Home Letters We must support President Ali’s call to put Guyana first
In 2015, Guyanese were fortunate to learn that the colossal U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil, in collaboration with other American oil conglomerates, discovered huge quantities of oil offshore Guyana. Various estimates have placed the amount of oil reserves between 8 billion barrels and 11 billion barrels, which, due to the horrific contract signed by the Granger administration, have produced unprecedented low tax and royalty revenues for the people of Guyana.
It is one of the worst and most disgraceful oil contracts signed by any Government anywhere in the world. However, the abundance of energy resources and revenue generated from the sale of oil have powered the country’s economy into double-digit GDP growth rate.
Energy experts are of the opinion that the huge discovery of oil in Guyana could help to address the severe global shortages of oil, and lower the prices of energy that have fuelled inflation and worsened poverty worldwide, especially in the poor underdeveloped and developing countries.
Today, Guyana has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and President Dr. Ali’s government is using the windfall to dramatically improve and modernise the antiquated colonial infrastructure, and expand and develop the education and health care systems, as well as the housing and agriculture sectors, for the roughly 800,000 inhabitants of the country.
And while there are enormous opportunities to develop Guyana, there are some major challenges as well. One of those challenges is the decades-old racial divide, which must be addressed by all Guyanese at home and in the Diaspora.
There is evidence that Guyana is on an upward economic path never seen or experienced by previous generations. However, many experts on development believe that one of the greatest hindrances to the development of the country has been not only the cost of energy, or its reliance on energy, but the racial strife between Afro- and Indo-Guyanese.
The experts contend that, since Independence in May 1966, the division of the races has stalled progress and impeded and hampered the economic and sociopolitical development of the country.
However, history has shown that no other President has gone to the extent that President Dr. Irfaan Ali has gone in the past two and a half years to heal the racial divide in the country. His “One Guyana” vision is not a phrase or a slogan, and it should not be taken lightly. It is the embodiment of a united country of one people, one nation striving to achieve one destiny. It requires action and commitment on the part of every one of us to join collectively to develop the country and improve the lives of the poor and downtrodden.
Whether we agree or disagree with Dr. Ali’s policies, we must support his “One Guyana” vision, which is a call for all Guyanese at home and in the diaspora to put Guyana first, and do what is right for the country if we want to see our homeland become prosperous and unified, and ranked among the top countries in the international system.
President Ali’s ingenuity and astuteness as a leader are evident in his “Men on a Mission” project, which is a one-in-a-lifetime programme aimed at changing the behaviour of men through the key pillars of character-building, caring, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, and leadership to make them become decent and productive citizens.
It is a clever, creative and corrective programme that would improve the good and useful traits in men of all ages, and from all walks of life. The aim is to make men become more proactive, respectful of authority, less violent against women; and to desist from committing crimes or indulging in violent acts.
The “Men on a Mission” programme is aligned with the country’s Joint Services, community-based organisations, religious institutions, the Private Sector, and interested individuals. It is a first for Guyana, and if properly implemented, it could change the nature and character in men, and hence the social and cultural landscape.
However, given the racial divide in the country, neither President Ali’s “One Guyana” Vision nor his “Men on a Mission” programme can be partisan, but representative of the country’s diversity. If the goal is to unite and build one Guyana, then there must be inclusivity of all the ethnic groups in the country, regardless of their party affiliation.
Guyana must be developed in such a way that it works for everyone, and not for a few, or one ethnic group or another. It is true that the current cabinet of the PPPC Administration is representative of the diversity of the population in the country, in that it is about 42 percent Indo-Guyanese, 29 percent Afro-Guyanese, 18 percent Mixed Race, 10 percent Amerindians, and 1% Others; yet, many feel they are not being treated fairly.
That said, there is an undeniable truth that many in Guyana have refused to accept; that is: there is discontent in the country. The reason is because we are not mature and open to criticism or different points of view. Whether or not we agree, the politics of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, which was to victimise or exclude critics, cannot be practised today, because of the arrival of social media. We cannot, and must not, live in the past, or apply the norms of a bygone era that have kept us in constant discord, and expect the country to become developed and unified. This is the harsh reality in our dearly beloved Guyana, and we must face it. We need a national discourse on race relations in Guyana and in the diaspora to reconcile the racial differences in the country.
I am confident that President Dr. Ali would take the necessary steps to lessen the discontent and discord, heal the racial divide, and make sure that every group is represented and everyone is respected and treated fairly. After all, it will be unfair for us to hand the country in such a divided state over to the next generation. It will not be wise.
Dr Asquith Rose