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—Dr. Hinds says as he embraces call for development strategy to respond to oil wealth
On the cusp of unprecedented economic growth as a result of its budding Oil and Gas Sector, Political Scientist, Dr. David Hinds said it is imperative for the country to formulate a National Development Strategy (NDS) with the involvement of key stakeholders, and not a single party – a position also articulated in an USAID Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Assessment done on the country.
“A National Development Strategy must be the product of a tri-sector approach—the major political actors or parties, the Labour Sector or the Trade Unions and the Private Sector in its broadest manifestation,” Dr. Hinds told the Village Voice Newspaper.
But Dr. Hinds’ idea for the formation of a National Development Strategy runs contrary to that of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, whose strategy is founded on its party’s 2020 Elections Manifesto. In his keynote address at the International Energy Conference and Expo held last week at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, President Irfaan Ali said the country’s development plans remain consistent with its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) – a key element in the PPP/C’s 2020 Manifesto.
“The multifaceted, wide-ranging development strategy of the country unlocks immeasurable opportunities; these opportunities lay the foundation upon which our future will be built supported by our geographic location and natural competitive advantages. That development strategy is built on a low carbon development strategy pathway,” the Head of State said.
However, Dr. Hinds is of the opinion the discovery and production of oil is too important a development to be managed by any single party. “The coming oil wealth brings to the fore serious historical questions about social and ethnic distribution of resources. Guyana like most Post-Plantation societies are economically challenged thanks to the consequences of centuries of enslavement and colonization. Poverty is the most fundamental consequence. Whole groups are impoverished—a poverty that represent the scars of bondage,” the Political Scientist reasoned.
He posited that each ethnic group, in effect, would be demanding its “back pay” from the oil wealth. Citing an example, he said Africans and to some extent Amerindians and Indian Guyanese would rightly look to the oil wealth as a form of reparations.
“In such circumstances, none of our ethnic parties should morally and politically assume the sole power to manage those resources. The dynamics of ethnic politics would preclude them from being fair distributors of those resources. As we have seen with the PPP as sole managers, the distribution, the policies and decision making are all one-sided and tend to engender hostility from the opposing constituencies,” he said while iterating his call for a joint national management of the country’s oil resources.
In the just release USAID Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment Report: 2021, the need for a non-partisan National Development Strategy was underscored.
“The government and opposition parties must find non-partisan areas of cooperation reaching far beyond political parties to include technical experts and advocates for public spending on health, education, job creation and climate change risks. A participatory effort involving the public and private sectors and providing opportunities for public input can build consensus and public confidence in the equitability of the plan,” a section of the assessment read.
Dr. Hinds, in embracing the Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment, in part, submitted that the major objectives of the National Development Strategy be — the alleviation of poverty; diversification of the economy; enlarging the space for local ownership of the sector; investment in the people of the country; and linking the local economy to the larger regional economy to strengthen the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
But to achieve such objectives would require accountability, consensus and inclusion, the assessment team posited while making a case for the Government of the United States and other international players to aid in the closing existing gaps by supporting the Guyanese Government in drafting and building consensus around a National Development Strategy and a National Development Budget.
“The United States could leverage its diplomatic power to jumpstart a dialogue on a national development strategy and national development policy. There is a precedent for USAID to support this type of initiative either directly or through partners like the Carter Center, as it did in the 1990s,” the assessment team submitted.
It added: “The aim of this initiative is to launch a consensus-based process that would be beneficial to the Government of Guyana, civil society and the private sector to bring about policy change without further political polarization. The aim of this National Development Strategy is to weave together macroeconomic and sectoral analyses and proposals into a consistent policy fabric that will bring substantial benefits to all groups in society.”
Dr. Hinds, while expressing skepticism about external involvement in the drafting of the National Development Strategy, said the diplomatic community can play a role in bringing the political parties together.
“For me the most effective strategy is one that arises out of our sense of our destiny. We have enough Guyanese experts to develop a strategy. The USA approach to economic development is not one that we would want to emulate. Our histories are different and thus our priorities are different,” the Political Scientist reasoned.
He added, however, “I think the USA should play a role in bringing the two sides to the table. Since the USA played a lead role in influencing the one-sided outcome of the 2020 election, it should help to ease the two sides away from the instability that has ensued. Further, because of its investment in the oil sector, it has a stake in political stability.”
A national strategy he iterated would help to foster greater unity among Guyanese while at the same time defending and protecting the country from the threat of domination by the oil companies.
“If ever there was need for national consensus, it is in this era of Oil,” Dr. Hinds said.