Guyana’s political future may very well lie in inclusive governance

Guyana’s political future may very well lie in inclusive governance

Dear Editor,

In dealing with the multitude of social and economic ills, and the seemingly deep state corruption left behind by coalition supporters, the PPP/C has a daunting task ahead. President Ali, Vice-President Jagdeo and Prime Minister Phillips all pledged to govern with transparency and accountability. Transparency is a necessary step towards weeding out potential corruption in the political system, particularly as Guyanese seek to harvest the benefits of what Clem Seecharan in a forthcoming book on Cheddi Jagan refers to as “Oil Dorado”. The expectation is that the PPP/C, now given new life, and a unique opportunity for reinventing and reimagining Guyana, can avoid the previous pitfalls and fundamental mistakes of good governance, and focus on developing a robust economy. The bar for performance assessment must surpass that of all previous administrations.

Despite the promise of becoming the “Dubai of the Caribbean”, Guyana’s economy remains, euphemistically, a “donkey cart economy”, still in dire straits after 5 years of APNU+AFC mismanagement and misrule. The Bank of Guyana has reported that from May 2015 to May 2020, Gold reserves dipped from $15 billion to $715 million, and the Contingency Fund was reduced from $4 billion to $2.3 billion while the general reserve and public deposits, both in the red, dropped from  $6 billion to negative $290 million, and $4.8 billion to negative $88.6 billion respectively.

According to the 2017 Human Development Index (HDI), Guyana was placed at 0.670 (out of 1), with an average life expectancy of 69.8 years, an average of 11.5 years of schooling, and a Gross National Income of $7,615 per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars, converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates.  The lowest HDI value, 0.528 in 2017, was associated with the gold/diamond mining and forestry community, primarily among members of the Amerindian community who reside in District 8 (Potaro-Siparuni). The aggregate data used to measure the HDI should show an incremental increase in all of Guyana’s population in the future, particularly in life expectancy and the rate of literacy.

In this moment of economic regeneration, PPP leaders should consider two things.

One, while PNC (and coalition) terms in office have extended beyond the stipulated constitutional duration, some PPP terms in office were forcefully cut short by street protests, violence and destruction of public property. Unquestionably, the national distrust that existed between the two major parties, with events following the no confidence vote, has widened.  As a Sunday Stabroek editorial (8/23/2020) acknowledged, “there can be no provisions for the sharing of power if they are not underpinned by a measure of trust; for obvious reasons it simply would not work.”

The behaviour of coalition leaders effectively forfeited any possibility of power-sharing with the PPP/C, a political model of government clearly rejected by the  coalition (really PNC) from 2015-2020. Guyana’s political future may very well lie in inclusive governance, the PPP/C’s preferred method of addressing Guyana’s ethnic problem.

Two, the PPP/C government cannot ignore the interests of the 35% (the PPP/C received crossover votes) of the population or Guyanese who did not vote for that party. It must address their interests, despite the shenanigans of the leadership of the PNC. Predictably, with a more vocal Joseph Harmon at the helm, the PNC will revive its calls for power-sharing, while accusing the PPP/C of “ethnic cleansing” and discrimination against its supporters.

Concurrently, the PPP/C must acknowledge that the coercive institutions of the state have remained in the hands of primarily one ethnic group following the militarization and party paramountcy of Forbes Burnham. This imbalance must be addressed to reflect Guyana’s changing demographics. It was a paramount reason behind the coalition leader’s refusal to concede defeat on March 3. The GDF was never tested in the 2020 election because there was no Rodney-like opposition against the illegal Granger occupation and the Western powers met with Guyana’s military leaders to ensure they would remain in the barracks.

A COI, of which David Granger was a member, had recommended that the disciplined forces should be balanced, modernized and professionalized. Additionally, Guyana’s security burden must be shared by all Guyanese, not only Africans. Overall, given Guy-ana’s anticipated emerging role in the region, one would also expect that the army, air corps, and coast guards will be budgeted more than the traditional 2% of GDP expenditures the military has received since 2015. The disciplined forces would also welcome  modernized inventory, rather than the “secondhand platforms” the Guyana Defence Force has received from Brazil, China, Russia, the UK, and the US in the past.

Aside from these fundamental institutional changes, and societal appeals for a constituency-based Constitution, Guya-nese should welcome a federal state which empowers local communities throughout the country. Additionally, to discredit the  anticipated opposition charges of discrimination, the government should assess the impact of public  policies through Ethnic Impact Statements in order to assure the public that all Guyanese are beneficiaries of “Oil Dorado”.

Yours faithfully,

Baytoram Ramharack

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