I know Professor Clive Thomas to be a patriot who has over the years championed the cause of our people.
By every measure a good Guyanese.
I respect him for this and have the highest regards for him.
His recent statement proposing a sum of money to each family unit, may have been made with the best of intentions, but I believe may not be the best course of action.
Those of us who have been on the hustings for generation, happen to know our people, most likely, a little better than Clive.
Of course, with the known proclivities of our male and female population, the first high hurdle will be to determine or define what is a family unit.
Beyond this we must not be made to feel that with oil money we can now expect handouts.
What we need to do with any additional money available to the State is to have an agreed ‘Master Plan’ so that we can all benefit meaningfully in the short and long term moreso the latter.
Handing out sums to families is too simplistic. The plan or programme should in essence provide opportunities for all citizens and help, in a big way, to support those who are willing to help themselves.
Will we abandon our farms and import more vegetables and fruits with our money? This has happened elsewhere.
Will we abandon our cycles for a motor vehicle just to go around the corner?
I related at the Emancipation Support Symposium in Port of Spain, Trinidad, of my encounter with a soul brother who told me that with oil coming, he will no longer have to perambulate but will motor gate.
My own view is that whatever monies are available to the State, same should be used in the following seven (7) areas: –
1) Make our educational system solid and top class and geared to produce that new Guyana person we talked about even before Independence.
A system that allows us to cope with a fast advancing scientific and technological world, but moreover to fashion a curriculum similar to what was put in place for the first batches of President’s College in 1985.
In the earlier days at President’s College, the students engaged in several sport and cultural activities, including music, swimming, equestrian skills, producing their own food and mixing with ordinary people in the contiguous communities. At the same time pursuing the highest academic standards, truly a school of excellence.
Every school in Guyana with appropriate modifications based on several factors should aim for levels of excellence.
Attention to be paid to our University, Technical and Teacher Training Institutions.
This means a massive injection of resources into buildings, grounds, training, laboratories, etc. Finally, let us fulfill the dream and passion of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham to make education free from Kindergarten to University.
2) Increase post-haste salaries of the Security Services, Educators including Teachers and Medical Personnel. This should be non-negotiable.
3) Provide a State of the Art Health Service where complex surgical and medical procedures are available to all, either free or at an affordable cost.
4) Retool the NIS so that we make good the objective of those of us who first conceived and implemented the National Insurance Scheme.
And so for example, remove the present absurdity where health care benefits are available to contributors up to sixty years of age, but not available beyond sixty, when you are more than likely to be in need of medical health support.
Both the Late Dr. Gladstone Mitchell and I inveighed against this oddity.
5) Have an ongoing massive clean up in urban and rural areas. This will provide jobs, training and to develop a sense of pride in our surroundings and teaching people to love and care for their neighbours.
6) Provide delightful holiday resorts at affordable rates so that young and old can share in the natural beauty and charm, of our country with magnificent things to see.
7) A retooled-remigration scheme, geared to encourage young and experienced professionals to return home to contribute to development. This should include second-generation Guyanese.
They say seven is the number of perfection so I rest my case with the above seven proposals.
But Editor, there is much talk about oil. Will oil provide all of the above?
I pose the question ‘Can we do this in the short term?’
I believe with prayers, good management and the integrity of all of our Administrators at every level, and I mean at every level, a utopia can be realized in our lifetime.
They say the longest journey begins with a single step and that first step should include meaningful dialogue and the creation of an ethic of study, honesty and hard work.
Can we do it? Yes we can!