Home Letters Guyana’s future resides in value-added agricultural sector
Guyana was set to become a major player in the oil sector in the Caribbean in 2020. Fact-check that promise by Team Granger, and today we find that the project just got delayed by 12-18 months because of two main reasons – the COVID-19 pathogen and the Granger epidemic post the no-confidence vote in December 2018.
Many may not know, but all of the oil revenue for 2020 has already been set aside to pay debts run up by Team Granger after the passage of the no-confidence motion. So, while Guyanese should not expect anything positive from these oil revenues before late 2021 or early 2022, this current period revealed two important facts:
Guyana is a price-taker in the oil trade, and thus we should not use the oil funds to plan for our future, but use it to build a sovereign wealth fund that would be strategically tapped to act as a buttress to our national development strategy. The focus should be on projects essential to transform this economy, such as making Guyana energy-independent and the project to move the agriculture sector to a plantation scale and up the value chain.
Guyana’s future certainly resides in the value-added agricultural sector, at least for the next 10 years, until we can solve the weaknesses in our electricity sector, which would then serve as the stimulus to kick-start any serious attempt at manufacturing outside of agro-processing.
But before those big dreams can happen, there is the dreadful today. Something has to be done, and fast, for the people at the bottom of the economic ladder today as a result of this COVID-19 pathogen and this Granger-created economic epidemic. So, while the watchword today should be economic caution, if something is not done urgently to help the people at the bottom of the economic ladder over the next 4 months, we will have seismic deterioration in the capacity of our labour force. The focus should be truncated into three periods – the short term (0-4 months in this case), the medium-term (month 5 to the midterm of the first Irfaan Ali term), and the long-term.
The short-term must be very focused on gathering the opening balance sheet on the real assets left behind after this period of scorched earth tactics as practised by Team Granger in its attempt to destroy and deplete everything in its dying days. On top of that fact-finding mission, it is advisable that, simultaneously, a support programme be launched in order to catch all those who have just fallen into poverty and those already in poverty. The aim of such a social amelioration programme is to inject some economic energy into the lives of those at the bottom of the economic ladder by way of a food hamper programme and a very targeted cash disbursement programme.
Of course, in the first days of the new Government, the focus must also be on crafting an emergency budget to ensure that the baseline manifesto promises are programmed to meet the challenges of the day, including the COVID-19 fight back.
As we can already see, there are lots of work to be done.