NOW that the budget has been passed, the government is moving ahead with its agenda. As was expected, a lot is being done to improve our infrastructure and to bring relief to ordinary citizens. In yesterday’s edition of our paper, we reported that 40 households in a small community on the West Bank of Demerara, Free and Easy, would soon receive water for the first time. This was made possible after a visit to the community by Minister of Housing, Keith Scott.
The minister must be commended for moving quickly to correct this wrong. There are far too many communities across the country that do not have access to these basic services.
We believe that development in Guyana would be meaningless if we do not invest in our people. In fact, we make bold to assert that there can be no real development if ordinary people, the bulk of our nation, do not have access to the basic services such as water, proper roads, a quality education, health care and a living wage.
In this age of neo-liberal economics, there is the tendency to sacrifice these needs in pursuit of investments which invariably widens the gap between the rich and the poor. This has to change.
We have noticed that in another section of the media, the government is accused of being anti-capital. This charge stems from the government’s stance on the side of the people in relation to the Berbice River Bridge controversy. There is also the idle talk about the government returning the country to the socialism of the past. We reiterate that government has a responsibility to balance the demands of capital and labour – both are critical components of any development strategy. But at given moments in a country’s evolution, it becomes imperative that the emphasis is tilted in the direction of the latter. In fact, labour itself is perhaps our most critical form of capital.
One of the objectives of Emancipation and Independence was the creation of a just society where social and other forms of inequality would be eradicated. The extent to which we have achieved that is constantly debated by scholars and commentators. The recent grim findings of the Caribbean Development Bank that 40% of our young people are currently unemployed cannot be comforting. The revelation that we still have communities such as Free and Easy where people’s basic needs are not being met is a serious indictment of our developmental thrust over the last three decades or so. Structural Adjustment has turned out to be counter-productive for our people.
Yes, government by itself cannot bring about development. But the private sector also cannot bring about development on its own. In this regard, the GTUC’s call for a tri-sectoral model that includes Labour is in order. That model worked well in Barbados which is now finding out the folly of tinkering with it. We have to move beyond the Structural Adjustment model and reach for something that speaks to the needs of the peoples of our country. The primary question must always be – what is best for the people?
The ordinary people of Guyana, as they have constantly done, has put a lot of faith in this government to do good by them. They want water, and light, and proper roads, and a good education for their children, and adequate health care for all. And above all they want jobs. They want an equal playing field that produces equal opportunities. They want defence against both the rich and mighty and the criminal jungle. They just want to be free from want and to be productive citizens.