Private businesses struggle to lead in generating our economy.
Despite lots of thriving private businesses, and a new class of nouveau riche with questionable origin of wealth, the national economy struggles firmly in the grips of State bureaucrats.
Government plays a vital role in economic generation, with billions of dollars spent on State-awarded contracts for buildings, roads and bridges, and in public health, education and community management.
Since free and fair elections in 1992 ushered in a quasi-democratic Government, the nation saw a dual State-Private Sector rally to right the twisted economy.
But today the State still controls the society. We see a blatant hegemony of the ruling party in the strangulation of the State media, the obsessive corruption over awarding of State contracts, the psychotic tight grip on institutions like the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd. (NICIL), the blatant privilege to friends and family of powerful folks, and the list goes on.
Private business owners cozy up to State officials, expecting they could face persecution or harassment from State agencies if they dare step on the toe of a big bureaucrat. Those who dare speak out in the society face daunting set-backs in their businesses.
The nation suffers still from a stunted State-run economy. Our Cooperative Sector remains mired in infancy, with hardly any sophisticated effort made to develop its astonishing potential to make a difference for local communities all across this land.
What’s to be done?
No one ever talks in this country about things like economic innovation, or a digital economy, or the 21st century information society. It’s like if our leaders are caught in a stupor, unable to see a clear future for the people of this land.
We lack vision. We lack insights. We lack thinking in the public square.
What’s to be done?
Apart from the desperate need to engineer a national literacy campaign for literary classics to become household activities again, this nation needs leaders to rise up in communities all across the country to nurture young entrepreneurs.
The future lies not in the hands of a backward government peppered with visionless bureaucrats who refuse to show depth of character in their leadership, but rather in the hands of bright young people who would employ their initiative to build great enterprises.
All across the world we see what Guyanese accomplish. In Canada, the US, the Caribbean, Europe, migrated Guyanese have excelled. Many have become multimillionaires, employing that well-known Guyanese knack for turning over a business, for hard work.
Many local folks have excelled in business, albeit small and local.
This nation would see wondrous miracles if a leader would stand out from the madding crowd to reach out and commit to nurture a new generation of socially conscientious business leaders.
We need a national programme in communities along the Coast, in the hinterland and on the Essequibo islands whereby inspirational, conscientious, accomplished business leaders nurture and mentor and coach aspiring young entrepreneurs.
We need such a programme to reach into the national school system, working hand in hand with the Ministry of Education, to teach business students how to start and operate their own business.
It would be amazing if these nurturers of future entrepreneurs teach also social responsibility, a conscientious caring for society.
The world is moving to embrace a new kind of business leader – the one who cares for community, who loves people more than profit, who looks at business as sustainable living rather than plunder and pillage.
The State policy that builds developed societies always focuses on individual empowerment, even in communist China, where private enterprise in economic zones sees Chinese billionaires emerging.
In India, gifted entrepreneurs use their social conscience to pull hundreds of millions of poor Indians out of gross poverty, and become billionaires in the process. Tata’s $2,000 car, the Nano, comes to mind.
Another Indian company has built a $20 computer to bring literacy and computerization to a billion poor souls in our world.
Here, we beg for free gifts from China, or take exorbitant loans, to fund our inefficient OLPF programme.
Commentators have urged the State to employ local folks in a computer assembly plant to provide the 100,000 laptops to poor families.
The pleas fell on deaf ears. Why? Because the Government maintains a death-grip on such initiative.
In the North West, Pomeroon, Moruca, Lethem, and all across the villages and towns and the City on the coast, scores of young men and women waste their youth, their energy, their minds and their strength idling – not reading good books, not curious about online culture, not interested in their world.
All this is wasted potential.
The Private Sector Commission or the Georgetown Chamber of Industry and Commerce could easily launch a national programme, funded by international grants and aid and local business goodwill contributions, to inspire, train and teach selected young people in every community to dream and create.
We live in a world where the individual is supremely empowered. One person with an Internet connection could reach the entire global village.
Just one good idea, nurtured and developed, could make a difference for so many people.
Why doesn’t this kind of global difference originate in our nation?
We must foster a social environment to make such things happen, as an instinctive national characteristic.
We must believe in the initiative and potential of the individual Guyanese person.
With that belief as our motivation, we need to develop a national project, with set goals and a workable Action Plan, to see that within the next three, five, ten, twenty years, we would nurture and create an entrepreneur class that has this nation buzzing with creative energy, dynamic sustainability and global contribution.
The seed for such a programme could be planted at the University of Guyana, and in the national public school system, to train leaders who would move out into communities, select possible entrepreneur candidates, and train them in community centres, after-school programmes and even through online classes.
We must start empowering people for personal initiative to reign in the land.