In this elections campaign, Government hails its macro-economic policies and parade economic statistics to prove that it has developed this country over the past 19 years.
Since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic took office in 1992, it slashed the national debt which had ballooned out of control, by half, albeit from generous debt forgiveness as a low-income country.
Riding on economic policies begun under late President Desmond Hoyte, this government vastly improved the public transportation system, solved the crushing housing crisis of the early 1990’s, and marginally improved the local business scene.
These days the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Private Sector Commission and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association are silent on social and political issues. These organizations, along with the Trades Union Congress and other unions, all once vociferously complained against various government policies. They no longer complain.
They do not complain because the general macro-economic situation has vastly improved, with a steady GDP growth rate, a doubling of the Gross National Product, and a healthy foreign exchange reserve.
Yet, the picture that State bureaucrats paint on the election platform is not the picture people see on the streets, and in villages and towns across this nation.
Apart from devastating failures in curbing widespread public corruption, and in reducing white collar crime, including hundreds of unsolved brutal murders, this Government comes across as arrogant, undemocratic and inept in its leadership capabilities.
Government seems to completely ignore local communities, except to campaign for votes.
Sugar workers, bauxite workers, UG graduates, teachers, nurses and the vast swath of unemployed people all see a Guyana that does not satisfy their basic needs.
Foreign aid, both to fund the national budget and to families through remittances, remains the main pillar of the national economy.
Professor Clive Thomas has also written in the Stabroek News that white collar crime contributes heavily to the local economy.
If we take away foreign aid and white collar dollars, the local economy would look awful.
One reason top business leaders stopped complaining about the state of affairs in this country is that the rich benefit greatly from this economic policy of concentrating on macro-economic issues. Such a policy fuels the rich becoming richer.
But this nation suffers from 40 percent gross poverty, nearly half the population.
The shrinking middle class exists on the brink of poverty. The fact is that most people, the majority, do not see a rosy, successful country.
There is a huge chasm between the way the Government sees this land, and the way the voters see it.
The voters want to see development of their communities. In village after village and town after town, people see little progress over the past 19 years, because their community remains mired in severe under-development.
Linden is a classic example. The ruling Party, at its recent rally there, promised a vibrant bauxite industry, with over 1000 new jobs, spearheaded by local stalwart, Prime Minister Sam Hinds.
Linden, for the past 19 years, has waited almost in vain for such community progress.
None of the political parties go into local communities and present to the local voters a well-thought out and well-developed Plan of Action for that community.
The exception might be the PPP/C promise to Lindeners, but this could just be electioneering talk, as this party had 19 years to make such talk reality.
This country needs, urgently, its leaders to parade development projects for individual local communities.
Most leaders jump on the political platform in 2011 and proceed to indulge in a severe verbal blasting of opposing parties. Very few offer sound local community development projects.
The kind of development that happened at Eccles and Diamond on the East Bank Demerara needs to be replicated across the country.
Both communities saw development based on housing, with vast tracts of state land turned into residential areas.
Even in these communities we do not see a structured development policy at work. Rather they seem to be ad hoc burgeoning suburbs fuelled by the housing boom, which ride on high interest loans from local commercial banks.
People across the country would be inspired and energized if even one political leader comes on the platform in local villages to propose development projects unique to that community.
It seems as if the political parties have not thought out how to build this country from ground up.
A building comes into shape one brick at a time. This country’s development will happen one community at a time, local project by local project.
We see grand projects like the Amaila Hydro power plant, the bauxite deals with Russian concerns and the sugar factories with Chinese and Indian inputs, all being paraded as the way to the future.
Government also champions large scale mining projects as an engine of development.
In this drive for the macro, the ordinary people see their local communities being by-passed.
Villages all across this country need community centres, entrepreneur training programmes, human resource development plans, and community development projects.
The political parties are not discussing these things on the electioneering platforms.
Nowhere do the citizens hear that a political party would welcome ideas and plans for development projects from local citizens.
It’s as if the leaders have all the answers, and the local people are just to vote and sit back and Central Government would make miracles happen.
But people want to play a role in their country’s development.
Local communities harbour talented, able people who have sound ideas for their villages.
The political parties need to start campaigning with a view to partnering with each local community.
Each village, each town, should be drafted in as a partner in the development process, and a file opened with ideas and plans for projects for that area.
This eye to the macro ignores the crucial input of local people in developing their community.
And in such a myopic stance, the entire country loses, despite the macro-economic statistics.