February 24, 2017

Plantain chips…

…or plantain chips
A couple of decades ago, Thomas Friedman, author and NY Times columnist, observed in his book “The Lexus and the Olive tree”, that even though trade was driving globalisation, the winners of the sweepstakes were shipping ever decreasing tonnage of exports! He explained the conundrum by pointing out that even though, say, less steel or grain may’ve been shipped by them, their almost weightless exports, like computer chips, far exceeded the value of the old exports!
Someone in Guyana from that era must’ve heard this nugget of wisdom. But they either weren’t really paying attention or age had dulled their memory. Friedman was talking about COMPUTER CHIPS, not PLANTAIN CHIPS – which has just been suggested as the product that can solve Guyana’s economic woes!
Plantain Chips are lighter than sugar or bauxite or timber, your Eyewitness will concede, but it misses the point, doesn’t it? The weight of a country’s exports was the third in what Friedman called “The nine habits of effective countries” and he explained it thusly: How much does your country or company weigh? – “We are moving from a world where the heavy eat the light, to a world where the light eat the heavy. Today, a country that exports primarily raw materials – commodities, iron ore, crude oil – is going to weigh a lot. A country that specialises in information technologies and services is going to weigh a lot less and is probably providing a higher standard of living for more of its people.”
In Guyana, there’s been a lot of talk about getting into “IT and ICT” and “Knowledge industries”, and such like – but to talk about exporting “plantain chips” at the highest level in 2017 has shown that there’s a radical disjunctive between the “talk” and the “walk”. This was brought home very graphically to your Eyewitness when he listened to the Mayor berating the parking meters protestors. And studiously avoiding the real problem – the total lack of transparency on the contract.
Maybe your Eyewitness can do worse that repeat Friedman’s homily on being an “effective country” – (number five): Does Your Country or Company Dare to Be Open on the Inside? – The more transparent you are inside, the more your government is grounded in the rule of law, the more you are willing to share how and where decisions are made, the less likely it is that corruption will remain hidden, and the more likely others will be willing to stick with you.
“In the coming years, we will no longer refer to developed and underdeveloped countries, or emerging markets and non-emerging markets. Instead we will refer to “transparent countries” and “non-transparent” countries.”
No wonder we’re now pushing plantain chips!
…or bargaining chips?
While most of Guyana has been obsessing with Trump and his Executive Orders on immigration, a local economist from UG highlighted a Congressional action that might be even more significant for Guyana. This is the scuttling of the Federal requirement that US Oil Companies reveal all payments made to foreign governments to exploit their petroleum and gas reserves.
The law was supposed to suss out payments by US companies made under the table to corrupt governments, which invariably end up secreted in private offshore accounts – leaving the citizens of the oil-depleted country literally holding the bag. In a country like Guyana, where corrupt acts of omission and commission are daily occurrences, most Guyanese have little hope this Government will crack down on corruption when they’re unwilling to even enact a “Code of Conduct” for their Ministers!
This Eyewitness is disappointed the US will now hold its oil companies to a lower standard, than, say Canada or the EU.
…or platitudes
Ramjattan, to whom Justice Kennard was responsible, claims the latter’s dismissal wasn’t “racial”. So, will he demand equal treatment at Cabinet on Dr Clive Thomas, who holds two portfolios ten times more onerous than Kennard’s PCA? And is just as old.
Equal treatment vitiates claims of bias, no?