For various reasons, one having to do with the diversion caused by the no-confidence motion, the government is yet to fully explain to us how exactly the country and our lives will likely be transformed by oil revenues. In this state of uncertainty, Guyanese have come to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. The relentless criticisms of a few months ago of the oil contracts, especially regarding the real size of government’s take, have not helped. At a time when national optimism should be at its highest, a pall has been cast on the national spirit.
With an oil bonanza coming, one would have expected by this hour more flurry, such as the creation of think tanks, debates on refashioning of national goals and strategies, the conducting of country-wide public consultations, the mounting of billboards and the display of large block models of infrastructure projects, and the rolling out of concrete people-centred promises and plans. We still have some time. Confidence, hope and excitement can be quickly restored.
We continue to see articles in the international press suggesting that Guyana can become one of the richest countries in the world. It raises the question: what will be the first signs Guyanese will see and feel to know the country is moving up. In the first one to two years after 2020, what will we be able to point to in our own lives, our communities and in our country to say we are a very rich nation? Construction of large Infrastructural projects? Deposits in the Sovereign Wealth Fund? Larger than usual salary increases? The answer has several parts and the government must give this matter some more urgent thought and action, as development must also be perceived and felt.
In this context, I wish to single out one feel-good and transformational idea. It is this: the country needs a massive physical facelift. Guyana’s built environment (our human-made surroundings) is mostly dirty, untidy, primitive, and plain ugly. We get touchy when foreign journalists write to say so, but it is true. I am proposing, as one of the first projects at can-see transformation, that the government launch a multi-million dollar multi-year action plan to refurbish and clean up the appearance of our towns and villages. Such a plan can be implemented through several centralized and decentralized strategies and mechanisms.
A national facelift reaches beyond the cosmetic. It can lift the national mood, spur community economic growth and spirit, and rekindle respect and care for our surroundings.