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I wish to respond to Dr. Tara Singh’s letter that was published in the Kaieteur News on November 14, 2020 and titled ‘Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo is here for the long haul’. This letter was in response to one of my letters that was published in the Kaieteur News and the online Village Voice – Guyana on 11 November and titled ‘If Mr. Jagdeo is tired of Public Service, then the President Must do him a Favour and Relieve him of this ‘Burden’.
I wish to start with Dr. Singh’s last point ‘Thomas must also know that Dr. Jagdeo is not only a smart but also one of the most popular politicians in Guyana (confirmed by Dr. Vishnu Bisram’s poll)’. I do agree that Mr. Jadgeo is indeed one of the most popular politicians in Guyana.
Further, Dr. Singh noted that a poll done by Dr. Vishnu Bisram ‘indicate that the VP is full of energy, is a visionary, and has vast experience, which are combined to boost Guyana’s development strategy’. I disagreed, with Dr. Bisram’s findings as stated in Dr. Singh’s letter. Sure, Mr. Jagdeo is full of energy and he is very experienced, however, while he is a visionary, he is not the visionary leader that is required to transform Guyana. I agree that he can certainly further make significant contributions to Guyana’s development strategy, if he would accept his limitations and position himself where he can make the best contributions at his point.
It is my view that Mr. Jagdeo is a 2.5% and a 3.5% annual growth economist/leader but certainly not an 86% or 52.8% or 26.2% annual growth leader. Many of us are aware that the Vice President is the maximum leader in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, therefore what Mr. Jagdeo has done is to appoint an entire government that he can totally control, including the President. As one examine the Ministers of the current government, there is no one who can or will dare oppose Mr. Jagdeo’s views and therein lies a fundamental problem as it relates to strong leadership in the current government and hence a dilemma for Guyana’s development.
About two years or more, prior to the March 2 elections, many people, including supporters of the APNU+AFC were willing to give the PPP/C government another opportunity to govern because many felt that the PPP/C would do better in economics and finance, and therefore stimulate the economy and manage the oil money better, even though not necessarily more transparently. But then came 2 August, 2020 and the PPP/C government was given a second chance to govern.
To the dismay and disappointment of many, it was then realized, that while the PPP/C had some expertise and experience in economics, finance and administration, and after all of the chants about upholding Guyana’s democracy, not much had changed with the PPP/C’s approach to governance and doing government. The PPP/C is using the same approach to governance in 2020, that they used in 1992 and subsequent years. Mind you, this is a similar approach that the APNU+AFC used in 2015.
In 2020, the recent projection by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Guyana’s economy will grow by 26.2%. In 2019, the growth projection for 2020 was 86%, earlier in this year due to challenges with the pandemic, the revised projection was 52.8%. Now, for an economy that could have grown by 86% or 52.8% and even by 26.2%, which is still five times more than the 4.9% annual growth in 2019, one would have expected that a ‘world-class’ economist and leader like the Honourable Vice President, who spent the past five years plotting how to get back into government, and finally, achieved that goal; to come with a ‘world-class’ development strategy/plan, as to how to develop this country, as one of the fastest growing economies and now among the 25 largest oil producing countries in the world.
However, to the disappointment of many, the PPP/C government under the leadership of the Vice President, has approached governance in the very same way it had governed before, from the standpoint of scarcity of resources, instead of thinking how the wealth of Guyana will be managed and how to mobilized not merely investors, and the Government’s supporters, but the people of Guyana – all peoples of Guyana, around this new growth trajectory.
Case in point, the PPP/C is terminating the services of highly qualified public servants claiming that these persons are political appointees or for no rational reason. This is reflective of a government that is still thinking that resources are scarce, and perhaps not prioritizing the importance of diversity in the public sector, to transparency and accountability and for the good of the country. One wonders whether the government is setting-up a public sector that can be easily be manipulated. This I find worrying for an emerging oil and gas economy and for the avoidance of the resource curse.
On the point of the Vice President calling GECOM staff ‘criminals’. Let’s get out of our bubble for a moment and ask why was Afro-Guyanese so afraid of the PPP/C government getting back into office and why were Indo-Guyanese so concerned about the APNU+AFC remaining in government? One of the reasons Afro- Guyanese were so afraid of the PPP/C getting back into government, is hinged on economic and social inclusion, and inequalities.
Many of them were afraid that they would lose their jobs, their professional jobs, which they might not have gotten under the previous PPP/C government and many Indo-Guyanese, primarily the business community, were concerned that the economy was going to contract further, under another five years of APNU+AFC government. Let me point out here, that the PPP/C has done exactly what the Afro-Guyanese were afraid, since the government is firing public servants left, right and centre.
Here is the mistake that both the PPP/C and the PNC continue to make, there is an assumption that because the PPP/C constituency is largely Indo-Guyanese and the PNC based is largely made up of Afro-Guyanese, that when they are in government, it would be acceptable to either support-base for the government of-the-day, to ill-treat and disadvantage Indo or Afro-Guyanese, but this is where our governments continue to make a gross miscalculation.
Even though the two major ethnic groups support the two major parties, it does not mean that they do not love and care for each other as Guyanese and, that they do not want the government to govern for all of the country, after the elections is over. However, after 56 years (28 under the PNC, 23 under the PPP/C and 5 under the APNU+AFC) that dream of a government for all the people is still illusive. In 2020, the people of Guyana have a more progressive approach to matters of governance and leadership but from the current operation of the PPP/C, the people are way ahead of the leadership.
Finally, to Dr. Singh, if the Vice President would like to retain any relevance as a national leader and a leader in one of the fastest growing economy’s, he has to start thinking and mobilizing the country around wealth management, he has to change from his ‘scarcity mentality’.
Citizen Audreyanna Thomas