Fifty-two years ago, our journey as a Republic began. Along the way, there have been many successes, challenges and threats. Notwithstanding this – and importantly, as a people, we were resilient, focused and resolute – in our desire for a democratic, free, peaceful and prosperous Guyana.
As a people, we have endured many challenges, some self-inflicted; some imported, and some manufactured for a “self-agenda”.
Tonight, I have decided to directly address what is required from each of us as Guyanese to advance this country and create the ‘One Guyana’.
By now, we are all aware of the potential that exists. We all recognise what is needed to ensure that that potential is transferred into results that would bring a better life for every Guyanese.
From the inception, let me be clear, I and my Government are supportive of constructive criticism.
To advance our ‘One Guyana’, as a society, we must have healthy debate, exchange of views and critical examination of policies, programmes, initiatives, and plans.
However, these discussions must not be based on selfish agenda, biasness,
perception, propaganda, and feelings. Instead, they must be firmly rooted in facts and a pragmatic understanding of what is required in this rapidly changing Guyana.
In this, our 52nd year of our Republic, I wish to humbly examine 10 areas in which we, as a people, must understand our role, responsibility, and function.
We must address these 10 things at a personal level and ultimately at a country level if we are to pursue the right blend of character and traits that will make us successful people.
- What is the attitude required to be successful?
- Is it a complaining, negative one?
- Where does such an attitude take us? And
- What do we hope to achieve with such attitude?
If, as ‘One Guyana’, we believe in the potential that exists, then we need to exhibit a positive attitude and a positive outlook.
The chronic naysayers will find fault in everything we do. With a positive mindset, however, we will work to strengthen every decision and policy to deliver the best possible outcome for all.
Attitude set in misrepresentation, political mischief and destruction—will not take us forward.
The rapid advancement of Guyana requires us to change the way we think, act, and behave.
The scale of development dictates that our thought process must now address more complex and dynamic issues. For instance, we have not only just begun thinking of how to become energy secure. The advances we made have now positioned Guyana in a place where we can contribute to the energy security of an entire corridor.
Not only should we be thinking about how to catalyse development in Guyana—we should be thinking about how to advance new growth poles and centres, ensuring that every region benefits from the prosperity that is coming.
To accomplish this requires a completely different attitude.
The way we view safety, standards and work ethics must all be addressed in creating the right attitude for a successful future.
- What makes us Guyanese?
- How are we viewed as Guyanese workers? Or As a Guyanese Businessperson?
Our culture is only one component of who we are as Guyanese. If I am to ask every individual present – “what makes them Guyanese”, I assure you we will have varying responses from each of you.
We must therefore settle on what makes us uniquely Guyanese. This ultimately determines the character of Guyana.
We, the people, are the ones who give life to this country Guyana. If we want the character of Guyana to be positive, then we must examine our character as a people.
We must be known as people with fundamental principles, and defenders of universal values like freedom, democracy and rule of law, equity and fairness.
Our resilience taught us many lessons. We must learn from those experiences in ensuring we charter a course that will bring prosperity to all in our ‘One Guyana’.
Our character as a people must never allow our country to be among those where democracy and freedom are illusions.
These attributes, which we fought so strongly for – must be protected by the people.
You, the people of Guyana, are the shield against injustice, disharmony, bitterness and mischievous chaos.
Each of us as individuals must pledge that regardless of our religious and political persuasions, these principles and character that make us Guyanese WILL NEVER be sacrificed.
As a country and as a people, we must write our own narrative for the future. However, that future must be mindful of the experiences of others and be flexible enough, although homegrown, to be globally acceptable.
For this – the support of the regional and global communities is essential.
What do the habitual naysayers gain by portraying a continuously negative narrative?
On the one hand: we want sustainability and cheaper energy and on the other hand: the naysayers throw every obstacle at achieving this.
On the one hand: we want a profitable and diversified sugar sector, where our workers are transformed into skilled and semi-skilled functionaries – and on the other hand: the naysayers “gripe” at every attempt at partnership.
Your Government has outlined a clear and ambitious vision for our country -that I need not repeat. This vision has been clearly articulated in our manifesto, and in our free and democratic society, it is open for constructive debate.
Recall that it is on this vision, that the Government was given the mandate to advance the cause of every Guyanese.
As your President, this is the narrative on which we are building our prosperous Guyana. There is absolutely no need to presuppose or guess. The vision is clearly articulated.
- VALUES AND BELIEFS SYSTEM
While we are a multicultural and multireligious society, there are some common values in our belief system that we must inculcate if we are to build a stronger Guyana that will bring prosperity for all.
i. We must celebrate each other’s accomplishments,
ii. We must be open and transparent in the way we relate to each other,
iii. We cannot love God and hate each other,
iv. We cannot love Guyana or be part of the ‘One Guyana’ family by sowing seeds of division and divisiveness,
We must value education, health, justice, freedom, equality and respect by ensuring equitable access, fairness and investment that will allow all our people to benefit.
v. AND our love for each other must be built on a foundation of respect, real decency, and dignity.
Those who do not share these values would see racism, divisiveness, and hate as tools to be used for their own selfish gains.
We must not fall prey to those pursuing this path. We have had 52 years of experience as a Republic to understand the consequences of such a visionless and destructive path.
Being objective is being responsible! Objectivity cannot be based on unfounded perceptions, wild accusations, personal vendetta, social or political alignment.
It must be based on clarity of thought. Objectivity requires critical analysis and not simplistic propagandist theorising to achieve a self-serving outcome.
Objectivity cannot be blindfolding yourself to reality.
Objectivity is a key ingredient of a functional democracy. It requires honesty, integrity, fairness and frankness.
Anything short of these can be classified as self-opinionated, self-righteous and plain selfish.
This cannot be part of the equation in taking our country forward.
We must be realistic about what we can and cannot do. We must also be realistic in our expectations. We must understand the environment in which we operate.
Our continued experiences with Covid, the recent floods, and supply chain issues are fresh examples of how expectations must be tamed against realities.
In being realistic, we must be humble to accept help in areas where we require help.
Being realistic is being humble enough to say- “I do not know” and reach for answers where they do exist.
It is for this reason – our local content legislation was developed with a realistic understanding of where we are as a country.
Being realistic is also understanding that the commitments we made in the manifesto are to be achieved within five years, and I assure every Guyanese those commitments we made will be honoured and delivered.
- ACHIEVABLE TARGETS
Achievable targets cannot be US$750m divided by 750,000 citizens being equal to US$1m per citizen.
Not only is this mathematically incorrect – it is not realistic or achievable, much less sustainable.
We have therefore set ourselves targets that are not only achievable but are transformative in nature – namely: cutting cost of electricity by 50%, 50,000 house lots, 50,000 new jobs, $40,000 old-age pensions, $50,000 “Because We Care” grant; 20,000 online scholarships.
These are all achievable targets! We are on track!
For these targets to be realised, we must invest in the social and economic transformation of our country.
These investments include:
• Energy sustainability, through the Gas to Energy and hydropower projects,
• New Shore base facilities,
• New Demerara Harbour Bridge
• Major new highways
• New farm to market access roads,
• Support to the private sector in hotel and other tourism investments,
• Expanded mining,
• Food production,
• Building the knowledge industry and
• Investments in education, and health care with the maternal/children speciality hospital and six regional hospitals.
The targets we set ourselves must position Guyana as a strong global and regional player.
Our strengths must be diversified and not be dependent on our natural resources.
We are therefore building an economy that will boast, world-class eco-tourism, world-class urban centres, world-class agriculture and food production using technology, world-class health and educational services, and world-class environmental diversity and ecological services Whilst transitioning into new manufacturing, agro-processing and industrial opportunities, along with the development of a hemp industry and its numerous spinoffs.
- GOVERNANCE SYSTEM
To support all of this, our governance system must be efficient, reliable, trustworthy, accountable, simple, responsive and flexible to the global environment in which we operate.
These elements must be built on a modern constitution that must be developed from the people—a process that is ongoing.
Our laws being reflective of the direction and development trajectory of the country.
The legislative and judicial arms of Government are modernising and organising to meet the new demands of the future.
- COUNTRY POSITIONING
We, as a people, must understand what our country has to offer and where it will be positioned in the future.
• 19.5 gigatons of carbon worth conservatively US$195b
• Our forestry sector has an estimated value of US$500b
• The potential value of our Gold Reserves, at the current rate, is approximately US$35b
• Our total bauxite reserves has a potential value close to US$1b.
• Our quarrying reserves are valued at approximately US$1b.
• Our silica sand reserves are estimated at 1.5 billion tonnes, valued conservatively at G$37.5b.
• Our freshwater capacity is estimated at G$4b per annum.
These characteristics of our country position us to be among the best in food production, aquaculture, eco-tourism, environmental services, forestry mining, and energy among many others.
The world has now started to realise this. It is our collective effort that will position us among the best globally in these and other sectors.
- OUR PEOPLE
You, the people – are our greatest asset. This is the asset that must be harnessed efficiently to enhance productivity, stimulate creativity, and overcome mediocrity.
It is, for this reason, we are investing heavily in education, training and development and institutional strengthening.
It is, we as a people, who must change our attitude, culture and values towards the environment, society and towards each other—that will ultimately determine our collective successful Guyana.
This is not the time in our history to sit back and watch the journey unfold. This is our time to embrace the train of progress, this is our time to embrace the demand our country make of us, this is our time to be positive, this is our time to remove negativity, this is our time to advance the future of ‘One Guyana’.
As we celebrate our 52nd anniversary, we must ponder on these points. And as your humble servant, I contend to do the same as together we build the One Guyana we desire.
Happy Republic Day. God bless you all.