Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The debates over budget 2021 in the Guyana Parliament, yet again, lend significant credence to the case for a national development masterplan. Speaker after speaker strained every sinew in their vocal cords with extreme parliamentary bluster to chastise each other’s projects and programs. No one dared to stray from the tribe and find the fortitude to concede that a project may not have emerged under their tenure but it was good for Guyana and as consequence, they had no choice but to support it. Based on this intransigence, they justified the need to have a national consensus on long-term development needs.
Let me quickly assuage any concerns you may have about my penchant for dreaming based on the aforementioned, I know this will never happen but we must continue to cry to the desert in the interest of the country.
BUDGET 2021 DEBATES
We know budget debates provide the opportunity to pitch a political case. While ideally, they ought to be a chance to discuss programs and policies, in this country, the forum invariably descends into quasi-political rallies and has become a sort of proxy for war. Speakers muster all their oratorical skills to tell the people why the other side is not good for the country. Be that as it may, there was one thing that appears every time that cannot escape the attention of the listening ear: the absence of an agreement on projects that are of supreme national interest that should not be subject to the vortex of the 5-year election cycle. I will also add, there is no mention, from any side, of phrases such as ‘concept notes’ and ‘monitoring and evaluation’. Where technocratic language is absent, there is a political approach to development. Where there is a political approach to development, the country remains underdeveloped. Budget 2021 debates have reinforced the need for a national development masterplan.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MASTERPLAN
A national development masterplan has to proceed from an agreement on which categories of projects ought not to be subject to the vitriol of the 5-year elections cycle. In my estimation, projects that concern affordable and reliable energy, infrastructure and education should be identified for special legislative protection from the vicissitudes of zero-sum Guyanese politics. We cannot continue to proceed along a path that says a project must be torn down and destroyed if a particular party cannot claim it and it will result in glory for the other side.
The national development master plan should cover a minimum of 20 years and it should include the wishes of all political parties and above all, it must be protected by legislation. This should include clauses in the National Development Masterplan Act which will ensure critical projects tied to the nation’s long-term development cannot be washed away by the whims and fancies of a new government. Just like in the case of Fiji, Guyana could possess a 5-year development plan that takes into account the needs of the government’s 5-year political agenda and a 20-year plan which crystalizes critical developmental needs such as reliable and affordable energy.
It is folly for a government to devise long-term transformational development strategies such as the Green State Development Strategy or the Low Carbon Development Strategy without these programs being part of the national development masterplan which is protected by legislation. Long-term development cannot be efficacious while being subject to the 5-year election cycle. The debates in Parliament over budget 2021 give no hope that this will change anytime soon.