Feb 22, 2009 Letters
John Da Silva’s insistence that the country decayed under the PNC and improved under the PPP is inaccurate.
Space doesn’t permit a full account of development under the PNC. The PNC took office from the PPP in 1964. It assumed leadership of an under-developed economy dominated by strikes, claims of marginalisation, the Kaldor Budget, and racial conflicts that destroyed relationships, villages, and buildings and caused lives and forced relocation.
In agriculture the PNC increased rice productivity to two crops per year, improved rice grade, built more rice mills and built the silo plants to store rice. The MMA and Tapacuma Irrigation Project Schemes were built to improve drainage. NARI and REPAHA were built for research and development and were also attended by Caribbean nationals.
Housing developments were done in the regions through self-help. GNCB, GAIBANK and Mortgage Finance were created to give opportunities to the small man. So too were the NIS and GCIS. The nationalisation of bauxite and sugar removed the colonial barriers of natives staying in their quarters and not being able to aspire to high office.
Nursery, secondary, multilateral and community high schools were built throughout the country. Guyana’s early childhood education programme was the envy of the Caribbean. The University of Guyana was taken out of Queen’s College building, programmes expanded and the Turkeyen campus built under the PNC. Education was made possible for all, from nursery to university, irrespective of religion, race, gender, finance and so-called brilliance.
The PNC took office with less than 200 miles of the country’s roads asphalted. Others were paved with red clay (loam) mud, or pebbles. The Demerara Harbour Bridge, Canje Bridge, asphalted roadways and highways stretching throughout the length and breath of the country are the accomplishments of the PNC.
Local manufacturers built or assembled the Tapir vehicle, bicycle, fridge, freezer, gas stove, radio, textile, shoes and stereos. Guyana also produced milk, balata and canned fruits.
The rise in oil prices in the 1970s threw Guyana’s economy in disarray. Guyana was not unique in this regard.
There were food and gas lines around the globe as other countries suffered the effects. Coupled with the economic crisis, the PNC had to deal with the PPP, WPA, upsurge in trade union agitation and constant sabotage through the burning of young sugar-cane. In 1977 GAWU struck for 133 days. During those days sugar and bauxite formed the economy’s mainstay, and the economic setbacks that were caused by these actions are still to be honestly admitted to.
The PNC was forced to make choices. Other countries use crisis moments to innovate and chart bold paths. The PNC attempted this with the restriction or ban of some items, and advocated a grow-more-food campaign and reliance on indigenous products that could have made Guyana the giant of the Caribbean. The crisis created opportunities for creativity, local rice flour, preserved fruits, juices, ground provisions, vegetables, salted fish, pork, ham, blackeye, mung peas, vegetable oil, milk and so forth. Those who capitalised on the new economy made money.
The Opposition encouraged farmers to plant enough for their sustenance. It is regrettable partisan politics hijacked a golden opportunity for Guyana’s development. Opportunities instead became a political football that hurled accusations that a group was specifically targeted when every group used wheaten flour, peas and other restricted items in their daily lives.
There were mistakes and successes, as are normal in human endeavours. However, it is unfair and disingenuous to say Guyana decayed under the PNC when the facts do not support this. The public is smart and will judge the PPP’s management of our economy over the last 16 years.
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