ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN 1963
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The political problems in the country brought about by the 80-day strike, and the continued efforts on the part of the political opposition and the TUC to destabilise the Government, caused a decline in production in the main sectors of the economy. Sugar and bauxite failed to reach their production targets set at the beginning of the year. Despite the shortfall, favourable development objectives were achieved in some other areas. Significantly, even though opposition propaganda warned foreign investors against the "communist" PPP Government, 21 new foreign companies were registered during 1963.
The Government continued its programme of improving the quality of life of the people, and to this effect new health centres were built in rural communities, and 76 artesian wells were sunk in order to make pure potable water available. Overhead water storage tanks were also constructed to serve large villages all over the country.
The 80-day strike had minimal negative effects on the rural population, and farmers in various areas took advantage of the shortage of imported foodstuffs to produce more local farm products to meet the need of the urban population. With large surpluses of agricultural commodities available, and to better manage the purchase and sale of farm produce locally and for export to the Caribbean, the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) was established. The GMC also began operations to process agricultural products, and the Government granted incentives to private enterprises involved in such activities. Agricultural production - particularly of root crops and milk - expanded to such an extent, that in 1964 Forbes Burnham announced that if his party won the elections everyone would be given "free milk and cassava".
The Government also continued its drive to make agricultural land available to farmers. Thousands of acres of land for rice cultivation were given to small farmers in various parts of the country. Then on 30 November 1963, the Tapakuma drainage and irrigation scheme in Essequibo was declared open. This scheme opened up more than 30,000 acres of land for the cultivation of rice, and after the available land was distributed mainly to landless farmers, rice production increased rapidly during the following year in that part of the country.
In 1963, rice exports to the English-speaking Caribbean countries and to Cuba expanded, and with better prices received from these purchasers, rice farmers were able to obtain an increase for the rice they sold to the Rice Marketing Board. Trade with Cuba further improved also when the Government of that country began purchasing a large quantity of wallaba poles for running electrical and telephone lines. This helped to spur an expansion in the timber industry, particularly in areas near to Amerindian communities in the river bank areas. As part of a barter agreement, Guyana purchased Cuban cement to help sustain its building industry.
The Industrial Development Corporation, which was established in 1962, expanded its activities and more manufacturing companies were set up along the East Bank Demerara and at the newly opened Ruimveldt Industrial Estate in southern Georgetown.
Air transport took on a new dimension with the setting up of the Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC). Air strips in some parts of the interior were upgraded, and there began a larger flow of goods and passengers from the coastal areas to the interior districts. Beef from the Rupununi district was shipped by GAC planes to Georgetown, and even to Trinidad and Barbados.
Some of the biggest achievements of the Government were seen in the education sector. Many new primary schools were built and there was also an increase in admission of students to secondary schools. However, there was a severe shortage of trained teachers in both the primary and secondary schools, and the Government, seeing teacher-training as a priority, instituted a comprehensive training programme in various parts of the country.
A UNESCO Mission which visited Guyana in 1962-63 had recommended a scheme for teacher-training by which every teacher would be trained within 12 years. This was this plan that the PPP Government implemented in 1963.
To carry out this programme, the PPP expanded the intake of students at the pre-service Government Training College in Georgetown and also opened another pre-service teacher college at Belvedere on the Corentyne. The programme in the Georgetown and the Belvedere centres involved intensive one-year courses. In-service teacher-training centres were also established in Georgetown, Mackenzie, Buxton, Vreed-en-Hoop, Bush Lot (West Berbice), New Amsterdam, Skeldon and Anna Regina. However, the Buxton centre had to be closed down after the PNC discouraged its teacher-supporters in that area from attending. Nevertheless, this training programme resulted in a rapid expansion of the numbers of trained teachers throughout the country.
There was also a severe shortage of Guyanese specialists, and while plans were being instituted for the establishment of a university in Guyana, the PPP Government was able to obtain scholarships to foreign universities for many students - mainly in the fields of medicine, engineering, agriculture, economics, arts, natural and social sciences, teacher-training and textbook production.
The PPP had also sent a number of young people to study in socialist countries, such as the USSR, the GDR and Cuba, either on Party or Government scholarships. It was expected that on their return to Guyana at the completion of their studies, they would be employed in specialist fields which were then the domain of many non-Guyanese. (Unfortunately, on return to Guyana after 1965, these graduates from socialist countries faced severe harassment from the PNC-UF Government who either refused to employ them, or appointed them to very junior positions in the Government institutions despite their high qualifications in medicine, technology, arts and natural and social sciences. It was not until after 1973, following continuous demands by the PPP, that their qualifications were officially recognised).