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Nov 27, 2022 Consumer Concerns, News
Kaieteur News – Recently, Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister of Finance, was interviewed on the T V programme ‘The Narrative’ and he outlined a fresh, comprehensive, innovative and easily understood programme of economic and social development for Guyana over the next several years. He brought a seamless realism to the elements of development and in his uniquely polite manner quietly unraveled the negative myths which those who are adversarial to the Guyana Oil Industry have been propagating. The two or three most well-known of these myths are that the Oil Industry would be dangerous and destructive to Guyana’s Environment and Biodiversity and that it will infect Guyana with Resource Curse or the Dutch Disease and that the oil revenues, as they are at present, are so massively enormous that they could afford to give immediate grants of millions of dollars to every man, woman and child in Guyana.
Every industry engenders some Environmental damage and Oil does so more than most. Accordingly, those involved in the Industry explore every way in which Environmental damage could be controlled or eliminated. The alternative to an Oil Industry for a country like Guyana is to remain in underdevelopment and poverty. The environmentalists who pontificate on the dangers of Guyana’s oil industry have never criticized the oil industries and oil explorations which are currently occurring in several developed and underdeveloped countries, though Guyana’s environmentally friendly measures are in advance of many. In any case, the Guyanese population would prefer to have an Oil Industry than to continue in underdevelopment.
With the advent of an Oil Industry, underdeveloped countries experience sudden and unprecedented wealth and this often leads to the neglect of other traditional industries which begin to die leaving Oil. When Oil prices dip or oil reserves diminish, hardship and poverty soon overtake the country, since other sources of income would have dried up. This syndrome is called Resource Curse or Dutch Disease. The Dutch Disease would be further exacerbated if large monetary grants are given to the population since this would result in people ceasing to work and when the Dutch Disease strikes, their suffering would be intensified. In parenthesis it should be mentioned that if the proposal of granting every person in Guyana $5 million, the total oil revenues at the moment would not be enough to cover such grants. The advocates of such grants are unwittingly advocating that the country be turned into one analogous to the Land of Lotus eaters which Odysseus encountered in his travels.
Dr Singh rejects the concept that the Dutch Disease is inevitable or deterministic in developing countries that suddenly become oil producers. He knows that economic expertise and realistic Management would avoid such a syndrome and his remark encapsulates this: . . .”while the petroleum sector continues to grow and generate economic opportunities, the non-oil sectors must be developed to create a sustainable source of wealth . . . We have seen many examples around the world of countries which became entirely dependent on oil and if the oil price dips, or oil production dips for one reason or another the country finds itself in trouble”.
Dr Singh refreshingly points out that the oil revenues are modest considering Guyana’s social and economic developmental needs. He dispels the illusion that there is a great surfeit of money awaiting to be spent or given away and brings citizens into the realism that funds are limited and must be carefully deployed in creating sustainable prosperity.
“Commencement of oil production presents the opportunity to remove the historic impediments to Guyana’s competitiveness and sustainable growth in the long term. So we are using this period to address precisely those impediments to ensure we lay the foundation for long term growth and broad based growth far beyond oil and gas,” Dr Singh said.
Among these impediments which have started to be addressed is the establishment of first class connectivity country wide with the transport sector being revolutionized. Drainage works, roads and bridges are being built connecting the Interior with the more populated and developed coastal regions and the capital city, and major marketing centres are being connected. There are advanced plans to build a bridge over the Corentyne River and an all-weather road to Brazil opening up increased trade and tourism. An important spinoff of this connectivity is the integration of the Amerindian communities of the Interior and equalizing access to social and economic opportunities .
Expensive electricity has always inhibited the growth of a manufacturing sector. The construction of a gas pipeline from the rigs to West Bank Demerara would greatly cheapen the cost of electricity thus stimulating the growth of a substantial manufacturing sector. There would also be a slew of social benefits such as cheaper cooking gas and making air conditioning and food preservation affordable.
A competitive and muti-faceted Agriculture Sector is being created which would cheapen the costs of food and bring more varieties to the market. Linkages with CARICOM have been established and Guyana would share in supplying the US$6. billion Caribbean food import market.
ICT is being developed to improve the efficiency of business and governmental activities to bring Guyana fully into the modern world.
Sizable deployment of funds have begun to be made in the social sectors such Health, Education, Housing, Water, pensions and social assistance. Salaries of Government employees are being kept under review.
Dr. Ashni Singh has been the architect of laying the secure foundations of a sustainable social and economic future for Guyanese and of improving the quality of life. In this ongoing process, the Oil Industry is an important factor, employing thousands of Guyanese from all parts of the country and supplying essential revenues but it will be working in tandem with the other sectors of the economy as they grow into full sustainability.
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