GUYANA’S NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY 1996
There is a clear vision and direction in terms of the development of the country, and – interestingly to point out – the National Development Strategy (1996) recognised the need for the development of the country to move further south, given that more than 50% of the population is concentrated in Regions Three and Four, along the Low Coastal Plain.
This, in fact, explains the bypass road project connecting the East Coast and East Bank, which in turn will lead to the opening up of thousands of acres of land for housing development and industrial and commercial activities.
The road link connecting Brazil and Guyana through Lethem-to-Linden will also result in the opening of thousands of acres of land for housing as well as commercial and industrial activities. In fact, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has announced in the local press that Government is seeking to commence discussion to build a secondary city on the Linden Highway. In years to come (another 30-50 years), the Linden Town can become the new capital city of Guyana, and therefore such transformational development needs to start from now. With this in mind, it can be seen that these are all consistent with the vision outlined in the 1996 Development Strategy to move development further inland; that is, further towards the south.
This, in turn, would result in the population moving further south. For example, the new housing development drive targeting the distribution of 50,000 house lots over the next five years – while noting that there are about 60,000 backlog applications in the system to be processed – is designed to start moving the population and the country’s development further south.
It is against this background that it makes economic sense to land the gas-to-shore project in Wales, on the West Bank of Demerara, which is almost adjacent to the Diamond/Grove area on the East Bank. Logically, if development is moving further south, the population is moving further south over the next two to three decades, and a secondary city is to be developed further south on the Linden Highway; then the gas-to-shore project would certainly yield long-term economic benefits, and it would be economically sensible to build it at the exact proposed location for these reasons. In so doing, this can result in efficient and cost-effective distribution channels, given where geographic development of the country is moving towards.
More importantly, the Government’s manifesto for 2020–2025 draws from that development strategy broadly, as the strategy was never fully implemented, owing to Guyana’s peculiar development challenges. At the West Institute International Academic Conference, this author presented a paper on Guyana’s economic and social development challenges, the main findings of which case study showed that there are four dynamic elements responsible for the under-development of Guyana. These are: (1) a huge human capital deficit in terms of education and skills of the population, (2) physical infrastructure deficit, (3) high cost of energy, which is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere, and (4) the most crucial determinant is the inherent features of the political economy, which is underpinned by ethnic division and politically motivated crime and violence historically, and to some degree in the current political environment. It is noteworthy to mention that Guyana’s development has been increasingly stymied for the past ten years by the previous regime. During the period 2015–2020, the previous regime failed to implement any major development plan.
Further, during the period when Guyana’s political dispensation changed for the first time in 2011 with a minority Government – the political Opposition at that time had control over the National Assembly with a one seat majority. Consequently, a number of major development and transformational projects were stymied – such as the Amaila hydro-project, a new high-span bridge across the Demerara River, and a specialty hospital, to name a few. These projects were blocked by the Opposition in the National Assembly, and it was this deadlock that forced a snap election in 2015, which resulted in the political Opposition forming the Government in 2015.
With respect to the National Development Strategy (1996), which remains relevant, the only limitation with it in the current context is that it now needs updating to include an industrialisation plan for the country. This also has to take into consideration Guyana’s burgeoning oil and gas sector and the wealth that can be derived therein – which in turn ought to be utilised to bolster and fast track Guyana’s development plan.
By virtue of Guyana being on the cusp of an economic transformation, Guyana has an opportunity to become the driver of a transformative agenda within the region viz-à-viz an enhanced framework that would foster deeper regional economic integration of South America and the Caribbean with the rest of the world. This notion is premised against the backdrop of its arguably geopolitically potent location; its emerging petroleum industry; coupled with the increasing global interest in Guyana, especially from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union (EU), Canada, India, and the rest of the world. Within these respects, for example, Guyana’s geographic location in South America, which places it at an advantage in terms of access routes to the rest of the world, is an important factor that has to be considered in the Deep-Water Harbour project and the Brazil-Guyana Road Link project. These are two key transformative projects that can integrate more South-South cooperation in the area of trade and commerce, which would not only facilitate Brazil’s goods moving through Guyana, thereby creating new industries and commerce, but other South American countries’ goods being transported through Guyana to access the rest of the world’s markets.
To be continued…
About the Author: JC. Bhagwandin is a financial analyst, lecturer, and business & financial consultant. The views expressed are exclusively his own, and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper or the institutions he represents. For comments, send to [email protected]