If you believe that it was narcotics smuggling and money laundering that was the major source of economic growth in Guyana over the past 10 years, this column is not for you. You are too far gone to accept the arguments that will be advanced herein.
Those who labour under the illusion that things have tightened-up in terms of the interception of the narcotics trade; those who feel that the slowdown in business is related to the decline in the underground economy are not going to like what will be said here.
Those who labour under such illusions are really trying to convince themselves that there has been substantial rather than mere cosmetic change since the new government took over. The APNU+AFC administration lacks the radicalism to engineer substantial change. In the absence of such radicalism, change will be marked by gradualism and will be slow in coming.
Nothing has been tightened-up. There has been no evidence whatsoever in the form of major drug busts that the narco-trade has been minimized in Guyana. If there was a minimization of the trade in narcotics, then one would have anticipated that equally there would have been a reduction in crime. There has not. Crime is on the upward trend and persons are still being caught attempting to smuggle narcotics out of the country. In fact if anything more criminals are coming out of the woodwork and robbing and beating persons mercilessly in this country. We even had the latest addition to Guyanese criminal ingenuity- hire purchase murders.
There is no evidence whatsoever that illegal monies have ever driven economic growth in this country. The measurement of growth in the economy has not factored in the underground economy and for 10 years now the real sector has grown. There are indications that the growth slowed during the first half of this year but it is almost certain that the economy will grow again for 2015 and unless the new government bungles things will grow for the next five years.
Guyanese are blinded by their political loyalties and so they come up with these strange narratives about the imminent collapse of the economy. This is happening now as it did in the past. At one stage Desmond Hoyte was telling the country that the business community was in deep debt and would collapse. That never happened. The implosion never took place.
In later years it was said that business was so bad that that the commercial banks would have become the largest property owners in Guyana because of the large number of foreclosures that would take place.
Businesses were complaining about how bad things had become. One simple change turned these lamentations on their head. The Georgetown City Council cleared the tents and tarpaulins off the pavements and in a matter of months, business was thriving again. It turned out that the problem was not the economy at all. The problem was that because the vendors had taken over the pavements and streets that people did not bother to go shopping because there was no place on the pavements to walk.
The end of the vending on the pavements on Regent Street also solved another problem. The stores were able to create hundreds of new jobs for young people. Those who therefore use the excuse that pavement vending is a means of helping the unemployed conveniently ignored the employment boom that took place when action was taken to remove the vendors.
It is businesses, legitimate businesses that grow business activity and the economy, not pavement vendors, not friends who are allotted special spots on reserves and parapets.
People have always created narratives to support their beliefs. Right now the narrative is that things have tightened up so much that the drugs are not passing and therefore the illegal monies are not there to stimulate the economy.
Even if one crazily accepted this proposition of a falloff in illegal proceeds, there is still no evidence of what the administration intends to do to create the right stimulus to boost the country’s faltering business environment.
There is no plan. There is no short term plan; there is no long- term plan. There can be no short term plan unless there is a national plan. There is no national development strategy. When it came into office it said that it had appointed a National Economic Advisory Council. Has this Council ever met and what advice has it given the government? Is it developing a national development strategy and if so when will this be completed.
There has to be an economic master plan to act as a blueprint for boosting business, investment and the economy. If there is no such plan it is best to close down the ministries of Business and Tourism because they would be drifting aimlessly without knowing where they are going.
The new government is at sea, lost and seemingly not knowing where the rescue boat is. Perhaps this is best because its intervention in the economy may spell disaster. The government has failed the rice farmers by its unnecessary and belligerent tone towards the Venezuelans.
It may be best to leave the economy to run on auto pilot at least for the time being. The economy is strong enough to survive government neglect for the next five years.
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