmes and low-income housing, cannot be overstated.

The performance of the education sector in terms of desirable outcome is a different matter, but overall, Government’s investment in youth development cannot objectively speaking be deemed inadequate.

After all, investments in youth development should be a partnership approach involving the family, society, the state and the private sector. Family in the sense of being the nurturer of the child; society, which include religious institutions, as the moulder of the child; the state as the provider of avenues for the child’s overall development; and the private sector as an agent that rewards excellence and innovation, supports skills development and provide opportunities not provided by the State.

This is not a perfect but a basic model of the support structures to foster youth development, and from all indications, every step of the layer is weak.

And it is manifested in the high number of teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and youth involvement in crime. In fact, the majority of criminals are between the ages of 18 and 25.

This problem can be attributed mainly to poor parenting, peer pressure, an unresponsive school system, and the failure of religious establishments to successfully transmit the view that a crime is not only an act punishable by the law, but is a sin against God.

Therefore, the failures of youth should not be viewed as a failure on the part of the family or the State alone, but rather a shortcoming of all relevant stakeholders, and should be addressed through a collective approach.

It was highly encouraging to see the Guyana Police Force reaching out to vulnerable youths of the depressed community of Albouystown, and one hopes, that the Force will keep its promise, and expand the programme to other communities where it is most needed and the business community would maintain their support.

On the corporate side, the NEW GPC INC is the sponsor of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League. The deal, apart from reviving the passion of West Indies cricket, serves as inspiration for youth with an interest in sport, provides an avenue for positive enjoyment, the bringing together of families and the creation of an atmosphere where friends and foes can hug and shake hands indiscriminately.

NEW GPC has traditionally been an avid supporter of sport, which automatically translates to fervent supporter of youth development.

What the country now needs is the streamlining of its vision for youth development in policy documents that reflect the input of all stakeholders.

And to its credit, the Government has started work in this regard, but it is woeful to say the least that the Culture, Youth and Sport Ministry has been working on the document for more than six years and cannot complete it.

Perhaps it would require a caesarean for the National Youth Policy to be born.

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Dangerous ethnic calculus

The just released 2012 Census, even though provisional and only cursorily disaggregated, is acting like a Rorschach test to some Guyanese: they look at the raw data and proceed to project their inner state of mind as “explanations” of the data.

While some focused on the causative factors behind the relatively flat population graph – such as migration, lower fertility rates or higher death rates – others such as ex-Speaker Ralph Ramkarran, jumped on the “ethnic implications” on politics, even though the ethnic breakdown has not been released.

No Guyanese would doubt that ethnicity and politics are intertwined in Guyana. But by blithely equating ethnic percentages into voting percentages for the political parties and segueing into “power-sharing” based on the said percentages, such commentators are not only exposing their reductionist racial arithmetic, but also the mindset that has kept Guyana in its underdeveloped state for the last half century.

If nothing else, Guyanese are in agreement that our ethnic divisions have proven to be disastrous when linked with politics. So one would assume that responsible commentators would proffer proposals to reduce, not exacerbate, the negative aspects of ethnic voting. And this is exactly what power-sharing linked to the ethnic breakdown would do.

First of all, the proposal would ineluctably lead to racial quotas for each office in the Executive – irrespective of their competency to get the job done. This is the reality over the last 50 years, with the caveat that most of the individuals from the “other group” were considered “tokens” by their group members. The million-dollar question, of course, is who would become President of the Republic?

All studies in this area have confirmed that in ethnically divided societies, the identity of the top leader of the State is crucial for creating “legitimacy” in the eyes of the several groups. With the centripetal nature of the office of Chief Executive in all modern countries, appointing someone from another group as “number two” does not address the “legitimacy” question.

But there is another, even more fundamentally flawed assumption in the argument for ethnic “power-sharing”: it assumes that ethnicity is a primordial – almost genetic – immutable artefact. But our own history has shown that this is not so: the “Africans” that were brought as slaves were from significantly different cultures – but yet today, they are all lumped as “one”. By selecting the governors of the state from present “ethnic” communities, we would be automatically destroying any chance for a new “Guyanese ethnicity” – of becoming “one people” – ever becoming reality.

At a more mundane, but ultimately just as destructive level, the same shifting demographics that prompted Ramkarran’s call for ethnic power sharing, creates its own inbuilt fatal contradiction. Let us say that Guyana agrees to a particular share of the Executive based on the 2012 Census. What happens when the next census comes out in another decade? Is the “formula” to be revised after every Census?

The problem that arises is that this option in fossilising the power distribution creates an explosive situation. Lebanon became one of the first flash points in the Middle East because their “religious” power-sharing became untenable when the majority Christians, became a minority. Once acquired, power is not given up willingly.

Rather than seeking to reify our present ethnic configuration, it is our position that as far as possible our state institutions should seek to reduce the economic and other imbalances between the various groups and create a situation where meritocracy is the governing principle. One of the earliest theoreticians of “plural societies”, the Caribbean’s own MG Smith, pointed out that what sustained fissiparous tendencies in such societies was the “differential incorporation” of the various groups in the power relations in the society.

Just selecting “leaders” from the groups for the Executive does nothing to reduce the inbuilt destabilising factor. Ethnic power-sharing is a “cure” that is worse than the “disease”.

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