Kaieteur News – David Granger idolised Forbes Burnham but he failed to complete what Burnham started: the diminution of the business class. Burnham began the rout of the business class in Guyana because he feared that class could unseat him in the same manner that, under Peter D’Aguiar, it had combined with him and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to unseat the PPP.
The business class of the 1960’s, fearing communism, had compromised itself by jumping into bed with Burnham. When he turned against that class by refusing to go into the 1968 elections as a Coalition and when he said that never again would the PNC enter into a Coalition Government, that class felt betrayed.
Utterly humiliated and distanced from the PNC, the oligarchs of that class left Guyana in droves or were forced to do so by Burnham’s socialist policies. The only segment of that class which Burnham never touched was a group of family-owned businesses which he knew he could control but which he also applied pressure against, including seizing their lands.
Burnham’s socialist policies forced an exodus of the business class, as the then Prime Minister brought most of the economy under State control. But the business class had the last laugh because while they were pushed out, they also left with their money and other assets thereby impoverishing the country further.
The business class today is perceived to be aligned to the PPP/C. But they are not interested in the development of Guyana; they are interested in prospering even if it is at the expense of the people of Guyana.
Many of the private businesses in Guyana export their wealth. They reinvest a part of their monies but much of their wealth is being held overseas. Some of them own properties in the United States and elsewhere. The money they make off of the exploitation of the poor people of Guyana are shipped overseas to increase their overseas holdings, send their children to foreign schools and to set aside for vacations every summer.
Guyana did not only suffer a brain drain because of the migration of its brilliant sons and daughters. It also suffered massive capital flight in which tens of millions of US dollars are exported each year by rich businesses and families.
Yet the focus on studies, one on the country’s development, stresses mainly the human capital losses of migration. It is estimated for example that 39 percent of the country’s population live outside of Guyana and more than half of its university graduates reside in the United States. Some estimates indicate that these latter statistics can be as high as 70 percent.
Years ago, it was assumed that Guyana would continue to lose skilled personnel and private capital until and unless the government of the day proved that it was committed to the principles and practices of the free market. However, there is no question that over the past 20 years the government has been pro-business. Yet the emigration of skilled professionals and the flight of capital have continued unabated.
No one is yet to do a comprehensive study of capital flight in this country. But if that were done, it would establish what is known: that the rich ship out their monies and store it in assets overseas and to fund extravagant lifestyles.
The private sector reaps a large fortune out of the local economy. Unless and until there is greater reinvestment into the local economy, by the business class, Guyana will remain poor and underdeveloped.
The business class is interested in local content in the oil and gas sector so that they can expropriate a greater share of the country’s oil wealth. But that greater part of that greater share is not going to remain in Guyana. It is going to be shipped aboard.
So, what is the difference between the local business class and those foreign multinationals which are raping the country’s wealth and exporting much of it? What is the difference?
The business class now controls the government. The same class which in the 1960’s was so opposed to Jagan’s communism is now in bed with the leaders of the PPP/C. The business class enjoys tremendous benefits under the present government.
Only recently, the government instituted a concession to importers which allows them to pay import taxes on the pre-pandemic freight costs rather than the existing freight costs which have gone up by multiples, and which has led to the skyrocketing of prices in the supermarkets.
The business class is reaping the benefits of this measure. But consumers are still complaining about the high prices of goods on the shelves. So, while consumers are struggling to balance their budgets, the concessions accorded to businesses are not being reflected in prices.
Capital flight by the business class hurt the David Granger economy. The depreciation of the Guyana dollar was assessed to have been contributed to by capital flight. And in the end the failure to control capital flight contributed to the APNU+AFC’s election defeat.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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