This being October, it means we’re now in “Agriculture Month”. With all eyes fixated on oil in general – and Payara in particular – your Eyewitness does hope someone will spare a thought about the dangers of the “Dutch Disease” and the role that agriculture can play to head it off.
Now, you do remember what is “Dutch Disease”, don’t you, dear reader?? Yes, it’s NOT the incomprehension when someone’s “speaking Dutch”, it’s more about the dangers to our future wellbeing when we put all our eggs in the oil basket – with nothing to fall back on when the “black gold” runs out, or its price goes south.
And that’s what’s happening with oil, ain’t it? They’re predicting our years of fat ain’t gonna last more than a couple of decades. Now, since none of this is anything new, you’d have hoped the PNC would’ve handled the agriculture portfolio with a high level of care, wouldn’t you? After all, what were the immediate alternatives? It’s not like we could suddenly become the “Dubai” of the Caribbean, could we? Takes time – and a whole lotta money – to do that! Nor could we become the Singapore of the South, and become a world class manufacturing centre and financial centre. Burnham ensured we couldn’t take that road, after he completely obliterated the economy we inherited from the Brits!!
But, with all of that, we still had the agricultural base which the latter colonials had spent two hundred years literally driving us with whips to keep in shape. And what did the PNC do about this gem when they discovered Exxon had discovered oil just as they slid into office? Appoint Noel Holder as the Minister of Agriculture!! That was about as big a blunder as when the captain of the Titanic shouted, “Full steam ahead!!” just before his “unsinkable” ship plunged into that iceberg!
Holder’s appointment in agriculture represented – as nothing else could – the PNC’s attitude to agriculture. While any rational government would’ve salivated to have not only drained and irrigated land coming out of our kazoos, but also Guyanese who were willing “to get mud between their toes”, the PNC saw the latter as the enemy to be annihilated. They were willing to destroy our ‘ace in the hole’ for when oil ran out just to settle political scores.
And so, we saw our rice shipped to Panama, but no follow-up to ensure that the exporters got paid; knowing that, eventually, it’s the rice farmers who’d get shafted in the end.
And we really don’t have to discuss what they did to sugar, do we? Even when their own COI gave them a plan.
We have our work cut out in Agriculture Month!!
The PNC threw all sorts of fake news at the PPP to wrest the Presidency away in 2015; but they just couldn’t make anything stick when it came to housing. After all, the PPP – especially under the present President, when he was Minister of Housing – had created more housing areas than in any time in our history. And this includes the Village Movement after Emancipation and the massive housing drive for sugar workers after WWII!
But, in their five years, all the PNC did was to lament how large the housing backlog still was – while they just plotted and planned to dole out lands to themselves, their friends and relatives. And of course, the backlog inevitably grew, as did the frustrations – especially when you factor in the approximately 30,000 Guyanese who returned from Venezuela.
The new PPP Government would have to deal very sensitively with the issue, since the PNC will use the opportunity to exploit those frustrations.
In this COVID-19 season, they just shouldn’t address irate crowds.
As your Eyewitness had predicted, the GPSU has come out swinging against the Government, and has issued an ultimatum: that the nurses will strike, unless they get what they want.
They say the $150M already allocated is “chicken feed”. They haven’t said what’s “suitable food” for nurses.