September 26, 2016

A year of disappointment

By Ryhaan Shah

It’s not yet a full year for the Coalition Government but there is unlikely to be a change of direction over the next two months to ease our disappointment. After 50 years of successive governments that could always have done better for us and our country, the disappointment deepens our sense of despair.
By all appearances, our immediate future is to be a rehash of past failed policies which should have been a learning experience at best. But President David Granger is a product of that past and, being a GDF officer at the time, was undoubtedly involved in shaping it.
The cabinet he selected, mostly PNC/APNU cronies, has little or no expertise in business, finance, and economic planning and Guyana is feeling the bite of this crucial oversight.
The economy was hardly robust to begin with and with the gold rush over, rice and sugar in trouble, and falling oil prices making the oil find off our coast unlikely to reap dividends any time soon, this is exactly the time when governments are expected to rise to the challenge with pro-active and creative solutions.
Promised investments have not materialised and no major government infrastructural projects are underway. Instead of concrete plans, there is much oratorical puffery coming from government like: growth is not the “elixir of sustainable development”.
Growth is only the means to get there, they say, while overseeing an economy that has ground to a halt because their “elixir” is obviously missing. After successive years of economic expansion under the PPP/C government, 2016 will register as a year of negative growth.
Social change will also register negatively. The racial divide has never been wider or more contentious as Granger rewards his party supporters in every way possible, even to the extent of pardoning their crimes and releasing them from prison.
In a letter to the press, PPP/C MP Charles Ramson Jr linked Granger’s pardons to the recent prison riot that left 17 inmates dead. The inference is hardly incorrect given that many of the victims’ families who gathered outside the Camp Street jail in the aftermath proclaimed that they had “voted for Granger”. Promises were made and expectations are high. Party supporters expect their leader to deliver no matter the cost or consequences for the country at large.
Another of the year’s disappointment is the collective silence emanating from the local diplomatic missions of the US and its allies even as parliamentary democracy is eroded and corruption has become rampant. These same diplomats were very vociferous in their criticisms of the PPP/C government and made no bones about their wish to have them gone.
They got their wish but are the highhanded manner and poor performance of the Granger government what they signed on for? The US protected its Cold War interests by keeping Jagan out of office for nearly 30 years. But what, exactly, are the US’ current interests in Guyana? Is it the oil find? But why would the US need governmental control in order to negotiate what should be a fair deal for our oil?
An oil-for-power tradeoff would be in no one’s best interests and we must believe that the US would not sanction the destruction of Guyana yet again for ready access to our oil reserves.
Much was also made of the alleged narco-trafficking under the PPP/C government and Guyana does appear to be a transshipment point. However, since other countries in the Caribbean, and Central and Latin America are just as or even more involved in the drugs trade, Guyana hardly tops the list for urgent intervention.
Perhaps, the US, like many others, thought that the PPP/C government in its 23 years had become arrogant and corrupt and needed to go. Not many would argue with that reasoning and the US and its allies could have been persuaded by the change and unity promised by the Cummingsburg Accord.
However, that brokered alliance between APNU and the AFC is on shaky ground what with the open flouting of terms of the agreement by the larger APNU faction, and since Granger and his government are cast in the mould of the PNC, there is little chance that they can ever change tact.
We must believe, further, that the international community will not be so unholy as to prop up a corrupt and destructive government, as was done in the past.
This year of disappointment could be a vital lesson for everyone and if the PPP/C undertakes the necessary reforms to make the party healthy and whole, no one can stop it from winning the next general elections.

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