An extensive debate is currently raging in the media on the Government’s lethargic approach in preparation for the oil industry. Among the contentious issues are legislation for local content, the sovereign wealth fund, the petroleum commission, and the Department of Energy. The most glaring deficit appears to be the lack of expertise in Guyana on oil and gas and the deep concern that these issues will not be addressed in time for 2020 when the production of oil is due to begin. Mr. Imran Khan’s eloquent defence of the government’s efforts recently on an Al Jazeera televi-sion programme, which included Messrs. Christopher Ram and Jan Mangal, has not diminished concerns.
Poverty, crime, a faltering economy and more, are also urgent problems facing Guyana. The condition of African Guyanese was highlighted during last week’s Emancipation day celebrations. It was pointed out that they are being left behind in “economics, politics, culture, education, entrepreneurship and sports.” It was suggested that one way of overcoming at least some of these problems is to give African Guyanese 18,000 acres of land as reparation for slavery. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, the Leader of the Opposition, has pointed out that if African Guyanese are being left behind, the cause is their impoverishment during the Burnham and Hoyte eras. Accusations under the radar of ethnic discrimination have flourished over the closure of several sugar estates, just as when the bauxite industry was miniaturised in the 1990s. The impact of every major or social or economic decision is scrutinised through ethnic lenses.
One thing is clear: These problems can never be resolved, and the accusations and counter accusations will never go away, unless our broken politics is fixed, so that our broken society can heal, and we are no longer incentivised by our political system to reach for our ethnic spectacles, whenever the government makes an important decision. The most fundamental challenge in Guyana’s modern political history, and recognised over the entire period, has been to devise a system where ethnic-political competition is reduced and/or is channeled into creative energies so that ethnic dominance and competition would not stultify economic and social progress…..