Has Guyana an independent future or will it become necessary at some stage to enter some form of economic and/or political alliance with one or more countries?
To answer this question fully it would be necessary to analyse the present situation carefully and to examine in detail the policies open to the government and the problems involved. The whole subject is highly speculative and provides several interesting fields for research. In particular, on the international level the ramifications of the various policies require detailed analysis. Only a very general survey can be attempted in this short article.
The achievement of formal political independence is only the first step on the way to achieving independence in any real sense. Though it makes us technically free we will have to operate within the limits of the situation we take over. In the first place, we will inherit a typical colonial economy, that is to say an economy which was originally tailored to meet the needs of the mother country and which is still as a result of this, considerably dependent on her, though in recent times because of changes in world market conditions it has become in fact something of a burden to her. To make ourselves less dependent our first objective, to some extent pursued by the present Government, must be to create a sound agricultural base for our economy. This will necessarily involve considerable re-orientation away from the one-crop colonial type economy and the re-structuring of our economy partly of course by continuing to build the growing rice industry but also by the development with reference to markets of other agricultural products. Our main problem will be to find reliable markets for new products and to make ourselves less dependent on one or two traditional consumer markets. An obvious beginning is to cut out unnecessary food imports by producing those items locally, wherever possible.
Difficulties may arise, especially in the early stages, due to conditions beyond our control, such as the fall of world market prices or the loss of particular markets. It will be to these matters that our main attention will have to be devoted at this stage.
The general course of our early development is therefore reasonably clear. It is impossible to estimate how long it might take to establish a sound agricultural base without making a detailed study of the possibilities for production and of world market conditions. It is probable that we must think in terms of at least 5 years and quite possibly much more. An important factor will be the type of arrangement that can be reached with the sugar companies. If some modus vivendi can be established between these companies and the government enabling the government to make use of their expertise in new projects and giving the companies renewed confidence in their future, this stage of our development would progress more smoothly and quickly. The first step towards a solution might be the inclusion of the sugar estates in local government areas which have been enlarged and redefined in accordance with the recommendations of the Marshall plan. This would at once open up new possibilities of co-operation.
Be that as it may the first step in our programme for real independence must be the creation of a sound agricultural base. It is quite possible that up to this stage of our development we can proceed as an independent country without entering into any form of federation though in our search for stable markets we may in fact have to commit ourselves heavily to one or more countries. There is no reason why the development of light industry, particularly manufacturing industry allied to agriculture, should not be embarked on at this stage, and it is in this field particularly that consideration should be given to the encouragement of private capital both local and foreign by suitable concessions.