A TROUBLESOME MAN – About the Life of Dr. Ptolemy Reid, Prime Minister of Guyana 1980-1984
Herein is the life story of Ptolemy Alexander Reid, minister in the government and prime minister of Guyana between 1964 and 1984. Here is a record of Dr. Reid’s childhood and youthful years in Dartmouth, Essequibo, Guyana, an account of his educational endeavors and the highlights of his experiences as a veterinarian, politician and family man who maintained an ongoing love relationship with his place of birth. Dr. Reid said of himself, “I am a troublesome man, always troublesome. I grew up troublesome.” In this book, you will see that he was troublesome, all for the good; deserving to be remembered as a hero of Guyana.
Dr. Reid’s main focus as a politician was to make Guyana as self-sufficient as possible and make Guyanese a dignified, self-reliant people. He felt Guyanese could reach such goals by developing their land and making it fertile. It is said that he was the real moving force behind the “feed, clothe and house ourselves by 1976” program promoted by the Burnham government. He had such a large dream that he threw his full weight behind it.
What the government of Guyana tried to achieve in the first half of the seventies decade was phenomenal. We have only to look at the many initiatives and ventures that were begun, specifically by the Ministry of Agriculture, to appreciate the effort that was made to realize this very large, almost utopian endeavor.
However, it wasn’t that Dr. Reid was unaware of the magnitude of the undertaking and the degree of the hard work it would entail. In a speech to Community Development officers on July 23, 1966, he mentioned that the officers’ main difficulty would be facing community resistance to change, and he said that they would need to engender “a spirit in the communities to face up to the challenges of our changing society.” Dr. Reid himself tried always to evoke that spirit of meeting challenges head-on.
In another speech delivered also in 1966, but this time to teachers graduating from the Government Teachers College on the occasion of the opening of GTC week, he commended those teachers who had volunteered to teach “in remote areas like Rupununi and Bartica.” He referred to the government’s effort “to encourage Guyanese to leave the overpopulated coastlands and settle in the hinterland” as he encouraged the teachers to become “pioneers in the call for young Guyanese to go south”. These exaltations demonstrate Dr. Reid’s belief that developing the land was crucial to achieving a “changed structure of the economy” wherein Guyana would have “less dependence on sugar, rice, and bauxite.”
Dr. Reid clearly felt that Guyana needed to embark on its own self-determined course which was one not dictated by the developed world and quite unlike theirs. In an April 5th, 1970 article of the Sunday Graphic, he is quoted, while he was Minister of Finance, as calling for “radical surgery” to bring about “a genuine revolution” of the nation’s economy. He believed the economy was being hampered in its growth by the vicious policy of international aid. “He told the 13th annual congress of the ruling People’s National Congress that there was the need to wage a resolute war against poverty and unemployment, a war which would require taking bold measures to change the economic system.” He warned that governments too timid to initiate necessary reforms often lose not only their popularity but their mandate as well.