Peter R. Ramsaroop, MBA
This week a few workers from the Sugar Industry visited my office. They were concerned about our economy and wanted to discuss a column I had written in support for their 14% pay raise which is yet to be determined. These hard working citizens told me “we punishing bad”. They described how their transportation, utilities and food bills were beyond their capacity to cope with for their families. They fully understood my analysis of the inflation rate and consumer spending power as it relates to pay increases. At the current inflation rate, even a 10% increase can’t get you past the current cost of living numbers. They confirmed, as so many of us have, that they do not mind paying taxes but couldn’t understand why the government was so “anti-Guyanese and taxed them so excessively”
Being from the West Coast, they said that the car they were travelling in to come and see me fell into a hole on the Harbour Bridge and had to be pulled out. When I asked them if they heard that the President said “it was criminal” referring to the bridge, they laughed, the wanted to know “if he firing himself or the Minister of Works this time”
We are now faced with the embarrassment of refusing to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement, even though this agreement was in negotiation for years and we did not, prior to September, complain that it was not a good deal for Guyana. Our neighbours are testing us, with Venezuela violating our airspace with Russian aircraft and the President claiming that he does not get involved in “big nation business”. The Air Traffic Tower confirmed that they were aware but did not have the equipment to track the movement of the aircraft. The fact that Suriname was able to seize a Guyanese vessel in our waters, once again demonstrates our lack of defence on our borders. Talking big and bad after the incident happened does not help. We should have a defence force that is prepared at all times to protect our borders. Our armed forces only have old equipment at their disposal.
THE NEEDED STIMULUS TO OUR ECONOMY
Over the years we have proposed and continue to lobby our government for key hardware elements that must be dealt with immediately. When the “Burnham Harbour Bridge” was built in the 70s, it was never meant to be in existence today. There are only so many repairs you can do to an old car before it will finally have to be replaced. No difference when it comes to the Bridge. It is criminal that there is no plan to build:
1. A high span bridge across the Demerara River to replace this old bridge
2. A deepwater harbour and export free zone at the mouth of the Essequibo River (Hogg Island) This should be high on our priority list in order to attract large shipping in anticipation of the Brazil Connection
3. A high-speed highway from Monkey Jump via Linden to Lethem (Brazil border) with the possibility of a parallel railway.
I have written many times and lobbied for the building of a free market Guyanese brand that is an essential aspect of laying a solid foundation for potential investment opportunities. Marketing Guyana as “Open for Business” is crucial to our success in expanding economic opportunity. We need global markets, businesses to buy our companies and products, and the jobs that come as a result. We need macroeconomic policies designed to transform, modernise and diversify the economy to make it globally competitive and relevant. We need governance that facilitates inclusiveness at a political level, financial integrity and a strategic leadership that is competent, visionary, open minded, non-racist and incorruptible. We must set our goals to achieve 10-12 percent annual economic growth rate, and create approximately 100,000 jobs over a 5-year period. A lot of this can be done by converting Guyana’s natural resources into exports, making Guyana a transshipment hub for Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela and creating an export driven economy while encouraging food sufficiency. These are just some elements to help eliminate the punishment that is stifling our citizens. Until Next Time “Roop”.
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