Private investment should drive Guyana’s development

Dear Editor,

It was a breath of fresh air reading Dennis Lee’s letter captioned, `Manzoor Nadir could not have influenced the PPP/C to take a free enterprise route if he had been outside the cabinet’.   My euphoria is not related to the merits of Manzoor accepting the olive branch from the PPP/C to be a Minister of Government.   Instead it is in relation to some of the remarks he made in making his point. Dennis wrote, “Let us not forget that the TUF is the only party amongst the PPP and PNC that advances free enterprise, ownership and freedom of the individual as its key pillars. The way TUF sees it,   Guyana’s way to development is through free enterprise and the capitalist system.”

Goodness, goodness, goodness. Peter D’Aguiar may be dead but it feels extremely good to know that there are still those, while very few, who are willing to represent his dream and be proud about it. I share those views so much so that I think that there should be a big effort to get this message across to those vying for leadership.

It is not that I was ever a member of the UF or TUF.  If their ideology was ever articulated as plain as Dennis’s remarks I do not know.   Not that I would have cared before. I was a member of the YSM, ACSRIA and ACDA.     My parents were staunch members of the PNC. As a youth I help them clear bush for the development of Sophia exhibition centre and the GDF schemes in Vryheid’s Lust and Melanie.

I came up in the unfortunate environment where being African meant supporting the PNC, Indian the PPP and Portuguese the UF.

Even with my extreme longing for the development of Guyana, in the wake of escalating crime perpetuated by the lack of opportunity and poverty, the obvious failings of Governance to effectively deal with the situations and the vehement calls for change in this election season, I am not excited about the prospects.

I am not excited because I am not hearing anything close to Dennis’s utterances coming out of the mouths of the present leadership aspirants.  I spent my entire life witnessing the destruction perpetuated on us by the PNC/PPP ideology, so I know what to expect. What is disappointing is the third party in contention – the intended balance between the two peas from the same pod – has not espoused anything different.

Really I am not excited about manifestos that read  “We will do this and we will bring in that”. I am very suspicious of Governance which ends up meaning ownership. I would much prefer to hear we will allow private investment. We will allow you (the people) to do this and that. We will contract Government and allow mostly Guyanese investors to run those parts of the economy that are now considered holy cows.

Tell me that, “We will give up Government mass ownership of land and allow private development of our road networks. We will revitalize the army and the Police force and set the perfect environment for commerce and development. We will expand the immigration department and have an efficient immigration system to protect our borders and handle the flow of persons passing through Guyana as Suriname pushes ahead with the bridge and other works on its way to Brazil, towards the Intercontinental highway.”

Who among the aspirants recognizes that it is impossible for Government to do and be the owner of everything?  Right at this moment the Linden to Lethem road or the absence thereof, is in full focus. We are begging the Brazilian Government to build our road. I cannot believe this. What would be the reaction from all concerned if it is mentioned that there is private investment, initiated by Guyanese, that is available for this venture?

Win, lose or draw, no taxpayer will be on the hook for a penny. For their efforts – giving Guyana the much needed and elusive Brazil road – will anyone concerned be willing to accept this deal and give the investors the rights to land or some prime spots along the road?

The Amaila project, with Government insistence on Chinese financing, may be costing tax payers US$200,000,000 in interest payments right off the bat, if one is to take Christopher Ram’s calculations of unexplained amounts in the negotiations.    I

I am privy to a correspondence that was sent out in May by a potential investor to the Sithe Team, “Our Company is in a position to acquire a minimum 40% equity in Amaila Hydro for USD280m. Based on due diligence, proof of funds an agreement could be available no later than sixty (60) days. We welcome your reply.”

The Company was professional; a lot more than can be said about getting responses from Guyana Government departments and private businesses.  There was a prompt reply, ”Thank you for your acquisition interest in the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project. Unfortunately, we are not open for discussion regarding equity acquisition for the Project. Very best, Sithe Global Team.”

I was perplexed ever since that information was communicated to me. Why would we want to shoulder taxpayers with debt when there are investors willing to put their money on the line for Guyana’s development? Is there any indication from potential contestants that there will be a different approach to these policies?

As I said before, so far I have not been given anything to be excited about except Mr. Granger’s plan to privatize GUYSUCO.     With that he was walking up my street but then he back pedalled under pressure rather that explain the merits. Who would be bold as Dennis Lee and present a paradigm shift?

I have no intention of giving up on Guyana.    Regardless of how the cookie crumbles I intend to, in the future, work with whoever is in charge. I hope I can gradually bring them around to doing the right thing for Guyana. I will not give up.

Yours faithfully,
F Skinner 

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