I have started a conversation with the Guyanese public on my ‘I Am Guyana’ television show on Chandra Narine Sharma (CNS) – Channel 6, and generally at other forums about a ‘citizens’ vision’ for Guyana’s development. I think that by 2032, Guyana can become the ‘Singapore’ of South America. Many persons have asked whether it would not be more realistic for us to focus on becoming the Singapore of the Caribbean, but my response is no. I would like to stick to the Singapore of South America because I do believe that we can achieve this.
The obvious next question I get is how can we do it? However, before I answer that question, I would like to note that for decades one of the things that Guyanese around the world would say is that since they were children, they were hearing that Guyana has a lot of potential and can become a very influential country globally in many respects, but yet in 2013, Guyana has not really realized that potential.
Now for the response to the question, how can we become the Singapore of South America as a national vision for the country. Firstly, Singapore has moved from doing poverty reduction to now doing wealth management. When Singapore became independent from Malaysia on August 9, 1969, more than 50 years ago, the country was faced with several profound issues such as mass unemployment and housing shortages, among others; it took the country about two generations to make this progression. I am suggesting that Guyana can make the same progression ‒ from poverty reduction to wealth management ‒ over the next 19 years, well more like 20 years, because I started to promote this concept last year.
Singapore at the time of its independence also had issues such as lack of land and natural resources, for example, petroleum, as well as racial tensions. Guyana on the other hand, has huge amounts of land, natural and other resources such as, sugar, gold, bauxite, alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum and timber, among others. So we have more to start with than what Singapore had.
I am proposing that we roll out this vision incrementally, in periods of four and five years. We have to grow Guyana up, grow Guyana down and grow Guyana out.
Growing Guyana up means improving the quality of the citizenry and would require embarking on an aggressive and comprehensive citizens’ social change programme over the next four years. This will require us to improve in synergy, service, strategic thinking ‒ planning and coordination, building strong social capital and being solution-oriented and scientific.
Growing Guyana down, refers to the improving the quality of the leadership.
Growing Guyana out, means improving the economy. Fundamental to growing Guyana out, is to improve the middle class and reduce the lower class. Our economy has a pyramid shape: at the apex, there is a small upper class, below the apex, there is a small but slowly growing middle class and at the base, there is a huge lower class. The Barbados and Singapore economies, are shaped like a diamond, with a small upper class, a huge middle class and a small lower class.
The upper class consists of people with power, wealth and status; the middle class consists of people with either power, wealth or status and the lower class consist of people with neither power, wealth or status. In the context of growing Guyana out, increasing the middle class is fundamental. We need to move people up from the base of the pyramid ‒ from the lower class ‒ by creating opportunities for them to have either, power, wealth or status, hence changing the shape of the economy from a pyramid to a diamond shape.
From 2013-2016, the focus should be on social change ‒ improving service at the individual, institutional and societal levels; developing more synergy in our development processes; strategically thinking about our future as individuals, institutions and a society from a personal, family, community and the societal perspective; building strong social capital by improving relations and relationships; and understanding the science and art of development and being more solution-oriented, focusing on finding solutions to development problems as against merely being diagnostic by identifying the challenges.
From 2013-2021, the focus should be on growing the middle class, reducing unemployment, and expanding the choices and opportunities for the lower class, as well as moving the country beyond being project-oriented to becoming more programme-oriented. Hence in a wider and more strategic focus, programmes and projects should be about growing the middle class.
Therefore our housing programme should be about growing the middle class. If people own their own homes, it gives them status as a home owner. In the education sector secondary, tertiary and vocational educational training programmes should really zero in on building capacity and capabilities to grow the middle class. In the case of our business ventures, our private sector focus should be on contributing to the growth of the middle class, likewise the banking and other relevant sectors.
From 2013-2032, the focus should also be on growing the size of the population. I was suggesting two million, but some persons are of the view that a more realistic and manageable number may be 1.2-1.5 million. Growing the population could occur through an increase in the birth rate which would involve enhancing the quality of the institution of the family, the introduction of incentives to reduce out-migration and encouraging the re-migration of citizens and in-migration of non-nationals. I have spoken to persons in Europe who would like to have somewhere warm to live after retirement; we can prepare Guyana as one of the options by improving our social services and health care sectors, among others. During this period focus will also be on more strategic infrastructural development.
Therefore with this vision in mind, our students’ attention on acquiring an education, would be a means to an end ‒ to contribute towards this development vision. Our politicians, irrespective of which party gets into government and the details of their manifesto, would work towards a 2032 vision for the country to make Guyana the Singapore of South America.
This is my dream for Guyana, but as singer John Lennon says “You may say I’m a dreamer,” although I sincerely hope that I am not the only one.