There is a reason why Peter Ramsaroop’s political career is defined by what I view as ‘grasshopper’ errors. That is evident in Mr Ramsaroop’s letter titled ‘The economic slump is self inflicted’ (SN, July 23). I hold no brief for this current government given its dictatorial escapades since its rise to power, but to blame the government for world events such as falling commodity prices which started before this government got to power has to be downright intellectual dishonesty. The downturn in the Guyana economy was happening even before the coalition won power. Furthermore, any attempt to correct the excesses of a previous administration in an environment of economic sloth will further slow down the economy. That said, the moral hazard of the PPP regime could not have been allowed to continue. A government simply cannot continue to condone corruption, waste and bloated uneconomical projects simply because it will add to a slowdown. The more those ills remain the greater the ultimate economic derailment. So, to blame the government for taking action to create some economic efficiency is utterly nihilistic. While I agree with Mr Ramsaroop that the failure by this government to fulfil the 100-day plan promises by blaming the empty treasury is nonsense, because the government knew the state of the treasury was going to be parlous, I have a serious beef with Mr Ramsaroop over his claim that there was no prediction of a 2015 deficit. There is no evidence of a deficit to date. Further, the fact of the matter is that the PPP has clearly understated some of the statistics as is being discovered; they knew commodity prices would decline and they have always run a deficit (as shown by the true size of the national debt). So, any prediction of no deficit in 2015 was bogus to begin with.
The PPP saddled this country with a parallel public service filled with card-carrying PPP contract workers earning large amounts of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing of value. There is millions to be saved there in removing the deadweight. The question is whether the larger partner of this government will take similar steps to trim the traditional public sector, teeming with its supporters of similar deadweight. With falling commodity prices, money has to be found and savings to be discovered. Guyana has no control over the US interest rate manipulations. If the Guyana dollar declines, it will improve the prospects for our commodity exports, which need any kind of boost. Mr Ramsaroop’s solutions are, as usual, ill-timed. How does a commodity-driven economy facing falling commodity prices find the money to invest in value-added, or better yet, find investors to shove money into value-added? Value-added should have been done in the years when the PPP had good commodity prices. There is a time and place for value added. Similarly, corporate tax reduction must be closely studied to see if it benefits the Guyana economy which sees dominance by larger foreign corporations that ship profits offshore. I agree that the transport economics must be pursued, but again, is that viable for Brazil given its own slump?
Then there is the statement from Ramsaroop: “The handling of the Venezuela claim issue has also dug a hole in both the local and foreign investor confidence level.” Forgetting ExxonMobil’s massive investment in Guyana during the said claim issue, is Mr Ramsaroop forgetting that Guyana is a primary commodity-driven economy experiencing a worldwide slump in commodity prices? Rational economics says investor confidence has to be down in such an economy. Venezuela had maintained this same ludicrous claim during the PPP’s 23-year rule and during the commodity booms in those 23 years. Investor confidence was not dented during the commodity booms. How exactly does Mr Ramsaroop, sitting comfortably in Mr Jagdeo’s shadow, want Venezuela’s new claim to virtually all of Guyana’s maritime resources in addition to its existing claim to five-eighths of its land, to be handled? Does he want the PPP’s ‘sucking-up’ to Venezuela and trapping Guyana with PetroCaribe as a policy when that foreign power wants to take virtually all of your land and maritime resources? There is something seriously wrong with anyone having an issue with a President complaining about the absurd territorial claims of a neighbour. Is Mr Ramsaroop proposing we offer Venezuela almost all of Guyana in order to preserve investor confidence in the less than three eighths of Guyana that will be left?
Finally, Mr Ramsaroop’s suggestion of a tri-country partnership with Venezuela and Suriname, two countries with claims to our territory, to develop our oil industry, has to be the silliest utterance ever published in a Guyana newspaper. How could he suggest that we invite in neighbours with territorial designs on our country to establish vast economic ties, and exploit our resources on the very land they are claiming as theirs? One of those countries, Venezuela, has the kind of resources to utterly dominate any Guyanese oil industry. What Mr Ramsaroop is suggesting is for us to enable Venezuela and Suriname to hold possessions within this country, the one thing that has not ever been done and should not ever be allowed. What is being suggested here is providing an opening for an invasion of Guyana by Suriname or Venezuela if a situation should ever arise which would allow them the pretext of claiming to protect their economic interests.