If there is one thing that all and sundry seem to agree on about Guyana is its abundance of resources and its potential to be a prosperous place. With agreement on that, the question that follows is why hasn’t Guyana realised its potential after 55 years of independence? Reference is often made of Singapore which has come from behind and surpassed Guyana by leaps and bounds. What about Singapore made that possible? It is generally argued that an educated society which observes the norms of democracy, if provided with good leadership, will progress. A review of Singapore`s path to development will reveal that significant attention to, and resources for, education were the order of the day in its developmental effort. That review will also reveal that democracy was not the order of the day. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore is hailed as a benevolent dictator.
He is however also recognised for ‘turning a fledgling city-state into one of the world`s best functioning meritocracies’. Like Guyana Singapore is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. But unlike Guyana it seems to have come to terms with its diversity to the extent that all hands have been on deck in the development process under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. What is of note about Singapore is that it is “colour blind in its meritocracy and economic growth” but at the same time fosters ethnic tolerance and is guided by an Ethnic Integration Policy that targets its electoral system. It has a Council for Minority Rights and embraces various ethnic development groups. What is obvious about Singapore is its acceptance of its demographic reality and its preparedness to come to terms with that reality. The outcome of all of that is a developed country based on education, and sincere and honest leadership, albeit not democratic.
Here in Guyana the political parties all claim virtue and multi ethnic goodwill in the face of periodic ethnic censuses called elections and claims of ethnic discrimination depending on who ends up in opposition. Our Motto: One People, One Nation, One Destiny is the most laudable and the President`s One Guyana is most commendable. But at the end of the day, it all comes over as hot air for on neither side of the divide is their acceptance of the fractured society which has been bequeathed to us; the ethnic intolerance which is portrayed by social media more than ever before; and the sectorial dominance and ‘turfing’ that perpetuates our disunity and consequential failure as a nation.
Guyana`s simple challenge is to be truthful to itself as a necessary step in the right direction. There is no other starting block than Truth, following by Reconciliation. It is hypocritical and a folly to compare where Guyana was vis-a-vis Singapore without comparing the divergent paths they have traversed in response to the similarity of the jeopardies that confronted them and the advantageous material resources position that Guyana was in then and now.