Much reference has been recently made about transforming Guyana into a Dubai. Some even talked about Guyana being transformed into a Singapore. Guyana could be either one or even one of the Asian tigers (miracle economies). People make reference to these models without understanding them. These rapidly growing economies or city states (growing since the 1970s having been introduced to market economics) did not emerge suddenly. How have Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, other Asian tigers, or even the Chinese dragon become what they are? It took a lot of planning under visionary leaders.
The leaders of these countries sent some of their ‘brightest’ students to study in western countries (America, in particular), learn their development models, and return home implementing them. They did not have unplanned development. After careful studies by scholars, plans were created to emulate the western model of development. The western democracies also provided a lot of support to the Southeast Asian nations enabling them to experience rapid growth. Guyana must do the same as the other successfully developing countries – study western models as well as the those of Turkey, Dubai, China, and Southeast Asian countries. And then decide on a model or aspects of models that can be applied to Guyana.
I visited Singapore, Dubai, China, Turkey, Southeast Asian nations multiple times since 1985 assessing their development over periods of time. Every time I visited them, I was amazed at their economic progress or development. On the other hand, I was disappointed with limited progress (growth) in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, among other Latin nations. Latin nations made progress but have not gown as fast as the Asian countries.
Many have talked about Guyana could become a Dubai. There are positive and negative aspects of life in Dubai. If you are not an indigent (born from parents and or ancestors of the UAE) of Dubai, you are treated as a foreigner even if born in the UAE. Only Arabs of UAE Arabic ancestors can be citizens and property holders. Almost every big business or property holding is owned or co-owned by the Royal family. There is no freedom of speech or freedom of religion. That is not the kind of Dubai Guyanese want. But Guyana could emulate other aspects – cleanliness, sanitation, health care, state education, transportation, infrastructure, orderliness, respect for laws and rules, safety, etc. Even though it is an authoritarian system, everything works. There is virtually zero crime. Hooliganism is not permitted. Public drinking not allowed. People enjoy a relatively high standard of living although current cost of living is extremely high, perhaps the highest in the world. Prices of goods and services have risen by five times from what they were fifteen years ago. Yet immigrant laborers are better off with a higher quality of life than in their home countries. There is probably five times more immigrant laborers, if not more, than locals in Dubai and the rest of UAE.
Singapore may be a better model for Guyana – standard and quality of living much higher than in Dubai. Singapore also has similar pluralistic features like Guyana than Dubai. Other Southeast Asian nations are also good models. One can’t compare Guyana with other countries or suggest a model without studying them. The government should appoint a team of scholars, economists in particular, to study and examine various models of development and decide what (can) would be applicable for Guyana. They can approach these countries, like Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc, for assistance to host students to study them for applications to Guyana.
By Vishnu Bisram