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‘You can’t ensure a permanent rise in the living standards for all and a transfer of wealth and opportunity to every part of the UK without a radical transfer of political power as well’ …‘To build prosperity and tackle poverty across the whole UK we need to change not just who governs but how we are governed.’ December 2022 tweet by Gordon Brown, former UK prime Minister, of whom ESSAY magazine (2007) said ‘Intensive study has made into one of the best-read politicians of recent times.’
For over a decade I have been arguing that the largely Indian dominated and supported People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its governments are set upon establishing ethnic/political dominance in Guyana and that it had almost accomplished its objective when it was removed from government in 2015 (Jeffrey, Henry B (2015) Political and Ethnic Dominance in Guyana. , Gateway @ Dialogs, London). In government again in 2020, the PPP began to pursue its goal with even greater vigour and it is difficult to identify a single area of social life over which the PPP has some leverage that has not become more parochial and/or autocratic.
The PPP could behave as it does because its ethnic support base, aided by elections manipulation, allows it to be so. Its ministers can openly inform the African population that their support for the PPP is necessary if they want to benefit from the public purse, and this kind political environment has led to a groundswell of belief that the PPP is prepared to impoverish the African community to attain political dominance.
As a result, last August the African-orientated organisation Cuffy 250 held a conference titled ‘Resisting the emerging apartheid state: economic equity and security.’ Of course, this lead to a furore in the ranks of the PPP, who deemed that conference unconstitutional, calling upon its organisers to provide evidence of the party’s racism and the government stripping the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPADA-G) organisation of its funds because some of its executives participated in the conference.
In the above mentioned book, I argued that the PPP had deliberately tried to control, weaken or destroy every significant African institution: trade unions, city and other local authorities, etc. I showed that Africans had little place in the business sector and were being systematically removed from controlling positions in the state sector. In response to recent demands for evidence, others have recently accepted this challenge. For example, in a rudimentary manner, considering the award of some 288 government contracts in 2022, ‘Mark’s Take’ in this publication argued that while Guyanese of Indian and African descent are about 39.8% and 29.3% of the population respectively, in 2022 government contracts were awarded 5 times as often to Indians than to Africans and the dollar value of contracts awarded to Indian controlled businesses was 10 times greater than that awarded to African owned firms (‘Domination’ VV,11/12/2022)!
Of course, the PPP denies it is deliberately racist and is set upon impoverishing Africans to herd them into its ranks. But largely because of its determination to dominate and its disrespect for the African Guyanese community, it has found itself in a Su-like context, i.e. doing precisely what its critics expected! In September, the IMF projected inflation was ‘expected to rise to 9.4 percent at year-end.’ The government knew this but at a time when inflation is rampant and it is flush with cash that it has been unilaterally throwing around (some say mainly to its Indian supporters) at year-end the regime decided to pay an 8% increase for 2022 to public servants who are mainly Africans: in terms of take home pay making them worse off at the end than at the beginning of the year!
If this is not deliberate discrimination what is? And this was done in spite of the concerns expressed at the apartheid conference and the mobilisation taking place among Africans in Guyana and the diaspora. Even before this, the autocratic behaviour of the regime had not gone unnoticed, and top US people and institutions have been calling upon the government to be more all-round inclusive. Indeed, in an unprecedented move, both the president and general secretary of the PPP were summoned to Washington for, among other things, discussions about corruption, and political and economic inclusiveness.
Typical of the PPP when it offered this disrespectful pittance to public servants, it attempted to camouflage this wrong by highlighting its many unilateral universal, handouts. However, this fooled no one and it was not even out of the blocks when the regime was ‘encouraged’ and finds itself in more difficulties by agreeing to sweeten the pot for various categories of workers!
All dictatorial regimes need the loyalty of the security forces and these were the first to be given what the regime deemed to be adequate increases of between 8% and 32%. But again, this was not considered sufficient to stem the emigration of educated Guyanese and so the regime was again prevailed upon and a rather gloomy President Ali returned with increases for health workers of between 13% and 74% on their salaries in the new year. This means that the government’s effort to buy over the security forces with ‘generous’ increases was negated and the regime is left to consider what is to be done with the remainder of public servants, including teachers!
Notably, the United States ambassador felt it necessary to depart from a prepared presentation to applaud the regime for it sensible decision to make decent increases! But having itself provided evidence of its racial/ethnic bias the PPP in damage limitation mode is scurrying attempting to convince the public that 8% is reasonable by getting the trade unions over which it has leverage to accept even marginally less! It is as if it has forgotten that there is a strong opinion that most of its unilateral handouts went precisely to its supporters.
I make the above point not to belittle the PPP but to indicate that the comments made by Gordon Brown are most relevant to Guyana. For historical and ideological reasons, the entire political leadership in Guyana has been socialised in a racist/autocratic environment in which political leaders are considered dangerous fools if they lose government, and the present behaviour of the PPP helps to explain why this is so. As a result, peace, prosperity and the equitable distribution of wealth can only be ensured when there is a radical reconfiguration of political power. Guyanese need to change not just who governs but how they are governed.