I welcome the forward-looking attitude in Barry Braithwaite’s letter in SN, 3rd March ‘We will be liberated economically by our oil resources’. A 50:50 split in revenues from our oil bonanza and the ongoing rapid pace towards production can only mean economic liberation for our country. But this transformation will call for vision and passion among both our citizenry and the top local and national decision-makers. We should already be planning not only for servicing and overseeing the oil sector, but also for the wider economy and society.
This is not the time for the small-mindedness of Peeping Tom and his KN editors in their clamouring that our future revenues are enough only to buy each of us a loaf of bread. At least, we know for sure we can’t put the money in their hands.
This is a time for big goals. This is a time for developing growth industries in areas such as agribusiness; a time for making Guyana a cheaper place for living and doing business (small and big) by reducing the cost of energy and transportation; a time to open up the hinterland and to link up the country through Guyana-21 type road networks; a time to leave no Guyanese behind.
I therefore noted with encouragement the comments of Minister Joe Harmon a few days ago on some development ideas the government had in mind. Unsurprisingly, none of the major newspapers picked up his statement. Criticizing the oil contract, not discussing development plans, seems to be catchier.
That said, the government needs to step up its game on this front. It must not remain timid in articulating its grand plans, its vision. People only want to be reassured that the oil revenues will make a felt difference to their lives ‒ and make that difference soon. That message and energy are not coming out from the coalition.
I, for one, have suggested that the government need not wait for 2020, but should start planning and financing development projects now based on pre-production, resource-based borrowing to be repaid by future oil proceeds. If there exist, as the Minister of Finance keeps reminding us, bottlenecks in expending budgeted funds even now, it is a problem we cannot keep living with. We have to fix it. Otherwise, these bottlenecks will keep us on square one forever, even with billions of dollars pouring in from oil revenues.
Enough from the so-called ‘oil experts’. Time to discuss and act on transforming the country and improving the lives of the people.