The Guyana land offer to Barbados
GUYANA'S OFFER to Barbadians and other nationals of the Caribbean Community for agriculture lands leased merely at BDS$10 per acre over a long period of years, has drawn sharply conflicting positions from spokespersons for the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Not surprisingly, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Mia Mottley, who disclosed the offer following her recent visit to Guyana for the Trade and Investment Exposition (GUYEXPO), welcomed the gesture when she spoke of the potentials for both countries' agricultural and economic development.
In contrast, the DLP's candidate for St Michael West, James Paul, was dismissive. He deemed it "nonsensical" and "ridiculous", and linked the offer to a claimed attempt by the Owen Arthur administration to divert Barbadians' attention from problems of land acquisition at home with hopes of securing farmlands in Guyana.
To follow current public discussions from political platforms, a realistic land policy, embracing issues of ownership, location and usage in the context of integrated agricultural, economic and social development, promises to be one of the major areas of focus for the coming general election.
It is not clear whether the DLP's Paul was reflecting the party's thinking, or aspects of any related policy, or speaking on his own behalf. In the report published in THE NATION of October 9, Paul said his comments were to be considered in the context of his position as "executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS)".
Whether his position coincides with or has the endorsement of the BAS, is another matter. However, both Mottley and aspiring parliamentarian Paul would be aware that Guyana's extension to Barbadians and other CARICOM nationals of an offer to acquire long-term leased agriculture lands is in accordance with a prevailing non-discriminatory policy applicable to all Guyanese at home and abroad.
It is rooted in a policy, across political boundaries, to encourage agricultural diversification and expansion with food security as a major focus that is integral to CARICOM's multi-faceted sectoral programmes for the emerging regional seamless economy.
Therefore, as Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo emphasised last week, and earlier articulated differently by Deputy Prime Minister Mottley, when it comes to the pepper-corn rental of US$5 per acre for a total of 15 acres, leased for 50 years, it is a standard policy for all Guyanese and now being extended to all CARICOM nationals.
It would be unfortunate should the offer consistent with President Jagdeo's lead responsibility within CARICOM for regional agriculture diversification, modernisation and expansion be confused with the national policy of any community partner state, whether in our out of an election season.
Cooperation for mutual development is, of necessity, a two-way process; and Guyana equally stands to benefit from Barbadian skills and capital once the proposed partnership in the use of farmlands and related technological, transport and marketing initiatives are seriously pursued.