Letter-to-the-Editor: Guyana needs to change political culture to reap full benefits from oil

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Over the past few days I have attended the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas with its expansive display by hundreds of companies and countries including Guyana as well as conference sessions and collateral events. Guyana is well represented at this conference and must be a fascinating reality check for many of us, I would think.

I have always been aware that our oil and gas industry would be a boost to our economy but must admit that what I have learnt during this conference has really opened my eyes to the enormity of the positive impact this sector can have on quality of life of the Guyanese people if we manage it well and confront some of the challenges, including social ills such as human trafficking which are likely to intensify as our level of prosperity is heightened.

I really hope that all Guyanese, especially our politicians can come to grips with the reality that if they do what is right they could chart a course that would provide for every Guyanese to enjoy a quality of life about which they never dreamt.

On Wednesday, there was a session on Guyana which focused on sustainable development of Guyana’s oil and gas industry. It was a good panel discussion. While much of the information was not new, what made it useful were the perspectives offered about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (swot) which the sector must analyze and address.

One panelist spoke of the ” complex political structure” in Guyana which I interpreted to be among the challenges which must be addressed if the sector is to realize its full potential to be of benefit to each and every Guyanese.

I would hope that in quick time the political structure of Guyana would change via constitutional reform.  In the meantime however it is my fervent wish that the political  culture in Guyana could change even sooner thereby providing for heightened collaboration among the major political parties and drastic reduction in the real and/or perceived animosity which exist among them. Guyana has to have a predictable environment to facilitate investment, private sector and economic development and job creation. This requires consultation and collaboration among the parties which would provide for continuity of policies when there are changes in government.

In short what I am proposing is that the major political parties refrain from their “jingoistic” approaches to governance and work toward some form of unified governance which would not negate a reasonable plurality of outlook, but presuppose it.

Seeking to eschew corruption in all its forms and at every level must be the pillar of their collaborative efforts along with putting an end to political favoritism/loyalty in the appointments to key positions. Perhaps it is time that the major political parties seek to attract to its ranks and leadership persons with a greater commitment to Putting Guyana First. Failure to so do could torpedo the good life the cusp of which the country is now positioned.

I attended a business meeting sometime ago in Curacao at which Paul Keens Douglas was the keynote speaker at one of the luncheon sessions. In referring to “group think” of regional politicians he said these guys “feel their countries are at the precipice of great developments and all they have to do is take one great step forward.” Lets hope this is not the current thinking of our Guyanese politicians.

Regards

Wesley Kirton