Economic discourse in a season of political rancour

If the full details of what we are told will be an important two-day (August 14-15) national economic summit are yet to be made known, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wondering aloud about the significance of this forum and about just what the anticipated outcomes are.

There is at least one good reason to wonder what we can expect from this event. Over the years there has been no shortage of public fora – most of them have had to do with economic issues – that have come and gone without the country as a whole even being properly briefed about their outcomes. Afterwards, they simply fade into oblivion.

Some of those gatherings of recent years have had to do with issues like local and regional food security. Indeed, one recalls that last November high level engagements between the Agriculture Ministry here and the Trinidad Ministry of Food Production  were convened in Georgetown. After the engagements were completed we were promised a MOU which was to have been a precursor to joint business ventures in agriculture and agro processing between investors in Trinidad and Tobago and farmers here. Our enquiries with the Ministry of Agriculture are still to bear fruit as far as learning just where we are with the promised MOU.

If there is nothing wrong with periodically bringing together the nation’s best minds to contemplate developmental issues and give shape and substance to development plans, these fora must involve all of the various stakeholders in the society at one level or another. If it is by no means expected that the entire populace can enjoin the kinds of discourses that ensue at these fora, the policymakers have a duty to brief the nation beforehand on both the agenda and the anticipated outcomes so that we can all have some measure of understanding of the purpose of whatever forum might be taking place and just how we can expect the country as a whole to benefit from the exercise.

Interestingly, the August 14-15 forum will be taking place at a less than ideal moment – politically, that is, in the country’s history. The political air in the Republic is thick with acrimony and posturing so that one has to wonder whether the deliberations of the forum will actually get the focused attention of the political opposition or whether this might not turn out to be one of those events that provide opportunity for dissonant noises on both sides of the political spectrum. That way, of course, however well-intentioned the efforts of many of the stakeholders – private sector and civil society participants, for example – might be, good intentions will become subsumed beneath the imperative of politics and the effort would have been wasted.

All this, of course, is pure conjecture.  It is true that there is a mountain of developmental issues that are deserving of a constructive forum in a socio-political environment where a sense of mindfulness of the good of the nation supersedes the narrowness that now, as a matter of course, is commonplace in our country. So that while we must wish the deliberations of the forthcoming economic forum well we have every reason to be dubious that an event of this nature will deliver what, presumably, are the hoped-for national outcomes in circumstances where the collective political will to take Guyana forward, is, at least at this time, decidedly non-existent.

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