Letter to Guyana

To The Editor

Ever heard the expression, Go Jump In a Lake. Go Jump in a Pool? What if I threw my A-Level Economic textbooks into our big fat pitch lake at La Brea? Because this Pitch Lake seems to defy some fundamental laws of our Economics textbook. The more pitch you mine, the more it produces. It seems to defy the laws of scarcity, demand and supply. An insurmountable, inexhaustible fount of pitch, asphalt. What a thing!

Yet, most of our secondary roads are as pitted and plastered and pot-holed as a Guanapo quarry or sandpit. Guanapo is an ancient town of the Arawaks which has been mined in the modern age for every manner of rock, stone, sand aggregate. And don’t talk about the Arima to Blanchicheusse Main Road. We live in an island of potholes galore, once you are not on the major highways, in an island of a wellspring of asphalt. The cost to shocks, steering, tyres, velocity joints, and gas must be astronomical. Driving on these roads is an exercise of preservation, consternation and long-suffering!

We have an inexhaustible supply of fresh water. It is called floods. This has been hearkened the more by the melting of glaciers and icecaps. There is more precipitation in the global system. More extreme water events. Landslides, sea rise, flooding. Fresh water everywhere, yet our Water and Sewerage Authority is busting. And sometimes our pipes run dry. And we desalinate like crazy, paying a large bill for this enterprise. But water runs off our large patchwork community roof up and down our East-West Corridor, in settlement, schemes, housing plants, runs off our concreted compounds, onto our roads and concreted drains, into the ever-rising sea.

We have an inexhaustible supply of sun. Islands, we say of sand, sea and sun. No charge from the sun. Once again defying the laws of Economics. Yet our Prime Minister takes bouff from President Trump. Scuttling Dragon and the Loran Manatee collaborative projects with President Maduro and Venezuela. And is running off everywhere to find energy. Sun, sun everywhere. Protonic and photonic culture and technology everywhere. Yet, not a solar or wind farm in sight! The gas price at Point Lisas Industrial Estate is coming under increasing pressure, and the LNG trains too. We are no longer globally competitive in the fossil fuels game. And T&TEC, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission, is busting big!

And we have a refinery. Petrotrin. And we mine between thirty and fifty thousand barrels of oil per day. And whilst this refinery lies mothballed, tankers line up on the Beetham Highway each morning, waiting for imported gas. Imported kerosene. For our planes, trucks, cars, vans, heavy construction equipment, our gas-guzzling SUV’s. Using up our valuable foreign exchange. What will the price of gas be in the face of external shocks, wars, virus, economic wars and sanctions?

We possess water on all sides, fertile lands on our plains, valleys, coasts and hillsides and yet our fish and agricultural stocks and production are declining. In the face of a historically thriving agrarian and horticultural economy, the Botanical Gardens, our St Augustine Nurseries, our Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, our Research Facilities at the former Caroni (1975) Ltd, our cocoa, coconut, sugar cane, rice, coffee, tonka bean, cashew, citrus, cattle, small ruminants and poultry, we waddle; so many waddling ducks on their way to the malls, fast food shops, to schools and work. Obesity will crash our health bill.

We live in a gas-weak, drug-rich economy. Violent gun crimes are endemic. Traffic has become pathological. Technocrats and bureaucrats gape and gasp at the corruption and malfeasance practised by their political bosses, and at times acquiesce in these practices. The people seem abandoned in their constituencies to fight the wuthless ringleaders, crooks, gangsters and bandits, alone.

Dear Guyana, be prudent. Here are seven points to consider:

1.      A culture which produces pathological politics (for example, one determined by the exigencies of race rather than development) will produce an economy as described above. Such an economy is weak and is bound to split under the pressures of global forces, war, epidemic, intervention, when the citizens will choose the invading economy (globalization and trade liberalization) rather than the Guyanese economy; such as has happened in Africa, India, the Middle East, South East Asia and the Americas historically, a phenomena known as colonization. Choose therefore a culture and politics of development, not a race-based one.

2.      Putting your gas and oil economy in the hands of a select group of technocrats is undemocratic, and is bound to fail. This has cost the nation of Trinidad and Tobago billions of dollars of wasted financial, economic, social and ecological assets.

3.      Use standard econometric tools when deciding on tenders, recruitment and the feasibility of projects. They are called Cost-Benefit Analyses. Never resort to nepotism, self-serving rationalizations, politicized projects.

4.      Strengthen your regulatory regimes, don’t despoil them with political interventions by the line ministers, particularly for important state projects;

5.      A politicized Judiciary will bleed Guyana dry;

6.      Use your gas and oil returns to build your development apparatus, connectivity in water, electricity, food, waste management, protonics and transport; and your institutions of health, law, prison, education, governance, agriculture, your broadband, 5G technologies.

7.      Use your returns to build with your silica and sea and sun a premier renewable industry with the Caribbean and Latin America.

Wayne Kublalsingh

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