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By Mark DaCosta- The Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) has articulated five key attributes of good governance. They are: transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation, and responsiveness (to the needs of the people). The PPP regime continues to disregard and depart from each of those key markers.
First, transparency. As the PPP strengthens its stranglehold on political power, the ruling regime is becoming increasingly opaque and secretive. Decisions are being made behind closed doors outside the range of public scrutiny. For example, in Georgetown, a decision was made to build a “walkway” to the seawall along Vlissengen Road. One wonders, who made that decision; was any environmental impact assessment done; all things considered, is a walkway to the seawall a priority at this time?
Not far from a seawall walkway, a thing is being constructed parallel to Lamaha Street. Again — because there is zero transparency and information — one is left to wonder, what is that thing? Is it a road? Is it a car-park? Is it another walkway? What is that thing?
Second, Responsibility. Does the PPP take responsibility for its actions? Has the administration ever admitted that it could have done better? Guyanese may be hard pressed to find any such example.
Third, accountability. In terms of governance, this is equated with answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it is central to discussions related to problems, the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, decisions, and policies.
It is known that the lack of accountability results in corruption. Guyanese will recall that recently, serious allegations of corruption were made by a reputable United States media outlet against a high ranking PPP official. The PPP regime — instead of launching an investigation — came to the defence of the alleged corrupt official and — as does a cornered snake — attacked anyone who called for accountability.
Notably, in August, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Paul Cheong told the second installment of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance’s accountability and transparency workshop that graft undermines businesses and threatens investors’ confidence in the country. He said, “No country can afford to allow corruption to take root, not in the public or private sector. Once corruption invades or permeates a society it becomes insidious and undermines businesses, it threatens security, it threatens and drives away investors altogether. It ultimately criminalises every activity whether business, the public service, professionals [and] even in sport. Eventually, it will bring down any society or organization or persons involved.”
Incidentally, corruption can be measured. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
Guyana’s scores in recent years are as follows:
2018 — 37 points
2019 — 40 points
2020 — 41 points (PPP took office)
2021 — 39 points
The 2022 score may indicate an interesting trend.
Fourth, participation. This refers to the participation of citizens in the decision making process. The key to such participation is public consultation. A study by the University of Maryland’s Programme for Public Consultation states that, “Public consultation responds to [people’s] demand for greater democratic responsiveness and can help restore [citizens’] confidence in government.” The PPP regime may wish to consider beginning to engage in this approach to decision making.
Fifth, responsiveness is the degree to which a government is sensitive to the needs of citizens and the effectiveness of the response to those needs. For example, does the PPP seem to care about the needs of our senior citizens; or the challenges faced by hinterland residents? Has the government done anything to effectively assist squatters, single parents, homeless people, substance abusers, or poor Guyanese?