Land should be used as a stimulant for self employment

Dear Editor,

The President of Guyana was caught again talking about 4.5 per cent growth, yet close to 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty, a marginal decline from 43 per cent from a decade ago. Over the last decade, Guyana lived through a period of policy paralysis that drove inequality of opportunities and jobless growth. What we continue to observe under this Jagdeo model is a closed circle at the top of the food chain that monopolizes the nation’s resources by using custom-made public policy to marginalize the majority. Guyana can never develop its human capacity until and unless this process is changed and there is a return of trust by the people in the governance structure.

The Jagdeo model has fostered a collection of public policies that rewarded the politically connected and penalized those who were deemed to be against the political establishment. This policy has resulted in many of the billion dollar projects like the ICT cable project being bungled to the financial loss of the people, and it continues to deny Guyana that opportunity to transform into a value added society. In the meantime, the Ramotar regime continues to underserve the real needs of the secondary school system, the technical institutes and most importantly the University of Guyana which results in an army of university graduates who are under-trained and under-skilled and thus mostly unfit to compete for the few good jobs available in Guyana.

But we cannot blame the rich if the process and public policies of the Jagdeo-Ramotar decade of destruction encouraged deals for a select few. All can remember when the Jagdeo regime retroactively legalized an illegality in the enforcement of the tax laws so that the Sanata Textiles complex could be transferred with a sizable tax holiday to a very close friend of the PPP.

In Guyana right now under the PPP Government, according to a World Bank study, “the richest 20 percent of the population controls 50 percent of the income, while the poorest 20 percent only controls 4 percent.”

A new government has to outline as a priority, a detailed land use policy that outlines key agrarian reforms with firm deliverables within a defined period. The bottom-line must be land for the landless. The poor must secure greater access to land so that they can provide food for their families, build their own homes and use that land to leverage investment capital for themselves to incubate new business ideas. This model will certainly allow for a greater share of the national pie being more fairly distributed to more people.

Given the capacity constraints Guyana continue to face, and the high unemployment being experienced nationally compared to countries with similar growth rates, the message should be that all 74 of the Amerindian villages will be fully demarcated, with titles handed over to the village captains within three years of the assumption of a new government to office. Further measures ought to be taken to ensure every single member of the landless communities are provided with lands based on set criteria of need. The AFC in 2011 promised 10 Regional Entrepreneur Parks and 10 Regional Mechanical Workshops in every administrative region. This model can serve as a great platform and a means of providing land for the landless.

Further, no more should people be allowed to live in rural shanty-towns like Plastic City and Pigeon Island. This issue has to be urgently addressed. Land must be used as a stimulant for self-employment and for the fostering of economic growth with new jobs with greater human development. It can be done, it must be done!

 

Yours faithfully,
Sase Singh

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