There is no shortage of explanations or reasons offered for our anemic development after Independence: ethnic / racial divides; the underdevelopment of our economy and society by the deceased colonies; rowdy politicians; lack of capital; brain drain, etc. But for each of the limitations identified, and then some (for example, lack of physical resources), other countries – such as S. Korea, Singapore, and others in the Far East – have yet to jump from the Third World . to First World status.
But now that our capital constraint is going to be eased through our oil revenues, we want to put on the agenda one factor that has somehow not got the attention we think it should have: the need for us to have a strong desire to to do so works for the benefit of all. Now, it can be said that this is a result of the divisions in our society, but this should be addressed by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), which was formed to address this circumstance and has budget of more than $ 200 million annually. .
One of the ERC’s mandates makes clear that it should: “Identify and analyze factors that impede the attainment of harmonious relations between ethnic groups, in particular barriers to any ethnic group’s participation in social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural endeavors and political, and recommend to the National Assembly and other relevant public or private sector bodies how these factors should be overcome. “One factor affecting harmonious ethnic relations is the lack of a nationalist spirit to overcome our challenges – especially economic ones.
Less than a decade ago, CUNY political scientist Richard Wolin set out to visit China and asked one worker, “What do people here do at weekends?” The answer, to his surprise, was, “We don’t have We must work hard to pass America! “They are now ready to achieve that goal. On his travels across many campuses and cities, he saw the same sentiment very widely. Because of such an orientation, China has been able to sustain a two-digit growth rate for three decades, and is now the second largest economy in the world – just behind ‘ r US.
Japan, which led the thrust of ‘miraculous growth’ in the post-World War II era, was also aided by strong patriotic enthusiasm among its people. Many people conveniently forget that the Industrial Revolution in Britain and Europe had followed their consolidation as states, where the people were willing to sacrifice for “King and country”. While the United States overthrew the king, its citizens rallied for the national cause as well.
In Guyana, we are still in a place where the ‘us, the people’ feeling has not been built into the psyche of our people. In the absence of such a feeling, individuals would act solely for the benefit of their subgroup or themselves. Looking out for “No. 1” becomes a rallying cry. The ERC can work to change this.
Guyanese should compare the differential rates of development in the Far East, where effort for the common good is commonplace, let’s say Africa, or our own Guyana, where we rivet along ethnic lines. We must do better. In our estimation, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) missed a golden opportunity, as President Ali pointed out, not to consult with his government in structuring their “National Conversation” to improve ethnic relations. One of their mandates is “To consult with other bodies and individuals to determine and identify the perceived needs of the various ethnic groups for building harmonious relationships.”
In societies that do not have an ethos for the common good, people do what is in their own interests, and have no qualifications to abandon principles or change sides when it benefits them. This opportunistic behavior also encourages corruption. Corruption is not just a political systems problem, it is an attitude problem. People who are not prone to personal disadvantages can easily be corrupted for the benefit of all.