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In February 2021, the Legatum Institute, a London-based think-tank that compiles the Legatum Prosperity Index, published ‘How Nations Succeed’. The Institute is dedicated to creating a global movement of people committed to social transformation: noting that creating a pathway from poverty to prosperity is a goal for some national leaders. ‘Prosperity entails much more than a society’s economy or an individual’s wealth. It is an environment in which every person is able to reach their full potential. A nation is prosperous when it has effective institutions, an open economy, and empowered people who are healthy, educated, and safe.’ The study considered the different development path of ten underdeveloped countries across six decades, focusing on what did and did not work. From this it deduced some proven and effective recommendations designed to provide leaders with a comprehensive framework for national transformation.
Notwithstanding its abundant natural resources, Guyana has been struggling over the last seven decades (which parallel those of the study) to provide a decent level of prosperity for its people, and it must be useful for Guyanese to ponder whether they presently upon a pathway to success. Apart from a concluding comment what follows are the concise recommendations.
FORGE A STRONG SOCIAL CONTRACT – Establish Statehood
Promote a national identity by identifying opportunities to unify the country, whether through shared language, culture, or icons.
Maintain control over the key parts of your territory by seeking to immediately contain – rather than eradicate – insecurity.
Maintain internal order without resorting to violence by investing in the cultivation of a politically independent, well-trained security sector. Cultivate Legitimacy
Establish formal and informal executive constraints by codifying a series of checks and balances in the constitution and by encouraging informal constraints upon executive power.
Champion the rule of law by prioritising the creation of an effective judiciary, by maintaining its independence from government and by abiding by its rulings.
Commit to the peaceful transfer of power by embracing constitutionally mandated term limits and by signaling an intention to leave office peacefully. Govern competently
Adopt a pragmatic and inclusive approach to national development by making development the first priority, by avoiding factionalism and by demonstrating a determination to govern for the good of all.
Build a competent administration by prioritising the creation of an effective bureaucracy, making use of international expertise where necessary.
BUILD OPEN ECONOMIES – Develop Macroeconomic Resilience
Raise sufficient revenues and reduce reliance upon tariffs by creating a simple and equitable system of taxation and by broadening the tax base.
Prioritise fiscal sustainability by limiting budget deficits to prevent the accrual of debts, by avoiding reliance upon costly commercial debt and by maximising capital investments while minimising recurrent current expenditures and overheads.
Deliver monetary stability by establishing an effective and autonomous central bank, by keeping inflation low and stable and by maintaining a singular, stable exchange rate. Build a Domestic Asset Base
Protect property rights by dealing effectively with tribal and customary rights, avoiding the expropriation of land and by addressing the grievances caused by the expropriation of land.
Cultivate a domestic finance sector by adopting a posture of non-interference and by avoiding using commercial banks as an additional source of government lending.
Encourage foreign investment, capabilities, and technologies by moving from positive to negative investment lists and by maintaining a posture of openness to external actors. Promote trade and commerce
Enable competition by minimising the detrimental impact of monopolies and SOEs, by limiting the use of price controls and by maintaining a flexible labour market through minimising the formal and informal costs of employment and by limiting public sector employment.
Make innovative use of export processing zones by using them to configure the economy towards exporting, and by experimenting with policy options designed to increase the international competitiveness of key exports.
Prioritise international trade by reducing barriers to trade and ending import-substitution industrialisation, and by bolstering regional trading ties.
INVEST IN HUMAN CAPITAL – Provide Effective Healthcare and Target Universal Education
Build institutional capacity and quality by making judicious use of formal and informal external assistance.
Improve access to healthcare by prioritising healthcare infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
Create essential capacity and quality by prioritising both the building of schools and by incentivising teacher training.
Maximise access to primary, secondary and tertiary education by addressing the need for schooling in rural areas and by preventing exclusionary access.
‘Our work draws one fundamental conclusion: ultimately, nations develop, develop themselves … as the result of successive leaders’ careful and conscious management of institutional, economic and social wellbeing. This requires …leaders to be men and women of both vision and character, committed to placing the long-term development of their nations above short-term political imperatives.’ I wish it were so in Guyana.
When reminded that Guyana was not doing comparatively well as a country, Janet Jagan’s mantra to the faithful was that the PPP/C was doing its best in the circumstances of ethnic strife. Too many political leaders, nurtured in Guyana’s autocratic ideological environment, prioritise retaining exclusive political power above national development because the latter requires a more inclusive form of governance!