There can be speeches and parades and lights and posters but what could ultimately sanctify this national Jubilee, make it one that is consistent with maturity, is making it a season rather than an event; one with expectations and outcomes that will show growth in the country’s economy.
Sometime back in August 2015, there was a commission formed – the National Commemoration Commission – expressly to plan for Guyana’s Golden Jubilee, the fiftieth anniversary observation of colonial independence.
The establishment of this commission suggested that the celebrations were going to go beyond the typical glitzy extravaganzas of gyrating bodies painted in national colors and the usual display of military might punctuated with crisp salutes and infectious military drumming. With a commission, there was expectation of the setting of a higher bar for this significant milestone, one that went way past the pageantry because the last thing a milestone of this import should ever be recalled as is a national party hosted at tax payers’ expense.
There was refelection on the Tourism Industry, too. With Guyana attempting to make its debut as a nontraditional alternative to blue water and white sand resorts, this year of Jubilee, when record numbers of Guyanese are expected to vacation home, would certainly be the time to give tourists a sample of things to come.
So, when there was talk that Mashramani -the commemoration of the country’s establishment of its Cooperative Republic – was going to be scaled back in deference to the Jubilee celebrations, there was a hint that the National Commemoration Commission was, possibly, planning this major event using the same old one dimensional mold with, maybe, a few extra frills but not with the financial thrust, the financial vision, that would make a lasting impact on the economy in the way this Jubilee year could.
With the potential upsurge, conservatively, of five hundred percent arrivals and departures from Timehri and Ogle Airports in May 2016 there will be need for matching logistical support. That will mean an increase in trained staff to handle tower control, immigration, baggage, courtesy, housekeeping, vending, lawn care, tarmac maintenance, illegal trafficking, certified transportation and everything related to making the experience of arriving and departing from Guyana one that is consistent with a jubilee celebration.
And that’s only at the ports of entry. There will be need for increased security at stadiums and parks, enhanced foot patrol in shopping areas and if the 2.00 am curfew is lifted temporarily to accommodate revelers, then increased night patrols will be needed, as well.
Then there is the traffic bottle neck at Stabroek Market, Bourda Market and the Berbice car park locations. On any given day these locations are traffic mayhem and fertile ground for the predator looking for an unprotected pocket or pocketbook. With the convergence of thousands on these areas during May 2016, the opportunity for predators to strike will rise exponentially.
The point is that there will be an extraordinary amount of resources poured in to this one month and particularly in Georgetown, the capital city, if this one month celebration is to be relatively successful.
So, why shouldn’t it be done in an optimum way, with protracted celebrations throughout this year of Jubilee, within each region, giving locales the opportunity to boost their economies and giving communities the chance to make themselves tourist attractions? It’s not a novel idea. A bus ride through the villages of many West Indian Islands will show us that, often, the residents themselves are the tourist element, in spite of the beaches and the hotels. Guyanese villages are no different.
And, because Guyana’s tourist roster is so seasonal and predictable, there is a built in ease in configuring how to apportion, stagger, the celebrations throughout the year, commencing with the celebration of Mashramani in February, the one festival that Guyana is known for internationally.
With this plan there is great opportunity to inject much needed revenue into the sluggish economy at regional level and ultimately national level.
Mashramani has its own overseas following, many of whom look forward to heading to the warmth of Guyana during the winter months of Europe and North America. This would be the perfect spring board to launch the year of celebrations; incorporating parts of the Independence celebration into marking the establishment of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
After February, the next influx of visitors in to Guyana is Easter when thousands make the jaunt to Georgetown for what has grown into an amalgam of events, at the center of which is kite flying.
Then comes May – the month of Independence celebrations and , this year, the major event on the social roster. After that is the August Monday, Emancipation Day, celebrations. The nation also celebrates Phagwha, the Eids, Amerindian Heritage Month, Christmas, Chinese New Year, in recognition of the six races that form the fabric of the Guyanese people.
What’s obvious is that there are, undoubtedly, enough holidays and specific visitor periods for this Jubilee celebration to be seen as more than an event to be hosted just in May 2016. Its potential as a revenue earner is enormous if hosted as a protracted celebration over the regions of the country and the opportunities for different industries, different sectors, different vendors, to profile themselves are equally as large.
If done in parts, this fiftieth anniversary of independence could be the best time to present the potential of the country to those who may want to repatriate, spend multiple vacations, offer services to their country because this is the era of new hope, a time of restoration, of longing for the country to finally get back on the road to reaching its economic capabilities.
Additionally, the success of Operation Dragnet has added value to the prospect of vacationing. People are planning now with less trepidation and greater enthusiasm.
And, extending the celebration over several months will be bigger and exponentially more practical for the two day workshops that seem to be the highlight for several groups during the celebration. With more time and more people coming at different points in time, there will be a better opportunity for the Department of Diaspora to engage the contributions of expatriate Guyanese; a resource now seen as an agent of development in many emerging countries. These seminars are merely a microcosm of what a Department of Diaspora can do to engage the contributions of expatriate Guyanese. Hosting two day chat sessions as part of the event and asking for a submission of ideas falls woefully short of Diaspora engagement and will not serve the intended purpose.
This Jubilee celebration should go way beyond an Old Year’s Night dance and the assignment of the tag ‘Roaring of the Golden Jubilee’ to the celebration. It goes well past the monthly events Consulates may have in different countries. It is greater than any booklet, any compilation of memories, any musical overture to the country.
It’s not that the organizing body, the National Commemoration Commission, is short sighted. But there seems to be a shortage of business acumen and visionary thinking which may be helped if they invite assistance from those in the business community with a proven track record of operating for profit enterprises; operating with a vision that extends well beyond a finite event.
Dr. Yesu Persaud retired from Demerara Distillers Limited not so long ago. He has, at least, forty eight years experience in making things profitable. There are also business people who came out in support of the cleanup campaign, who are proven business minds. And, there is a barrage of young entrepreneurs who are forming groups and agencies to further their causes, right there in the country, whose vision could be a boost to the planning of a year long event.
There’s still some time left to take advantage of the potential that this celebration presents.
The Commission would do well drawing on the expertise of these people.