OPINION: His Excellency’s invitation to UK, EU investors

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2022, 7:18 by Denis Chabrol

By GHK Lall

I hear President Ali’s call to Western investors (“UK, European Union investors need to aggressively pursue opportunities in Guyana -Ali”, Demerara Waves, April 26).  I commend the President for seeing the light, no matter how belatedly, with current partners, one in particular, and sounding the gong.  “Aggressively pursue” resonates with that echo, from the way I read it and absorb what the President said to his audience.  I detect that it was more of a plea than a call; more of a call to arms, given what continues to happen to us.  It is about time that the leaders of Guyana, its two presidents came to their senses, and send out what is the equivalent of an SoS.

The local head of state may be sluggish, but he can’t afford to be stupid.  He had to have heard, and to know in some way, what occurred in Sri Lanka, Africa, Latin America with projects and billions in debt.  The common thread is our brothers from the east.  For emphasis, the Far East and the products of their hands, and the outcome for those sister nations of Guyana.  It is not a pretty picture; certainly not one that should warm the heart of any national leader with a concern for his own place and people, and their prospects.  In Guyanese lingo, ‘Guyana caan tie bundle wid China no moh…’

We are paying too much, we are getting gipped too much, we are in project triages too long, we are bleeding too profusely from the rapacious exploits of Chinese corporate captains that are here.  My first inclination was to assert that a sly one was pulled on the Chinese, as I interpreted this development about UK and EU investors.  Then, I remember that it is the tenderfoot President uttering the cry, and I substitute subtle for sly.  It is more becoming, though he certainly took a while to come to his senses, and rather painfully, and only because of necessity.

Necessity because the English and Europeans had to be reminding him and the other head of state, out of newspaper earshot, that there were there during the bruising elections season.  After all, one good turn deserves another; therefore, there is this urgent call for investors not just to come to Guyana, but to do so aggressively.  Sorry, but I read that to indicate, the less that Guyana has to do with the other people form the east, the better.  To bolster his position, the leader was cagey enough to say that “our experience is changing.”  Very good, sir!  And that a hospital was completed with “better terms than the Chinese.”  He said it not me; and it is a plank of capitalism to put competitors to fight over the bones.  What Guyana has to offer is not bones, but marrow and fat and sinew, and the choice carveouts of just about everything a deep-pocketed investor can imagine.  The sky is the limit, so the word is: come to Guyana.  Come quickly (aggressively, too).  That’s telling them, skipper.  Way to go, Mr. President.  Sorry, Dr. President.

Still, I would be less than myself if I do not give my fellow Guyanese a sanity check.  The UK and EU are no benevolent angels where commercial ambitions and opportunities are concerned, they can be just as predatory.  Guyanese should not need the history lesson from me, but I would be remiss if I didn’t identify the Belgians, British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish in the slave trade and their destruction of the New World.  Even a Pope got involved in the action with that lovely treaty that he conjured.  If anyone thinks I am going easy on my fellow Americans, I ask them to think again, please.

Having got that off my chest and before the public, I submit that the Westerners possess a streak or two more of decency and civility in how they manage their relationships with host countries.  I would venture some bits and occasional pieces of integrity also, given that there are answerable, their business practices more open.  That is, when compared to the Chinese.

There are watchdogs by the layers.  There are checks and controls required by the law (real law and not party ones).  The Westerners (UK, EU) are pirates, but a different kind of corporate pirate.  We have a better idea of what is going on, a clearer picture of happenings and relationships.  There are open books, not necessarily uncooked; openness in approach, prevailing standards, a code of corporate ethics, what is called best practices and accountability (try those with the Chinese!).  Plus, there is a little bit more of the law, more conscientiousness (notwithstanding compulsory ruthlessness).  Get me straight, this is not an endorsement, merely a statement of fact, regarding what is better for, and more acceptable to, Guyana.

I would be less than myself if I were to avoid saying that it is still nagging and gnawing these former enslavers must now be partnered with today.  Some of their champions still maintain the kind of mindset that is about place and pecking order, who belongs at the top, and who should be at the bottom.  President and Vice President shouldn’t get any fancy ideas that they feature because they are appreciated.  Nothing personal; just business and embedded culture.  The condescension may be more schooled now, held more in reserve for the shadows and fellows of a like mind.  But it is there, from those who are the lesser of two evils.

Last, I think I now have a better idea of why that British parliamentarian’s name came up for honorable selection.  He would have the best seat in the house to look out for the interests of his true compatriots.  Just not to be insulting, I limit myself to this: they are not Guyanese.  As all this is weighed, I tip my hat to the President for doing the first meaningful thing for this year, if not his presidency.  Cheers!