Oct 03, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – For once, the thinking and word were not on oil, but on something else, that which could mean much for Guyana, regardless of what comes. This was what we carried on Wednesday: “Guyana’s future is with agriculture, food sustainability -Pres. Ali -Says Govt. will fully support massive soya bean, corn project in Ebini” (KN September 29). Now if only President Ali could go beyond words, and deliver, then there is no telling where this can lead, and how much it can do for us.
The oil is there in massive quantities, but we can neither eat it nor drink it. Sure, oil can and does make much possible, if and when the proceeds pass through government leaders hands, and cascade (not trickle) down to citizens. This has never been the case before on anything, not from the minds or the handiworks of any national leader, which is why this country remains stuck in poverty, living in misery in large sections of the populace. The latest example of the crooked manipulations of crooked government leaders has been the handling of this rare oil gift, one not given too many impoverished countries. It is why we need a fallback option, a plan of broad diversification, especially given that the developed world is sending powerful signals that the oil age is over, or soon to be.
Guyana, therefore, needs to be as multi-product country based as it is able to, and with a start made now, even as we sensibly push forward on the nation’s oil treasure. Certainly, we should drill and produce what is under the seabed, but with robust protections in place, and an eye on how the basket of potential is balanced. There is no great wisdom in discerning that a US$1B gas-to-shore project is one that is a step behind the new way that the world is leaning. Instead of committing that kind of funding/borrowing to something that already has the look, feel, and weight of a white elephant in the making, it would be much better to use some of that GY200B equivalent on agriculture and food sustainability.
Though a now tiring refrain of decades in duration, Guyana could finally live up to its potential, and expectation of being the breadbasket of the region. Instead of longstanding imaginary potential, this could be a concrete reality. But only, if President Ali and the people he surrounds himself with are serious, and have what it takes to go beyond sweet words and sweeter public postures. Though we can’t say the same for the President and his cast of comrades, some in the investing group are well-known locally for their business success and strength. We identify Bounty Farm Limited and Edun’s Poultry Farm and Hatchery for special mention, since their records confirm that they can contribute to making this Ebini agriculture and food sustainability project deliver.
If handled and managed right, this massive soya bean and corn undertaking could set the standard for similar projects to get off the ground, and lead the way towards what has been an elusive goal. That is, the vision of the much-needed blanket of food security that could stretch even beyond the region. There can and should be more of these projects for different agricultural products that generate investment, provide jobs and deliver rich returns, along with the added benefit of becoming the granary of a starving, insecure food world. This is so stark, that the UN head, Antonio Guterres, has been sounding warnings about where things stand currently, and how global food prospects look grim.
We have been thinking big and unwisely with the oil wealth that has come our way, and already there are classic signs of leadership corruptions and crony capitalism taking a tight grip on that blessing, and cursing it. Once our leaders can find it within themselves to go past the smart talk and clever features that have long haunted this country, a world of good can be realised with the right mix of vision, capital, and energy for food from the ground and exploiting natural resources. Then Guyana could do very well. Guyana could be the jewel of the Caribbean not just for natural resources, but for food resources too.
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