I wish to respond to Mr. Jamil Changlee’s letter published in the Stabroek News on 23 November, 2020 and titled ‘Dr Jagdeo’s past experience should not be neglected when considering what he can accomplish today at such a critical juncture’. First of all, I wish to recognize the critical role played by the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News in facilitating these progressive discussions on how we should rethink our leadership and develop more appropriate pathways towards the development of our country, for all Guyanese.
Mr. Changlee in his letter was responding to another of my letters, `Mr Jagdeo was yesterday’s leader’. The writer outlined that Mr. Jagdeo’s sterling contribution to ‘Ecosystem Management has been recognized by leaders around the world as an outstanding contribution to humanity and the planet’. He further noted that Mr. Jagdeo’s ability to achieve what he has done in ecosystem management should not be disregarded because of political difference of opinion and that ‘It would be folly to throw out the baby with the bathwater’.
I wish to state that what I am doing is not ‘throwing out the baby and the bath water’, as a matter of fact, I am helping us to rethink what is really the ‘baby’ and what is the ‘bath water’, as well as, redefining the Vice President’s best role at this point. The VP has served in key positions of leadership and he has probably developed a niche area in ecosystems management, climate change and economic development, which is necessary for someone with his background, he now has an area that he can contribute towards, meaningfully
Additionally, he can support the PPP/C’s government from behind the scenes, in terms of budgeting and finance. He is also a shrewd politician and I am not taking that away from him, but he is not the leader that can transform this multi-ethnic society into a cohesive country where we co-exist peacefully and grow and develop together.
Since the PPP/C government has gotten back into office on 2 August, there is an obsession to prove that the APNU+AFC Coalition government was more corrupt than the previous PPP/C government, however, a quick due diligence and Google search would reveal that both the PPP/C and the APNU+AFC governments were corrupt. If every government that gets into office does what the PPP/C is doing, then as a country, we will never progress. The people of Guyana deserve more, they deserve consistency and continuity, they deserve peace and stability.
Now back to what is the ‘baby’ and what is the ‘bathwater’. In this context, the Vice President is not the ‘baby’, he is a part of the ‘baby’. The real ‘baby’ are those professional public servants who are being terminated and even disgraced. What Guyana needs is a professional public service, not a ‘fixed’ public service that can be manipulated. As Guyana expand its opportunities for investment, we need to develop a professional public sector. Investors require a stable environment and there will be no stability if the PPP/C or APNU+AFC focus on the development of one section of the population.
For every professional public servant who is laid off, the income for about four to five persons as well as, the household of that person, is reduced. Professional public servants are a part of the middle class of the society, therefore because they are busy, they employ other persons to provide services to their families. They may have a taxi driver who takes the children to school, a helper, a babysitter and probably someone who gets paid to keep their home surroundings clean. Also, they may have someone at church or in the community who they assist with transportation to school or support an elderly person.
Their mortgage payments may be affected. They may be using part of their income as capital to support an entrepreneur in the family, to increase the family income. It means that when the government terminates the services of professional public servants, they are weakening the middle class of certain groups. Also, the level of critical thinking, innovation and creativity that is required to transform Guyana and to make the public service fit-for-purpose, the government would need all the Dr. Mark Bynoes that can be found.
Additionally, the Vice President is telling this nation that the PPP/C government cannot find an ‘honest interlocutor’ in APNU+AFC with whom to engage, this is unbelievable coming from someone at his level. The PPP/C is playing political games at this critical juncture of our development. Let the government extend an invitation to the APNU+AFC and let them decide who and how they will engage.
Another point, Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP/C has rewritten Guyana’s entire history and reduced it to the events around the 2 March, 2020 elections, but at some point, we need to move on. Meanwhile, the Vice President gets a pension, a salary and benefits while the business sector is struggling to make loan payments and keep their employees and the masses are struggling to put food on their table, women and our young people are suffering. We are also in the middle of a pandemic. The PPP/C needs to stop campaigning and transition into a government and govern this country! They are playing ‘dollyhouse’ with Guyana.
There is much work to do to prepare this country for the level of governance required with this new growth trajectory. The international investment landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and international investors have become more focused on transparency in transactions.
It is therefore important at this point that the government develop a public and private sector that understand the scale and depth of international investment which the country has embarked on, and facilitate increased understanding and competence in laws and regulations, transparent procurement practices, checks and balances, develop more precise accounting rules, improve our reporting and auditing capabilities, just to name a few. We have a lot of work to do towards developing a more transparent, responsible, and reliable approach to providing goods and services.
Finally, I will end with this quote, someone once said that ‘people want change, yet they want things to remain the same’.