I write to contribute to a growing debate on the relevance of Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo as Vice President and as a fit-for-purpose leader for Guyana in 2020, as Guyana has the opportunity to move from the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere to becoming one of the richest countries.
I read Jamil Changlee’s letter in the Kaieteur News on 18 November, 2020, titled ‘Champion of the Planet’. Changlee’s letter recognized the efforts of the Hon. Vice President’s contributions with the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which focused on gaining the benefits of Guyana’s forests while at the same time maintaining its integrity, the letter also mentioned that this leadership should be extended to other natural resources areas.
I am also of the view that Mr. Jagdeo’s leadership and contributions to the development and implementation of the LCDS, among others, are commendable and of high benefit to Guyana and also, he still has a role in the development of Guyana. However, I differ on Mr. Jagdeo’s role in leadership and whether he should continue in the position as the Vice President. Changlee noted “Our ‘Champion of the Planet’ is once again in a key position of leadership where he can continue to set a great example of what is possible”.
I like many, was willing to give our government a chance but I soon realized that their approach to governance was out of sync with what is needed to transform Guyana at this point. The large scale firing of qualified professional public servants over the past months, the less than professional use of the Guyana Police Force and criminal justice system and the lack of interest to engage with the main Opposition (APNU+AFC) do not augur well for the level of stability that is critical for attracting investment and for the enjoyment of citizens.
If Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP/C government had a real plan for Guyana, not the party and their supporters, but for all of the people of Guyana and if they really understood the magnitude and scale of what is required to move this country from the second poorest country in the hemisphere to one of the richest countries in the world, their approach to governance would have been more inclusive and with less drama.
I have just spent the past year focusing a significant part of my study, on examining what Guyana needs to do to prepare as an oil and gas country while adhering to the rule of law. As a matter of fact, the title of my thesis is ‘Deve-lopment Preparedness: Strengthening Cross-sectoral Governance in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Maximise Opportunities for Maintaining Rule of Law as Guyana Transitions into an Oil and Gas Society’.
I am currently continuing my research on what resource-rich developed and some developing countries have done to avoid the resource curse, so as to create and capture more value from their natural resources while at the same time ensuring that other international obligations, such as human rights, gender, labour and the environment are adhered to. This included research on Inter-national Investment Law (Agreements/ treaties and dispute resolution mechanisms, etc.) as key aspects towards creating and capturing more value from our natural resources. Resource-rich countries such as the US, Canada, Botswana, and Chile are good examples.
However, our government seems not to be thinking about the big picture, they are essentially focusing on getting back at the APNU+AFC and victimizing their supporters. If the government was thinking about the big picture, there is absolutely no justifiable reason for firing public servants when our economy will grow by 26.2% in 2020, so it is not a question of economics.
Additionally, it is alarming that the government would fire its qualified public servants in a country that suffers from brain drain. I read an article in the Stabroek News on 17 November, 2020 titled ‘Adams says in contact with Office of the President on work status’. Now, imagine a person of the calibre of Dr. Vincent Adams, has to be checking in with the Office of the President about his job, as if he is reporting to the Police periodically for some crime committed.
Appropriate leadership and emotional intelligence in leadership, are extremely important for sustainable growth and development. One of the reasons why the pace and scale of the contributions to development by regional organisations such as CARICOM is limited, is simply because they are subjected to the dictates of the Heads of Government. These organisations can only be as effective as the Heads of Governments would allow them, hence one of the reasons I am delving into this matter on whether the Vice President is the kind of transformational leader for Guyana at this point, is because not only is Guyana’s ability to rise to the challenge important to the people of the country, but to the region, the hemisphere and internationally.
Sometime around 2008/2009, I was listening to a speech by the former United States President Barrack Obama on the US government’s plan to address the financial crisis, and he mentioned that 95% of the world’s market was outside of the US. From 2008/2009, I have watched the US significantly expand its reach deeper into that 95% of the global market – Twelve years later, in 2020, we are doing online shopping like we never dreamt of. According to Forbes list of the World’s Top Companies in 2020, Amazon is at Number 22. It is one of the big five companies in the US and e-commerce is a significant part of the company’s business. I am talking transformation here!
After 30 years of Guyana’s economic development strategy, many of our young people/boys between the ages of 15 and 20 are the criminals. The VC has either been President or held highly influential roles in government over this period and had the opportunity to transform this little ‘global village’ called Guyana. My conclusion is that Mr. Jagdeo was yesterday’s leader …we now need truly transformational leaders for today’s Guyana.