In spite of what the Minister said at his press conference to review the country’s 2017 Half Year Perfor-mance Report, he missed the biggest take-away from the story that the economy is trying to tell us all. The real risk to the economy has increased greatly since May 2015, both on the domestic front and on the international front. This situation demands financial leadership from Team Granger. But so far there is little to be found. This means that the necessary targeted attention that the economy needs has not been applied at the right time to the right growth centres since May 2015. There are consequences: widespread policy paralysis over the last 26 months.
On page 50 of the Half Year Report, the Minister highlighted the facts that the “risks to the achievement of the overall fiscal targets are skewed to the domestic side”. It has been his job over these last 26 months to come up with solutions. Such a role cannot be outsourced to another commission of inquiry; there is only one Minister and one President and so far after 26 months they have both failed the people on multiple fronts.
By extension, this contagion has now infected the image of the entire Granger cabinet as a gathering of underperformers. Their endorsement of Mr Jordan’s package of ineffective policy action has now taken Guyana off its traditional growth path with no plan on how to backfill the economic vacuum. The big-gest miscalculation from Team Granger is that this economy can advance without full government support to the six sisters. They failed on many fronts to understand how the Guyanese economy grows. Without the six sisters – sugar, rice, gold, bauxite, timber and seafood, there will be no material growth in the economy, full stop!
The Minister can talk from now until the cows come home on the potential of the ICT sector, the oil and gas sector, the trading sector and so on, but we all know those sectors can only add to the export figures when Go-INVEST wakes up, and it has been in a very deep sleep since May 2015. The outcome is there are very few green shoots of any serious new financial inflows in these sectors that can backfill the financial hole left by the underperformance in the traditional sectors.
This is not expected to change soon, so we must expect considerable economic hardship affecting the people over the next 2½ years.
There is enough evidence that over the last decade one of the sisters has been abused. But what is interesting is that with the change of government, rather than the abuse being brought to an end, it actually accelerated. I speak directly to the plundering of the sugar belt by the Granger regime today. Then immediately upon his assumption of office, President Granger attempted to render the rice industry his orphan with his silly statement issued in October 2015 that the affairs in the rice industry are “private arrangements”. This statement found endorsement in the fact that there was little help for the ordinary farmers from the Granger regime. The end result was a poor contribution from the rice industry in 2016 that brought great harm to the economy last year.
Luckily these same private farmers in their private arrangements were able to dig deep into their reserves in 2017 and planted a bigger first crop. Their fortitude helped expand rice exports by some US$30 million to compensate for the decline in the gold exports in the first half of 2017. This patriotic act by itself has saved Guyana from a cataclysmic economic meltdown in 2017.