As Finance Minister Winston Jordan prepares to present Guyana’s budget in the National Assembly on Monday, August 10, a non-governmental organisation wants government to plough money into agriculture and the development of Black businesses.
“I think if the government were to do that as a first step we can begin the long journey towards making sure that we have a new lease of life on small business in the communities,” said Executive Member of Cuffy250, David Hinds. His call followed one by President David Granger to be thrifty and move away from salaried jobs and instead create agricultural-based jobs.
Government, he said, would have to craft policies to train young people in skills for the 21st century as well as make cash available for start-up businesses.
While Cuffy250 does not expect government to provide all the financing, the organisation believes the administration should use its significant leverage in accessing loans and grants from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
Against the background of jobless youths not having collateral to secure loans, Hinds said Guyana remains largely government driven with a not too enterprising private sector that is already skewed against African Guyanese. “The government has to step in here! The government has to set up some kind of fund where these people can get some loans or grants to start small businesses. I would urge the government to make that investment as we go forward,” he said.
In order to address poor drainage and dilapidated farm-to-market roads, Hinds alluded to the formation of committees on health, education and agricultural in several communities by Cuffy250 and acting as a bridge between them and the government. “We have got to get our farmers back again in the business of planting more than a half of bed and to plant acres so it is a holistic approach and it can be done but government is key in facilitating,” said Hinds, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).
At Buxton, businessman Hamley Case on Sunday recommended that the government should arrange for famers from that village to cultivate and sell their fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs to the state-owned Marriott Hotel and other hotels. “Now I would suggest that the Buxtonians form a cooperative or whatever you want to call it growing vegetables and fruits and supplying Marriott with help from the government…I cannot see that you can fail when you have got a market of that size and consistency,” Case told hundreds of Buxtonians at St. Anthony’s School, Friendship.
Present at that forum were top officials from the Ministry of the Presidency, Ministry of Communities and successful Buxton businessman, Morris Wilson.
But a villager echoed the views of several other Buxtonians that flooding is a major problem affecting agriculture there. Everybody is talking about the farmlands, you must do farming. It is good to say that but the point is you don’t have any drainage. No drainage at all. As soon as the rain fall one or two hours, the whole place is flooded and we cannot farm under that condition,” he said.
Asked whether he believed that the private sector would be opened to support those ideas, Hinds said the East Indian-dominated business community would prefer to look inward. “The private sector in Guyana s part of the ethnic divide in Guyana and so an East Indian businessman or a group of East Indian businessmen they have ideas about their own community and not necessarily about an African Guyanese community and that’s where the African Guyanese community is at a disadvantage because we do not have Black entrepreneurs in the same numbers,” he said.
The Political Science Professor believes that Black entrepreneurship collapsed shortly after independence from Britain in 1966 because of the emergence of a Black middle class that pursues a selfish path, and Guyana’s experiment with socialism in the 1970s and 1980s.