Priorities For Guyana’s New Coalition Government

36 new members of the ruling APNU-AFC government in Guyana were sworn in as the 11th Parliament convened on June 10, 2015. The opposition PPP/Civic boycotted the parliamentary sitting. (GINA image)
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36 new members of the ruling APNU-AFC government in Guyana were sworn in as the 11th Parliament convened on June 10, 2015. The opposition PPP/Civic boycotted the parliamentary sitting. (GINA image)

By Rickford Burke

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. June 11, 2015: Change has come to Guyana. The nation has put the dark era of the PPP domination behind. Diligent exercise of the franchise has secured the election of President David Granger and his A Partnership For National Unity & Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) unity government.  The new dispensation signifies that the power of the “vote” remains invincible.

A coalition inspired rebirth of national pride is imminent. Trepidation and instability have given way to great hope and expectations of an APNU+AFC government economic renaissance; social transformation; arrest of decay in our political society and assiduous pursuit of national unity.

The growing passion for national unity is palpable and pervasive. Guyanese want to move forward in unison to develop our homeland. The people have embarked on a new chapter of national life in which no race or ethnicity will be left behind.

Now is the time to unshackle ourselves from the predilection of ethnic and racial classifications that have strangulated our nation’s progress for generations, and fully embrace our single, inalienable uniqueness – the “Guyanese” identity. Race, class or ethnicity will never define who we are, but our nationality will!

Yes, our ancestors were sailed to the shores of our land from different continents, peoples and tribes but, inevitably, we share a universal identity – that of humanity. Hence, our aspirations and destinies are no different. They are inextricably woven into one unique tapestry that binds our national destiny. It is this sense of commonality that inspired the National Motto: “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.” We must heed this clarion call from the framers of our nation.

The aspiration expressed in our Motto cannot be achieved in a morass of political instability, injustice, divisiveness and exclusion. Such must be condemned to history. Every Guyanese is a stakeholder in our nation’s affairs and must be represented in decision-making. For this reason the coalition government must strengthen our democracy; enforce enshrined rights and freedoms and demonstrably govern as a fair and just government of all.

The pathway to a modern State is mapped through reconciliation and unity. Guyana will only progress when its people embrace a single strategy for modernity as a united nation. The fact that every facet of Guyanese society is represented in the new unity government makes rapprochement and development feasible.

The Granger coalition has adumbrated a bold vision for economic growth and development. However, realization requires meticulous analysis of our national interests; strategic, nimble thinking and the enactment of people centered, progressive policies.  Hearts and minds can only be captured by the implementation of coherent, functional policies that are germane to the nation’s needs and exponentially enhance the economic and social circumstance of the people.

Like every other Guyanese, I have a dream to see my country emerge as a modern state. Our potential is unfathomable and our resources are abundant. Guyana is too rich in natural and human resources to be so poor. I am frustrated that in 2015, my country remains where it was twenty-five years ago – an underdeveloped country.

Now is the time to formulate and implement a long-term, holistic development plan for Guyana. This blueprint must be enshrined in law. Singapore, Malaysia and Brazil are former third-world countries that have blazed the trail of modernization. We must study and emulate their development models.

Once and for all, we must burst our country wide open and develop the vast, untapped, mineral-rich interior regions. We have waited far too long. Over sixty percent of the land and natural resources in Essequibo is either underutilized or undeveloped. No country striving for development, and to overcome poverty, can sustain such degeneracy.  The average Guyanese has been deprived of a decent way of life for far too long.

Guyana now strives to become an oil producing nation. We must, therefore, commence prudent planning to manage the wealth generated by our natural resources to bring about economic and human development and social transformation.

Infrastructure development, affordable housing, free high-quality education and world class healthcare must be national proprieties. Now is the time to invest in state-of-the art medical centers; complemented by an efficient medical transportation system to reverse the endemic avoidable deaths.

A robust social service project to ameliorate economic hardships and provide a safety net for vulnerable populations must be established. New and diverse job opportunities must be created for our youth, and they must be trained and equipped with the skill-sets required for twenty-first century jobs.

We must expand the agricultural sector; modernize the sugar, rice and other industries; utilizing new technologies to lower production costs and improve efficiency and output. These measures will create international competitiveness, boost exports and increase revenue.

However, human development and social transformation alone cannot accomplish development goals. Infrastructural and industrial modernization is an essential component. Our infrastructure is dilapidated, outdated beyond service life, woefully inadequate and incompatible with human advancement and development capacity.

Our technology is so obsolete that it stymies growth and development. Guyana’s technological divide with the rest of the world must be bridged immediately to promote and sustain economic advancement and industrialization. Progress will require a liberalization of the communications sector; high-speed internet services; fourth generation mobile telecommunication technologies; hi-tech medical care, environmental management, electric grids, water supply, etc. Let us give Guyana a technological upgrade!

Now is the time to build a modern network of international highways and conduits throughout the country; linking Georgetown and coastal communities to Suriname, Springslands, Lethem, Bartica, Brazil, Venezuela, Mabaruma, Pataro, Mahdia, Linden, Anna Regina and other places. We must interconnect Guyana with a nexus of modern bridges and tunnels across our rivers, creeks and tributaries to facilitate efficient commerce and trade.

Surrounding localities must be appropriately zoned for industrial, agricultural and commercial enterprises, which would ignite economic activity.  Business will create thousands of new jobs; build new infrastructure like roads and bridges, drainage and water supply systems and generate electricity plants.  Infrastructural development will permit new land acquisitions and construction of homes and commercial centers. This cycle of economic activity will enable new communities to emerge and grow throughout Guyana.

Deep water harbors and modern ports must punctuate our capital and coastal waterways to attract commercial ocean liners and cruise ships. Guyana is situated to be the transportation hub that links South and Central America with the Caribbean and North America. We must take up this challenge and construct world-class, international airports at Ogle and the flatlands that join Demerara and Essequibo counties, and redevelop regional airports at Bartica, Lethem, Mahdia and other interior locations to boost eco-tourism and commerce.

My vision for my country is one of rapid development into a modern state with a booming economy and a standard of living for the average citizen that rivals any in the region. Our former President, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, articulated this vision best in his address to his party’s Congress in August 2002. “For far too long our people have been bereft of happiness. The culmination of our efforts must be to return the smile to their faces, the spring to their steps and the joy to their hearts. Ours must be the task to fashion a vibrant and wholesome society, at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors. We must fashion an economy that creates wealth, spurs development and provides continually expanding conditions for all of our people to live comfortable fulfilling lives. Then we must fashion a state resting squarely on foundations of democracy and social justice where, within ever enlarging bounds of human freedom, the rule of law reigns unchallenged.”

I believe that this is the aspiration of every Guyanese. It must become the mission of our new government. They have the right vision and skills to realize this dream and propel Guyana to modernity.

President David Granger and the APNU+AFC coalition government deserves our full support. I will do all that I can to ensure it is successful. Indeed, all Guyanese must take up this challenge. Our survival and advancement as a people depend on it.

We have a nation to build; generations of young minds to mold and educate; a citizenry to protect and a destiny to charter.  This is our moment! Let us seize the opportunity and accomplish the task. We must bequeath to forthcoming generations a modern country of which we can all be proud!

 EDITOR’S NOTE: Rickford Burke is  president of the New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) USA, LLC