Apr 07, 2013 Editorial Comments Off on Moving the Capital
It was reported that the lead negotiator to the UN Climate Change Convention. Mr. Andrew Bishop declared that “it would be difficult to move Georgetown” inland even though he conceded that there is overwhelming evidence that the city will be threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. He suggests that instead, we ‘move development’.
We believe that Mr. Bishop is missing the point which is that no one has suggested ‘moving Georgetown’ anywhere. Phrasing the suggested response to rising sea levels the way he has, invokes images of us having to move St George’s Cathedral and Parliament buildings board by board and brick by brick to higher ground. This is very far from what has been proposed.
This newspaper, in fact, has long proposed that we construct a new economic capital in the Rupununi but that this be accomplished as part of a grand strategic reorientation of our entire development strategy. The US has shown that a country can have an administrative capital (Washington) and an economic capital (New York) that work just fine. We pointed out that when Lee Kwan Yu assumed power in Singapore back in the 1960’s he defined the ‘hinterland’ that his city-state would service for its economic development as Europe and the US. By then they had shown they had the markets for goods and services that Singapore could deliver.
In this new millennium, we have been blessed to have one of the new emerging economic behemoths just across our Takutu River border, which not coincidentally, that country Brazil has bridged. We are stating once again: our policy makers must quit haggling over how to share our minuscule pie and grab the opportunity to make northern Brazil our ‘hinterland’. But maybe Mr Bishop meant the same thing we are suggesting: we can ‘move development’ into the Rupununi.
The first constraint to the development of the Rupununi as an economic centre, some may point out, would be transportation to the Coastland. But this objection displays a refusal to extricate our thinking from its present mode: we are not seeking to service the US and Europe but northern Brazil.
And the transportation linkages to that destination are already in place. From the Takutu Bridge one can drive on surfaced highways all the way to Brazil’s interior city of Manaus, which has a population of 1.8 million and the fourth highest per capita in all Brazil.
We have to plan for the orderly economic development of the resources of the Rupununi, which used to satisfy most of the beef for northern Brazil. This industry can be resuscitated. We have been extremely lackadaisical about developing the agricultural potential of the Rupununi. We can do worse than copy what the Brazilians did in the early days of their push for agri-development.
The leased large swathes of land for 25 years to the Japanese who were concerned with food security – especially in protein, for which soya fitted the bill. Today, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soya and it is practically all produced by local owners. The Chinese are the present successor to the Japanese in the quest for food security. Why do we not nip our budding xenophobia and invite them and their funding and technology to develop agriculture in the Rupununi?
To move up the value-added chain we would have to introduce agro-processing and other manufacturing industries on a large scale. This would need cheap and reliable electricity. We already have the Amaila Falls Hydro-Electric Project on stream, which can supply the Rupununi much easier than Georgetown and the Coast. There is also an offer from Brazil to construct a much larger hydro-electric plant with their capital and to import our excess production.
In terms of integrating the development of the Rupununi and the rest of our Atlantic coast, which is going to be an ever-increasing expensive proposition to keep viable, there is also the Lethem-Georgetown-Berbice Highway that the Brazilians are willing to finance.
As we advised before: Go south, Guyana!
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