Tell us what it's going to take for you to return to Guyana.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Guyana's tragedy of the commons

Every single time I come back to Guyana my heart becomes laden with the shame that one of our most visible and visited areas never looks presentable. I'm talking about the section of seawall between the Le Meridien Pegasus and Kitty and especially the section with the bandstand.

The heart of the problem is this: Since no one person gains something from having a clean and attractive area, no particular person takes action to make and keep it that way. Governments have usually circumvented this problem by creating public maintenance bureaucracies like national park services. This requires the confiscation of money via taxation.

My question is: Should we really be clamoring for the government to do more? How smart is this considering the record of government in taking on much larger matters than piles of trash at the seawall?

I can't remember where I heard this: "Ownership is everything".

If someone were to adopt or be granted ownership of sorts of this area, they could maybe charge a small fee for vendors to do business there, charge admission to musical groups scheduled to play at the bandstand, or charge a little money for parking. The monies could then be used to hire people to gather rubbish, haul it away and constantly improve the grounds. I imagine expanded parking, a bricked walkway, an expanded beach area and manicured landscaping. Even better would be small outdoor cafes with wireless internet.

The government could maybe do this, but do they really want to? If they did, how much would it cost for the government to revitalize the area versus a private entity with a profit motive? Enterprises motivated by profits automatically make better use of scarce resources than governments who can simply confiscate money to feed a bloated budget.

May your next morning walk on the seawall be an instructive one. Don't just look at the trash, but also think of the possibilities. Paint your own picture of what it would like like if you owned that area and had something to gain by beautifying it. The way things work right now, should give a new meaning to the phrase "pride in ownership." Right now, there is no ownership and nothing to be proud of. Happy jogging.


Stolid charisma said...
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