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I am not asking, I am telling you that the Guyana ship is headed for the deep Ocean of the resource curse. There is nothing to suggest otherwise. The curse of plenty has hit these shores and it doesn’t appear to be here on a short vacation. As a consequence, the question is justifiably begged: can we reverse course? In my estimation, the answer is sadly in the negative. Unless, of course, we conjure the spirit of Lee Kuan Yew or our local leaders experience a sudden epiphany. The aforesaid will not happen and because of this, we must continue to lament the dearth of transformational leadership which continues to elude the land of many natural resources.
Singapore may have remained a mere backwater colony without Lew Kuan Yew. Barbados may not have emerged as an island with global significance without Errol Barrow. Dubai may have remained a barren desert without Sheikh Rashid Ibn Saeed Al Maktoum. Transformational leadership makes all the difference and nations that are blessed with these once-in-generation saviors, ought to be appreciative.
Even though Guyana is endowed with a plethora of natural resources, at this moment in time, we lack the most precious resource-transformational leadership.
DO LEADERS MATTER?
In their study, ‘Do Leaders Matter: National Leadership and Growth Since World War II’, Benjamin Jones and Benjamin A. Olken sought to answer this question. In the final analysis, these scholars concluded that there is a direct correlation between leaders and economic growth. Therefore, it ought to be difficult to successfully contradict this contestation. Insofar as this argument holds, we should not be too excited about an abundance of natural resources if there is a lack of good and transformational leadership. The literature is clear. As well as that, history has long concluded on the role of great men and women. However, I speak only to good leadership with honorable intentions and certainly would not sully this time and space to promote strong men and their machinations. Who is at the helm, can certainly decide on how a country performs or does not perform. In this regard, Guyana remains a permanent negative exemplar of this phenomenon. If that is not the case, what else can account for a country with such vast resources, living in abject poverty? Despite the bluster and huffs and puffs, one would be hard-pressed to explain why Japan has little natural resources but remains a top world economy without noting the critical role played by good leadership. In the case of the land of many waters, the dispassionate finger has to point at the lack of transformational leadership.
GUYANA’S LACK OF TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERSHIP
I shall argue that in the absence of leadership reminiscent of Forbes Burnham, Dr. CheddiJagan and Hugh Desmond Hoyte, Guyana experiences a dearth in transformational leadership. This phenomenon involves grand vision, love for country and a complete disinterest in self-aggrandizement. This is the missing resource. You can have endless natural resources but once the aforesaid key ingredient is not there, it is difficult to see progress. As a consequence, the nation is left with men and women shivering with red carpet fever with their eyes fixated on reaching the highest office in the land to satisfy their insurmountable egos. Invariably, this comes along with little care or regard for the larger cause, it is passionately driven by personal aggrandizement. As a result, the nation labors in vain with expectations for the hero or heroine to rescue them. It will not happen in a context where there is no transformational leadership. I am not promoting the politics of heroism, I am supremely aware of the dangers that lie in this model. This intervention proceeds from the assumption which suggests that the hero has honorable intentions.
WHAT MUST BE DONE
In the absence of the aforementioned key ingredient for a country’s development, the people must eschew hero worship and embrace the power they possess. If the transformational leader is simply not there, then it is prudent to seek out leadership models that can supplant. In that regard, it is difficult to escape Rousseau’s ‘Discourse on the most necessary virtue for a hero’. Jean Jacques Rousseau argued for a hero who could forge a strong sense of citizenship among the people. In the same literary breath, he cautioned that in the event of the nonattendance of the hero, there must be a large degree of independence among the people. They must become their own saviors. If there is no Batman to save Gotham, the people must organize themselves in committees and consuls. Despite this suggestion, Batman may find it difficult to rescue a Gotham that is plagued by tribalism that prevents the people from uniting on the basis of issues. The discovery of oil means little for a society such as Guyana without a concomitant discovery of a transformational leader with honorable intentions.