The people of Guyana have elected leaders whom they believe possess the ability to jump-start a struggling economy, unite the races, end rampant corruption, re-establish acceptable levels of decency and accountability, and keep the country relevant in a global sense.
Those leaders, we hope, would be well aware that the economic and human development of Guyana cannot be dependent solely on government being a virtual investor. Their goal should be to encourage the full participation of all stakeholders – most importantly, the private sector. There has to be a systematic development strategy for the good of all, and a more caring society, where each sees the other as equal.
There can be absolutely no room for selfishness or cliquism in this process. We have seen the results of such traits. There must be a national development plan that is precise and extends beyond the initiatives that failed so miserably in the past.
Provision needs to be made for growth in industrial, agricultural and mining production, as well as improved service dispensation across the board. It should also focus on improving the quality of life for the average citizen. This cannot be a patchwork exercise. The aim must be to steer the country out of its stagnated state – away from its current status of underdevelopment into a more acceptable ranking, in terms of worldwide recognition.
The education sector has a very significant role to play in the national development process. The Ministry of Education, in particular, has to gear its curricula to suit the necessary human resource and development needs within the context of the aforementioned plan.
The initiative in a general sense must involve the training of many professionals, skilled artisans and blue collar workers, all of whom will be needed. These workers must be given priority of employment to stem the flow of migration as well as the import of foreign labour. The underlying goal is to change the work ethic to improve productivity, and move away from appallingly low to more realistic wages which will serve as motivation to workers.
Like any strategic economic plan, there must be a set of objectives to be met within a five-year time frame. For example: what has to be done? Who does what? What resources are needed to achieve the stated objectives? How can the plan be adjusted in the event of crises?
It can be argued in some cases that workers are much better off both financially and educationally than their parents, but the current government must, as it has indicated it would, take steps to bridge the existing gap of pay inequality between men and women. These troubling issues which have negatively impacted the workforce and the economy are for the first time being given the attention they deserve.
The past decade and a half has been a trying time for many workers who were undoubtedly paid very low wages while contract workers were paid substantially more. It has been a very rough journey for all. The reality is that most of the workforce was under severe pressure to exist with the high cost of living – basic food items way beyond the average person’s earning, in addition to stifling mortgages, rent and transportation cost.
The new government cannot pretend to be unaware of the fact that the country’s level of productivity must be raised exponentially and the present out-of-control consumption of imported items, especially food and vehicles, must be reduced, to garner more foreign exchange, and more importantly, give an opportunity for local producers to take their place in the sun.
These are some of the issues which the government will need to address in short order to move the country forward. There is no time for procrastination. That, as we have learnt, is the thief of time. Guyana has little of it left to remain relevant.
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