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My fellow Guyanese, Happy New Year to you all!
Permit me to extend felicitations to your family and friends and to all Guyanese, including those in the Diaspora and those visiting our shores to experience a Guyanese Christmas. May your stay be enjoyable.
Best wishes to all the members and supporters of the People’s National Congress Reform. We enter the New Year proud that we are the only Party in Guyana that has demonstrated that we do not handpick our leadership. Our leadership was recently elected in an open, free, fair and transparent election that has been commended by both Guyanese and the international community. Our Congress illustrated our commitment to democracy and good governance.
To our CARICOM family, Happy New Year as we look forward to a bright and fruitful relationship. Best wishes are extended to the members of the diplomatic corps and to request that you convey the warm greetings of the people of Guyana, to your governments and people. The differences that attend our relationships on occasions should not be allowed to dominate our friendship, discourage dialogue and limit our common pursuit of global solutions for our people and all mankind. I look forward to working with you as our Party commits to making Guyana a place of equal opportunity for all.
Our lives have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic which is persistently challenging our capacity, resolve and determination to end its destructive reign. Notwithstanding the failures of the Government in controlling the pandemic, I look forward to engaging you, our people in efforts to find reasonable ways to limit the impact of the pandemic on our lives and forestall the other global threats, especially that of climate change.
Covid-19 is a serious matter, let us all exercise the necessary caution and observe the globally accepted protocols that have been articulated for our personal protection and that of our society. We should not allow this country of ours to fall victim to the poor and partisan leadership being displayed during the pandemic by the installed Ali government.
Our society has experienced arbitrary dismissal of African Guyanese, Indigenous and Indo Guyanese who are perceived to be supporters of the APNU+AFC. This is unacceptable and does not augur well for the unity of Guyana. The PNCR is committed to building a society in which all Guyanese share in our national resources and good governance is practiced in the management of the affairs of our country in pursuance of national unity.
On the economic domestic front, notwithstanding the massive injection of funds into the economy, the evidence is mounting that the non-oil Gross Domestic Product may have declined from the previous lofty estimates made in the 2021 budget. Sugar is estimated in 2021 to have declined by a whopping 35%, despite the huge transfers of cash from the Treasury to the ailing GUYSUCO. Paddy production declined by 19% while export earnings from rice declined by 16%; with an anticipated shortfall in gold declaration and the problems being encountered in fishing, livestock and other crops, Guyanese have been asked to brace themselves for harder times in 2022. This is clearly a result of the incompetence of the government.
The Guyanese economy is becoming increasingly dependent on oil, notwithstanding all the talk about diversification. Already, oil is accounting for 43% of export earnings. The dreaded “Dutch disease” is increasingly evident, reflected in high prices for goods and services across all sectors.
Despite huge investments in the agricultural sector, the returns have been marginal, with little support to the small and micro business sectors. The PNCR calls on the Ali regime to support the small and micro business sectors since they can contribute significantly to the Guyanese economy.
The Guyanese workers are being pushed further into poverty. One would have expected that the Ali regime would have rewarded our workers in a significant way. This was not to be. The Government awarded a tepid, taxable award of a 7% wage increase after two years. This is more evidence of its callous and uncaring attitude to the plight of the workers. Clearly the government has no interest in improving the lives of public servants and can dispel this view by offering workers no less than 25% increases in wages and salaries in 2022.
The People’s National Congress Reform is committed to treating all Guyanese as equal and deserving to benefit from the resources of our well-endowed country. We are committed to improving the quality of life of the poor, the vulnerable, single parents, the elderly and all Guyanese who are disadvantaged.
The gap between the poor and disadvantaged and the rich is increasing. Clearly the government serves the rich and their powerful friends and families at the expense of the working poor of our country. This is a trend that must be reversed.
The theft of public funds has increased including those distributed under various, politically inspired cash transfer initiatives. The poor management of the economy has left Guyanese poorer than they were in 2020. Corruption is on the increase. We all must work assiduously to reduce corruption and the squandering of the Nation’s resources.
Guyanese watch as the funds in the Natural Resource Fund grow. They were fooled into believing that these funds were not being touched by the Government. Now we all know better, as the Government, since being installed on August 2, 2020, has borrowed almost twice the money in the Fund.
New Year is a time for looking ahead, always with hope for a brighter future. In 2022, our preoccupation as a Party will be to provide the requisite leadership to effect change. We will continue the fight for a fair, just and equitable Guyana. We must be ever more vigilant in holding the Government accountable as we insist that they stop violating our laws and Constitution.
We are committed to tackling the burning issues of the day, such as corruption, discrimination, poverty, crime, unemployment, especially youth unemployment and the non-support of small and micro businesses. In this regard:
1. We demand the resolute upholding of our Constitution especially in respect of the three branches of Government. Recent racist and unwarranted attacks on two female African Guyanese judges of the Appeal Court show a frightening descent into anarchy and political interference into the judiciary, and if allowed to continue or to go unpunished will result in the further erosion of the independence of the judiciary.
2. We demand the proper functioning and strengthening of the guardrails of our withering democracy, including the Public Procurement Commission, National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, and the Integrity Commission, inter alia
3. We demand a more effective Parliament. Its current functioning is at the behest of the Government. It meets infrequently, with most of its sittings targeted at financial matters. We need action to shift the Parliament away from being the rubber stamper of government’s decisions.
4. We demand the establishment of a National Consultative body on Oil and Gas to inform decision making and promote and protect the interest of the Guyanese people.
5. We demand inclusive, transparent and accountable governance and oversight of the Natural Resource Fund and a programme to transfer some of the oil wealth to the marginalized, poverty-stricken segments of the population of all ethnic groups, including activation of the Buxton Proposal or a similar initiative, infrastructural renewal and expansion in disadvantaged communities.
6. We demand that the government must work with the labour unions on labour-related issues, including the return of collective bargaining, the fight for a decent wage and better working conditions, especially in view of the burgeoning oil sector, the Dutch disease and the differential wages paid to Guyanese and foreign workers for the same jobs.
These demands are being made at a time when the Irfaan Ali regime is very dictatorial and there is need for good governance and respect for the Rule of Law. Fellow Guyanese, you can expect the practice of good governance and respect for the rule of law from the APNU+AFC, of which the PNCR is a major actor.
My fellow Guyanese, as we enter this New Year, I want to share with you the philosophical view of the PNCR so that you can understand where we are coming from in our opposition to the dictatorial regime of Irfaan Ali.
As you are aware the People’s National Congress Reform is committed to the peaceful development of Guyana but will oppose injustice, discrimination, marginalisation, domination and control. We believe in freedom.
Our approach to our responsibility of holding the installed Irfaan Ali government accountable, and eventually removing them from office and working to make our lives as Guyanese better will be characterized by our philosophy of democracy, economic freedom and the rule of law. This disposition will be obvious in the way in which we do things and, in the support, and defense that we will offer the people of Guyana against the dictatorial practices of the Irfaan Ali regime.
Guyanese are not living in a democracy; we do not enjoy political and economic freedom and there is no respect for the rule of law as we speak, and therefore the concepts of democracy, economic freedom and the rule of law are germane to the circumstance of hardships that we as hardworking, peaceful and law-abiding Guyanese are facing a mere 16 months after the Irfaan Ali government was installed in power.
Inflation has jumped nearly seven per cent since Irfaan Ali and the PPP/C took office. It means that Guyanese are worse off than when the Coalition government was in office. I worry about how we will cope with the 15% spike in the price of foodstuff. No one will doubt that the cost of living is extremely high.
This massive increase in food prices is no accident. It has everything to do with the lack of economic freedom and a deceitful and incompetent PPP/C government that does not know how to reduce the cost of living for Guyanese. What is even more amazing and foolhardy is the belief that throwing money at people would solve the problem.
Inflation comes from too much money being in the economy and too few goods to spend it on. The spending by the government is all about repaying political favours to friends and their families while our people must struggle to feed ourselves and family. Inflation also comes from the lack of economic freedom.
Economic freedom itself is the practice of democracy that allows people the free choice of economic and social life and lifestyle, irrespective of their political views or political affiliation. Freedom and liberty have long been identified as very important elements of democracy.
As one philosopher said society needs freedom of thought and opinion, freedom to run our own lives and freedom of association. The PNCR believes that for Guyana to progress and for the people to enjoy the life and lifestyles of their choice, they, and not the government, must have control over their lives, including their actions and beliefs. It is for this reason we will represent all Guyanese against the attempt of this regime to dominate and control their lives.
In Guyana today fear stalks our nation and Guyanese do not feel free. The PNCR wants Guyanese to live in a society that is free. Guyanese must have the freedom to act without fear of reprisal from the government. It should be understood therefore that democracy cannot be practiced in the truest sense when politicians get upset because they are angered or offended by someone who chooses to express a position different from theirs.
Democracy cannot be practiced when a vengeful government retaliates and punishes those who have the courage to speak up in the interest of the welfare of their country. The PNCR will defend the right to free speech to the hilt. This philosophy will be practiced by future governments in which the PNCR is a part.
In Guyana, there seems to be tyranny by those who purport to be the majority. Obtaining a majority should not be translated into domination and control. In fact, the majority should be used in keeping with good governance principles. Our freedoms therefore must be protected from the tyranny that is practiced by the PPP/C and the installed Irfaan Ali government.
There is a role for civil society. Guyanese must reject the backward and dictatorial view that because members of civil society did not contest elections then they should have no role in the decision making in our society. Civil society is a necessary part of a democratic society and must be allowed to function as independent bodies that promote transparency, accountability and oversight of government and other institutions.
The tyranny of the PPP/C also manifests itself in the discrimination against investors who might have a different view from the government about resource allocation and investment preferences. These investors should not be blocked from making their investments. They should not be frustrated in their efforts to create jobs, enable economic growth and facilitate the advancement of the Guyanese people.
Employees should not be turned into political pawns or fodder just to satisfy the insatiable greed and hunger for power of one man or a political party for holding views that are different from the government.
Local democracy in Guyana is under threat. The elected local government councils should be allowed to serve the people who elected them. The practice of using Regional Executive Officers and Overseers, and other means to impose the PPP/C’s will on Regional Democratic Councils and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, respectively, is dictatorial, and must be brought to an end. This is tyrannical.
My fellow Guyanese, the tyrannical behaviour of the PPP/C is even more despicable since it is occurring in a country that holds itself as a market economy. The hallmark of a market economy is competition, yet all the actions of the government contradict that philosophy. In a democracy, it is not the government’s place to handpick economic winners and losers. This role must be left to the marketplace of ideas, innovations and initiatives. But that is not what the PPP/C and the installed Irfaan Ali government practice. They are in pursuance of total control and domination. This must be opposed vigorously.
The domination and control are most vivid in contract distribution. They tender and re-tender bids to prevent qualified investors with different views from getting the contract. They ignore the procurement rules to enable their family, friends and preferred contractors to get rich. We see their flawed concept of democracy and economic freedom in their selection of contractors. We see their flawed concept of democracy and economic freedom in their selection of auditors to audit oil contracts. We see their flawed concept of democracy and economic freedom in selecting who should meet foreign investors.
Prices will never come down if there is no competition. Inflation will remain a problem for this country, and it will discourage production and job creation. Inflation will remain with us and get worse with the continued stifling of economic freedom by the PPP/C regime.
The tyranny of the PPP/C continues to manifest itself in other ways. No Guyanese should accept as legitimate the attempt by the Irfaan Ali dictatorship to breach the constitution and interfere with the independence of the Police Service Commission. No Guyanese should accept as legitimate the attempt by the Irfaan Ali government to interfere with the Natural Resource Fund and claim that it is acting on behalf of all Guyanese. Such a claim could only come from a two-thirds decision of Parliament. We see the bias in their flawed manner of demonstrating democracy and economic freedom in resource allocation and distribution. When you have this type of government interference in a market economy, it is described as a dictatorship.
This government behaves no different from the military juntas in some parts of the world. Guyanese feel helpless in the face of this brazen assault of our constitutional and civil rights. My Party has had enough of that and will do everything in its power to stop it.
We will work to ensure that not only big corporations and friends of the PPP/C get tax breaks. Small businesses are struggling to grow because of lack of access to finance and other constraints. They must jump through hoops to get money from the banks or pay exorbitant interest rates to business lenders to make investments. Or they must agree to do political favours for the PPP/C to get money from the government. That is not economic freedom.
The capital formation of small businesses is being hurt by having to pay income tax. The PNCR will work with small business owners to ensure that their investment capital can be enhanced through special tax treatment and promise them that they will have those tax breaks under an APNU+AFC government. We intend to improve the quality of life of our people.
I will be working with all the political Parties and civil society organizations that wish to bring a halt to these vile and insensitive acts of the PPP/C.
I invite you to join me as we seek to represent, protect and promote the interest of the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the elderly, single parents and small and micro businesses that are being stifled and deprived of resources to develop by the Ali regime.
As a government in waiting, we promise you that our policies, programmes, and projects will be targeted to improve the quality of life of all the people of Guyana. We promise you to challenge PPP/C incompetence, corruption, divisiveness and dictatorial behaviour.
May Guyana remain a Blessed country as I once more wish you a Happy and prosperous 2022! May the Lord bless you all. HAPPY NEW YEAR!