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The longer our people ponder on the PPP’s plans and provisions for our nation through its policies, or absence thereof, we realise that sometimes there is no method to madness, there is only madness. The PPP cannot simply throw resources at COVID-19, like the economy, and hope for successful solutions. Hope is not a strategy any more than standing in a garage makes someone a car.
As the PPP took the reins of the country and economy last August it tried to mobilize $4.5 billion to fight COVID-10. Reports suggested, “the government began bilateral and multilateral talks with international partners” hoping to secure funds for affected households. Toward the end of last August Irfaan Ali noted some US$60 million was being sourced to keep things moving forward. But it was the people of Guyana who, through their representatives in the National Assembly, paid their own bills, dedicating billions to COVID relief, twice.
Since then there has been a steady influx of cash and kind with little oversight given a prolonged hiatus of the National Assembly; the refusal of the PPP to convene parliamentary committees until December 23, 2020; and a sidetracked Auditor General. Among those in the international community who have processed grants, loans and other aid include: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Indian High Commission through an India-UNDP Fund managed by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC); CGX Energy Inc. and its partner Frontera Energy Corporation; The Global Fund as part of The Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM); the Republic of France, The World Bank; the European Union (EU); and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). We are thankful.
Yet without a third of those resources under the APNU+AFC, PAHO website, June 25, 2020, stated, “Guyana and CARPHA are showing leadership that will hopefully inspire other countries to adopt these same policies,” according to Analía Porrás, PAHO unit chief of Medicines and Health Technologies. We don’t read any good news on the PPP’s management of COVID only of dismay and death. Could it be that after five months managing COVID Granger’s government had 474 confirmed cases and 21 deaths and comparatively for the same period Ali administration has thousands of COVID cases and five-fold fatalities?
Additionally, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, at the time, outlined a methodical structured approach: “Obviously, the pandemic would have led to many households and businesses changing their spending priorities and patterns. This is the reality of the pandemic and the government continues to work within budgetary constraints to ensure that all are able to meet their basic needs. Since March, some of the measures put in place to help the citizens include tax waivers on medical supplies, deferment of payment of both corporate and individual advance taxes and PAYE, deferred loan payments, debt deferrals for up to six months for University of Guyana students, grants to small businesses, and food vouchers and hampers for those most affected by the pandemic. Government has also drafted several other measures to help accelerate post-pandemic growth, which, unfortunately, cannot be implemented within the current environment,” Jordan stated. This was what leading from the front looked like. The PPP has COVID in the driver’s seat.
Finally, in a discussion with former Finance Minister on the subject of Budget 2020, Jordan stated, “One expected an entire section to be devoted to COVID: its start; what has been done so far; what has been done for the year in terms of direct relief to those who have been affected; like those who lost their jobs those whose income had declined; the vulnerable in society like children; the disabled; the poor and so on. Then business, especially small businesses. Then a program for post-COVID to stimulate businesses, households etc., to get them back out there. Then a medium term program to right-size the economy given what COVID has thrown out; the new ways of doing things, the work rotations etc., whether those are things would be thrown out and what role will technology play. Also how much money is specifically being devoted to COVID.” This is how an astute architect constructs the framework of a holistic plan to combat COVID.
The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. We have three former finance ministers and three former health ministers in one government yet on COVID and the economy six months later what do we have to show? If you’re looking for leadership from the PPP, sede vacante.
Sherod Avery Duncan, MP.