We ended a difficult 2019 and our prospects for 2020 now depend on the choices we make. My family and I wish Guyanese a 2020 that forever changes our destiny, a rendezvous with success and with prosperity for every citizen. Sir Walter Raleigh failed to find the golden city of El Dorado four hundred years ago but we now find ourselves in that land with black gold. Will Guyanese seize the opportunity to remove the disguise of poverty and really enjoy lives and standard of living of a wealthy nation in 2020?
For the March 2020 elections, the claim is being made by every political party and, for once, everyone agrees that the 2020 general elections are the most consequential elections in Guyana’s history as an independent country. Our ability to safeguard Guyana’s democracy is at stake, as the David Granger-led APNU/AFC has shown clear evidence that it will try its utmost to rig the elections. But, in addition, these are the most consequential elections in our history because the political choices we make in the March 2, 2020 elections will decide Guyana’s future direction: will we continue being a poor country or will we be immediately a high middle-income country, not just on paper, but in terms of our standard of living? This election will allow Guyanese to choose a path towards the future, whether we want to be a developed country in our lifetime. Truly, this election will decide the future of our country – will Guyana be a boom or a bust?
Oil and gas is definitely a boom for Guyana. But this boom could enrich just a few or could make a meaningful difference in the lives of every Guyanese. The March 2020 elections will decide whether we will bring the benefits of oil and gas to BIG OIL to a few Guyanese or we will ensure every Guyanese enjoy the boom of an OIL economy. Even with the very generous terms, Guyana conceded to BIG OIL, there are enough benefits that could meaningfully change the lives of every Guyanese, not only making Guyana rich on paper but creating a future that dramatically lifts the standard of living of ALL Guyanese, that positively transforms the physical landscape of Guyana. But for OIL and GAS to make an impact this way, lifting Guyana almost immediately to a future we could only dream of yesterday, we must manage the new oil and gas resources responsibly, fairly, without corruption. This is a Guyanese resource, not a resource belonging to those in Government. Without a list of all that has gone wrong, underlining the unsuitability of the present Government to manage OIL, just one question tells us we must make a change – where is the US$18M EXXON bonus money? After four years of different excuses, we still are in the dark.
This is why the March 2020 elections are so consequential. The Granger-led APNU/AFC has already revealed its stripes. As early as it is, they have shown incompetence and corruption which will turn OIL and GAS revenues into another opportunity for a handful to get rich. We must make a choice for a government that will be responsive, transparent and accountable. The Sovereign Wealth Fund which is supposed to ensure that OIL revenues are managed for the welfare of ALL Guyanese has been designed for management by a government minister— that opens up the possibility for massive corruption. The March 2020 elections will decide whether we will allow this to happen, condemning the vast majority of Guyanese to continue the lives of poor people, this time in a rich country. The present SWF is designed to make Guyana a rich country on paper but the lives of the vast majority will not change. Allowing APNU/AFC to continue will only give them more spunk for arrogance and authoritarianism, building a rich class that will forever keep the majority poor.
The March 2020 elections will also decide whether we will allow oil and gas to add to our economy or simply to displace what presently exists. The choice before us must be to ensure that Guyana’s agriculture fulfils our potential – the breadbasket of the Caribbean. The Caribbean imports more than US$10B in food. If Guyana captures a small part of that market, agriculture not only can remain the foundation of our economy but can bring in as much as OIL and GAS. The last four years have shown concrete evidence this Government has no interest in agriculture. We must ensure that we have a government that will embrace our agriculture destiny.
There are other reasons why this election is consequential. Which government we choose will determine whether SUGAR survives in Guyana or not. Mark my words, should APNU/AFC continue in government, there would be no chance for SUGAR to survive. Guyanese have lived all of our lives with costly and unreliable electricity. Without Amaila hydroelectricity, without other non-fossil energy, Guyana will lag far behind. With APNU/AFC, we will choose to continue with what we have. To end the GPL woes, we must make a choice for change. There are many other reasons, but even with this short list, we can see why the March 2020 elections are likely the most consequential in our history.