February 20 is designated by the United Nations as World Day of Social Justice, so this is an opportune time to reflect on the state of human development (or underdevelopment ) in Guyana and the world as a whole.
To say that there is a big gap between the rich and the poor is an understatement. Millions of people, including children, die each year due to poverty and want, especially in the underdeveloped world. The sad fact of life is that poverty is largely man-made. I do not subscribe to the view that people are poor because they are lazy. It is a structural problem which resulted mainly from a capitalistic mode of production and distribution. The driving force behind capitalism is profits for the few at the expense workers and their families.
This is why the call by Dr Cheddi Jagan for a New Global Human Order has had such great resonance not only in Guyana, but in the world at large. It is to the credit of Dr Jagan that his idea of a New Global Human Order was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It is now for the Guyana government to put in place the necessary mechanisms at the diplomatic level for the United Nations to give effect to this noble gesture. In this regard, there could be no better time than now, the centenary year of the birth of Dr Jagan to push the cause of the better and more humane global society he envisioned.
There is an unacceptably high level of poverty in Guyana and the world. In our case, it is poverty in the midst of plenty. We have all that is necessary to create a more equitable and just society except for the political will to do so.
With the anticipated flow of oil money, there are new opportunities to fund pro-poor policies and programmes along the lines suggested by Dr Jagan when he adumbrated a people-centred development strategy following the assumption to office of the PPP/C on October 5, 1992.
Development is all about people. Increases in a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) mean nothing if they do not translate into an enhanced quality of life for all. As Dr Jagan reminded us so often, it is quite possible to have growth without development, as happened in several oil rich countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. It is the responsibility of the government to manage the enormous resources at our disposal for the benefit of all Guyanese, in particular the poor and the marginalized. History will not be kind to those entrusted with the management of our national patrimony and wealth if we continue to remain poor in the midst of plenty. This is the challenge before us as a nation. As we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Republican status, we should take the opportunity for some new and fresh thinking on the way forward.