This economy needs foreign investment and trade on a scale which has not been attempted before, based on the potential of new industries to create well-paid jobs for our people and bring increased revenues for our country. Over the years, in relation to my political involvement in Guyana, I have always had, as one of my main reasons for entering politics, a special outlook that foreign trade and investment (as well as local trade and investment) are vital elements in our positive development.The PPP’s refusal to fully embrace this concept is one of the main reasons myself and that party parted ways.
The PPP’s way to ‘expand’ foreign trade and investment was to increase the red tape and incessant delays for investors; expand the improprieties in every area of investment potential; sustain the friends and family nepotistic ways which retarded meritocracy, a vital compound in the complexities of investment and trade; bring a new imperialism to our country where raw materials (such as timber) were taken to be converted into manufactured goods elsewhere, making us the big losers; allowing investments from abroad to ignore Guyanese workers (the Marriott) and bring their own, creating further crises in our underemployed and unemployed work force; having no vision as to the investment potential of North America and Europe and seeking and encouraging these lucrative marketplaces to put Guyana on the map as a good place in which to invest and expand trade links; failing miserably to expand our infrastructure to accommodate expanded investment and trade, instead of the patchwork fixing arranged by the then Ministry of Works headed by Mr Robeson Benn; failing to protect local business people from foreigners, who are now monopolizing local markets and forcing local businesses to downsize or close down; failing to make the University of Guyana a much better institute of knowledge so as to prepare our youths for the challenges of new job opportunities with increased foreign trade.
Editor, all of the above, dictated by the PPP’s inherent distrust of foreign investment as a pivotal element, especially in the development of an economy like Guyana’s, are the areas where the new government needs to bring changes − and the sooner the better. We have to protect local businesses from any monopoly by foreigners; we have to make sure, as our new foreign minister said in a speech in Islamabad, Pakistan in the 1980s, (when Finance Minister) that “carpetbaggers” should not be allowed into Guyana, only genuine, certified investors.
We have to make sure that meritocracy is the watchword and not nepotism, domination or greed; we have to expand our exploration of new investments from places as diverse as Vietnam, France and Australia, and seriously expand trade and commerce with North America. We have to cut down on the red tape and lengthy time it takes for an investor to get the go-ahead − look at India and Costa Rica where decisions on foreign investment take weeks, not years. We also have to bring UG to world class standard so as to accommodate new investments with bright and ambitious young people − Dr Roopnaraine, our new minister, will see to that.
Editor, it is very encouraging to see that Mr Greenidge stated that foreign embassies will concentrate on investments and trade; that is a major part of any vision for trade expansion and much better job opportunities for our youth. Mr Greenidge is on the spot when he made this announcement because − check the history − from Rome to the USA, foreign investment and trade were the driving forces of development, and those times when these factors lagged were periods of declining standards of living. Anywhere on this planet, trade and investment are the factors which open new avenues to the creation of wealth and with Guyana’s huge reserves of commodities, from food production and mineral extraction to water resources and everything in between, using foreign and local new technologies, we can become self-sufficient − the very essence of being a nation.
Cheddi (Joey) Jagan (Jr)