THE announcement of the new discovery of oil in the Orinduik Block by Tullow Oil must be great news for all Guyanese who dream of a Guyana where all its citizens can look forward to a better life. There is no doubt that the coming of Oil next year is cause for optimism.
As some forward-looking observers and commentators have pointed out, our country stands on the brink of a brand-new era. They contend that the developmental challenges
Guyana inherited from colonialism could now be effectively tackled.
Whereas previous governments have had to contend with an inadequate revenue base, the government that comes to power after the next election will not be similarly handicapped. We fully endorse that perspective. Those Guyanese who have constantly engaged in campaigns of doubt and pessimism regarding the coming Oil economy are doing a disservice to their country. Obviously, Guyana must learn from the mistakes of other oil-producing countries.
We must also pay attention to our inherent social and political problems that could serve to undermine our potential for transformation. But to hold these concerns up as reasons for Guyanese not to be excited is downright dishonest. Those who traffic in this kind of hopelessness have their own sinister agenda.
While Guyana has made marked strides since Independence five decades ago, we have never had the kind of resources needed to realise the Independence dream of socio-economic liberation. The laudable transformative policies such as universal access to education and housing for all which were attempted during the early years can now be afforded the infusion of the necessary funds needed for their sustainability. In other words, we would be in a better position to realise sustainable development. That was the dream of our foreparents at the time of Emancipation and Independence.
There is not much that could be done about the related problems that fall outside of our control as a small country with little experience in the oil business. We will obviously make mistakes; this is the nature of the global economy whereby small underdeveloped countries suffer because of their vulnerability. Multinational corporations have tremendous leverage that cannot be matched by countries such as ours with limited bargaining power and inadequate technical capacity. It is the very expected wealth that would, in the long run, increase our capacity in these areas.
The overarching challenge for the government in the short run would be how to effectively manage the unprecedented wealth so that all sections and sectors of the country benefit. The government would face pressure to satisfy the demands from the various groups and interests. It would also be pressured to contain the expected corruption that accompanies virgin oil economies.
That is why it is important for the country to choose wisely at the coming elections. Management of this new dispensation requires shrewd and purposeful leadership. But above all, it requires leadership that has the people, especially the poor, at heart. We cannot afford reckless leadership at this time. Guyanese must make the determination about who governs based on the track record of the competitors. Those who thrive on the demonisation of opponents have no place in government at this time. The new government must be one that governs in the interest of all the people regardless of ethnic or social identity.
While we are not encouraging the nation to be complacent or raising expectations to unreasonable levels, we think that optimism rather than pessimism should be the order. Pay less attention to the prophets of doom. Think about the potential that would be unlocked by what lies before us and rally behind reason. Better is coming. As the old folks would say: Two morning more!