Monday, July 17
He woke me up to tell me he wanted to go to Barbados next weekend. The subject hadn’t come up when we were alone before that so I hadn’t given him a definite no (I told him no once because I didn’t feel up to it, but he insisted the Barbados sunshine & clear ocean would make me better. I told him then I would see how I feel later, with every intention of telling him no.) Since talking to Sharon, I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t respond at all. The only advantage I can see is that if we have any business to take care of in Barbados or Trinidad, my passage & accommodations would be paid, otherwise I think he would only briefly be upset for a few days, but I don’t think I should tell him until the last minute or he may ask to talk to the Bishop and get you to encourage me to go. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “insecure” until I met Mann. This country’s in trouble if he’s typical, which I believe to be the case.
He woke me up again to ask me why I had given him the impression that we were in competition with USAID. I asked what I had said that ever gave him that impression. He grumbled and I asked again. He s[ai]d he must have been dreaming because he didn’t know what he meant. He then went on to tell me how the U.S. had virtually cut off all of their aid to Guyana, the British had cut off all their aid to Guyana and the international agencies (more specifically he mentioned World Bank, IMF, and IDB- International Development Bank) have not given Guyana anything substantial. He s[ai]d the biggest vote in these is the U.S. and the U.S. is not giving to Guyana. He s[ai]d the international agencies and U.S. are not trying to work in Jamaica in an attempt to cut off their relations with Cuba. He s[ai]d socialism is a dirty word in the U.S., even more so with the grassroots level than the higher eschelons. He s[ai]d Mrs. Dwyer s[ai]d Guyana doesn’t have it so bad with shortages. When she lived in Bulgaria, you always shop in twos. One person gets in the block long queues when you see one and the other person goes to the front of the line to find out what it is they are in line for and if you already have it you go on the next queue.
Mann s[ai]d the Soviet Union isn’t interested in helping Guyana because it isn’t of any strategic importance where Latin America is concerned. He s[ai]d the USSR can’t afford another Cuba. His description of the USSR was that they cannot afford to extend themselves any further economically, people live like peasants, they have a shortage of consumer goods, and he gave a general description of a U.S. press description.
I asked him what Guyana was going to do to overcome their economic problems. He s[ai]d “that’s the question.” (He is very troubled about no economic aid from the U.S.) He s[ai]d he thinks that Guyana should encourage foreign private investors and give them the security that their investments won’t be appropriated after a time. He s[ai]d he thought it w[oul]d take years to build up this kind of a relation with private investors because of their apprehension. He s[ai]d he thought the kind of aid Guyana was getting is not what is needed. He s[ai]d instead of these elaborate schemes like the hydropower project or the Black Bush Polder Irrigation scheme, etc. which are 5 year projects, that what Guyana needs is short-term projects which generate a product and employment like a glass factory or a bicycle factory.
He s[ai]d the biggest problem Guyana is facing is the drain of technical and professional people leaving the country. He s[ai]d they are leaving in droves. He asked me, more of a statement of fact, if I knew how many people were lined up to get visas to the U.S. He s[ai]d they are lined up out into the street and not just East Indian and Portuguese but a high percentage of blacks. I asked him what Guyana was in the most need of. He s[ai]d “management skills.” He made a remark before that the majority of the managerial people in state corporations were incompetent and crooks.
He s[ai]d a country will get no where if all of their technical and professional people are gone. [He is very upset about this but I still don’t think it wise to broach the subject about Larry because of his cynicism about our people not being free to make their own choices – I mean in regards to the temptations of city-life.] He is very upset with the two Doctors Skinner who moved to Trinidad. They were personal friends – and related through marriage, but they didn’t mention wanting to leave to him.
We discussed the main problem with production. He s[ai]d the main problem is that all their foreign exchange is used up on necessary food commodities so they don’t have enough to give Guyana businessmen the money to get raw materials which would produce products to export to bring in more foreign exchange. Then he s[ai]d, “And it is going to get worse.”
He also s[ai]d that with these international agencies that they start these big projects and then set all these conditions from year to year or they will cut off their aid like IMF for example.
I am not sure how much of his own concern isn’t for his job since he hasn’t gotten any loans or grants from anyplace in the U.S.
I get the impression that the Prime Minister is holding out against foreign private investors (and intend to ask him at a discreet time) or he wouldn’t be saying “my opinion is we need to encourage foreign private investors and guarantee their security.”
P.S. – He also s[ai]d the time is past for a two party state. He s[ai]d that Guyana should only have one party and get down to the business of the economy instead of trying to show the world that we are a country with free elections and democracy, etc.
– This morning he got a call from his deputy ambassador about either an article or T.V. news report in the U.S. which said that those opposing the referendum were beaten up and that there were riots and demonstrations with tear-gassing by the police.
– He s[ai]d Guyana should not be concentrating on putting across an image as a Third World socialist country because the country is more in need of money and investors.
– He has played poker every day since I have been here.
– Nothing of significance in his briefcase.
– Probably this has already been conveyed many times, but I went to a couple of stores today (department stores) and I was shocked at how close to empty these stores are of consumer goods. By year end, many will be closed down completely. If we were able to supply a store, be it clothing, or a miscellaneous of goods, we should be able to make some money simply because of lack of availability. Because no foreign exchange is required, we would have no import license problems. Always before we’ve gotten bogged down with trying to save money by avoiding duty if we imported for sale, but I think we will make money even if we pay duty. I also believe we would be better to pay it and do every – thing above-board so as to have no back-lash.
I think we should also involve ourselves with some exportable item, like the wooden ashtrays and humidors Mann suggested, and make some deal with one foreign market to keep a portion out of the country to ensure we’ll always have a source for foreign reserves. The Albatros could be that foreign reserve source. We should consider opening an account somewhere in the Caribbean. My first choice would be Trinidad because their money is the most stable due to their oil reserves.
I have no business sense but I think the plywood factory might be too big an investment for us when our expertise in such a field is questionable. If we do get a business, we should put one person solely responsible for management (with committee consultation), but like our problems before; if we have on one able to make decisions, we’ll get bogged down with indecision.