There seems be a lot of discussions in the society about how to spend the windfall from the coming oil wealth, but there is very little ongoing discussion on a National Development plan, in light of the massive injection of oil revenues into the economy.
Guyana is on the cusp of reaping one of the largest oil discoveries in Latin America and the Caribbean. ExxonMobil currently estimates future production of 750,000 bpd.
A recent New York Times article dealt with some important questions, which most Guyanese seem to have so far ignored, rather, registering petty grievances about a certain portrayal of the country. One of the questions that the article raised deals with Guyana’s readiness for the sudden oil wealth? The article artfully presented examples of societies that have come upon large oil discoveries, and the resultant pitfalls that left most of their citizens in poverty due to greed and corruption by political elites and their consiglieres. One example is Equatorial Guinea which has a similar structural and socio-economic make-up to Guyana. We are seeing the example of Venezuela unfolding before our eyes.
My contention is that Guyana needs a comprehensive National Development Plan. A society must always plan its development. However, a strategic development plan is much more important and urgent when the society is about to experience potentially major growth in GDP. What is the short, medium and long-term goals for development in Guyana? The purpose of national development planning is to promote sustainable, stable development of the country and to improve the quality of life of the people.
So far, the coalition government has failed to provide Guyanese with a plan on how it intends to create sustainable development which prioritizes development in cultural space, investment in human capital; change in the paradigm of education, health, innovation and a green, efficient economy. Furthermore, the government has not sought to foster a discussion with broad societal input.
To not have a comprehensive and strategic development plan is to create the space for chaotic development without balance or sustainability, which inevitably increases inequality. Only those who are already positioned to take advantage will do so thereby leaving little or no protections for the poor and vulnerable.
The government cannot tell Guyanese that it is planning its future without their input and participation. A national development plan must be inclusive and broad. It must involve inputs from the political opposition as well as other stakeholders, and even Guyanese in the diaspora with the requisite expertise.
Dennis N. Wiggins