The PPP today issued a 38-point response to a critique of the party by former longtime executive Ralph Ramkarran saying that Freedom House never makes race appeals, recognizes that there is corruption which needs to be tackled and has engaged in meaningful dialogue with the opposition.
In the last Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran in a detailed analysis said that urgent reforms are needed if the PPP is to retain enough support to ensure a majority at the polls.
“With a dwindling electoral base, a permanent majority might no longer be assured in the future, unless urgent reforms are put in place to restore the support the Party had in 2006 and to attract wider support,” he said in the article.
“Unless measures are taken, not tomorrow, but today, the stark reality of a future of coalition governments must be now placed on the table for consideration, however reluctant it may be to do so,” said Ramkarran a former longstanding PPP executive who parted ways with the party in June following fallout from an explosive column he penned in which he said that corruption was pervasive and the government needed to do something about it.
In his article, Ramkarran noted that four successive election victories of the PPP in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2006 were followed by the failure to obtain an absolute majority in 2011. He pointed out that the PPP and the opposition have not been working together and said that it appears that the rancour and animosity created by this situation will continue to play out in the National Assembly and in the press and will probably get worse unless both sides change course but it does not appear that this will happen.
In analyzing the PPP’s showing at the last elections, Ramkarran said that the “electoral defeat” of the party is a manifestation of deep seated problems which have been simmering for a while but to which no attention was paid. “One such problem has been the decreasing size of the Indian Guyanese population from which the Party obtains its core support,” he wrote while pointing to figures which showed the decline of that segment of the population from 51.93% of the population in 1980 to 43.45% in 2002.
Another negative factor, he said, was the failure of the PPP to strengthen measures to improve governance and transparency. He pointed out that the party’s public associations began to shift and eventually the public perceptions of close associations with working class heroes such as trade unionists, militant workers or local leaders declined, except for formal occasions, as antagonistic pressures for increased wages and salaries grew. At the same time, increased expenditures on infrastructure at all levels created the need for increasing mechanisms of transparency, he noted.
“Allegations of corruption and nepotism grew at all levels. The PPP went into a defiant mode. Prove it, was the response. It was not expected that a Party with such an historic moral tone like the PPP, with the famed integrity of its senior and junior leaderships of the past, would sit back and allow such allegations to grow. It would have been expected that as the clamour increased more laws and measures to enhance transparency and to protect the population would be implemented,” he said.
Ramkarran said that the test of the party’s commitment against corruption is the establishment of the Procurement Commission. He pointed out that the law was passed ten years ago but the commission has not been constituted and the reversal of position by the PPP in favour of consensus “can only be construed as designed to ensure the continuing stalemate in relation to the establishment of a Procurement Commission.” He said that there will never be consensus between the PPP and the opposition on the names and the party is jeopardizing its electoral prospects by these antics.
“The allegations of corruption and lack of transparency in the country remain one of the major weaknesses that the Party has failed to confront. There is now some reluctant admission that corruption exists. Unless institutional and legal measures follow these admissions, this would be a major, continuing source of disappointment among Party supporters,” he said.
The PPP addressed several of the points that Ramkarran raised. Its press release follows verbatim.
*PPP RESPONDS TO RALPH RAMKARRAN*
1. Ralph Ramkarran’s long article in sections of the media raised many issues that need to be responded to so that we can set the record straight.
2. In the first instance, it is surprising that, at the heart of his analysis is a racial/ethnic stance. He has also resorted to ethnic counting, something he knows is only discussed when we are responding to the opposition line or when the opposition tries to exploit race for their narrow political ends.
3. He should know that the Party rejected racial appeal from its inception. Even immediately after losing office in 1964, the Party came out with a statement condemning racialism. Cheddi Jagan in January 1965 and in April of that same year spoke about the dangers of promoting racial politics. The PPP and PPP/C work for every Guyanese vote, regardless of ethnic origins.
4. The PPP has been loyal to that position at all times.
5. At the last election the PPP/C got almost 50% of the votes cast. The Party had lost Indian votes, yet it managed to win almost 50% of the votes cast. This shows that our line in working to win over all sections of our population is the only correct one. In passing, it is apposite to note that there is enough evidence to show that we lost votes by some administrative measures within the electoral machinery in some areas. That is why either of the two opposition parties (didn’t want) a recount of the votes. They know, particularly APNU, that a recount would show that the PPP/C had more than 51% of the votes.
6. Notwithstanding, the PPP/C received votes from all the major race groups in Guyana. If it did not then it would not have had the results it did.
7. Ramkarran for whatever reason implied that the PPP/C was not consulting with the opposition. He totally ignored the latest situation in relation to the budget.
8. With regards to the 2012 Budget the government, at the highest level of leadership, met for days with the opposition. Those meetings reached important agreements, and demonstrated the PPP/C’s clear willingness to negotiate in good faith, to be flexible and open to compromise in the national interest, unlike the opposition.
9. Recall that we reached agreement to further increase in the old age pension. Recall too that it was the opposition that reneged on the agreements reached on the electricity tariffs at Linden.
10. It is also important to correct Mr. Ramkarran assertion about consultation on the Budget. The fact is that the PPP/C welcomed consultations. Indeed we even called for them. What was rejected was the demand to set up a joint body to write the budget. To have accepted that would have meant that the PPP/C administration was abdicating on its responsibility given to it by the Constitution derived from the mandate of the people.
11. Ralph is also against the Party criticizing the opposition, stating that the PPP/C strategies of “…..blaming the opposition and isolating the AFC for attacks as promoting violence and as being part of the PNC are uncertain in their political value…..”
12. The PPP/C is only highlighting the reality that presently exists.
13. Is it not true that the AFC and the PNC/APNU jointly instigated the lawlessness and violence at Linden? Is it not a fact that the AFC gave an ultimatum hours before the violence erupted at Agricola in which many people were beaten and molested? Should these actions by the opposition be praised? Is he saying that the PPP was wrong to condemn those actions? Is it not also a fact that the two parties joined together to cut the budget of 2012? Is it not true that they almost invariably voted together in the National Assembly? Are they not together violating the Parliament and trying to destroy a stalwart of the PPP and patriot of Guyana, Clement Rohee? No one should expect us to do nothing in light of the vicious onslaught.
14. None of the AFC leaders said anything when Granger openly stated that he speaks for more than 50% of the people. Is he not meaning that the AFC is with the PNC? Granger said this many times and in the presence of the AFC in Parliament, and outside of it as well. We have not heard AFC correcting those assertions.
15. All the positions that the Party has taken could be supported by the situation on the ground created by the opposition.
16. Ramkarran is right that conditions at the time the Party took office have changed radically from what they were in the 1970s when the Party came out with its first programme and much had to be changed to take those new developments into account. However we are still pursuing policies to promote the working people in the new conditions.
17. He has ignored that the total trust of the government is aimed at consolidating democracy and expanding benefits to working people. Our housing, educational, health, water whom do they benefit? All the people but more particularly the working people of Guyana.
18. Who benefits from the six billion subsidy on electricity and other subsidy on water? Is it not the working people, mainly?
19. Ramkarran also knows, because he worked on many of our basic documents, that we have always, as is reflected in those very documents, stated our position on the private sector. We always wanted a good working relationship with the private sector. Even the programme of the 1970s stated this clearly.
20. Was it not Cheddi Jagan government in the 1960s who built the local private sector? Was it not him who developed the Industrial estates both in the 1960s and after he returned to government in 1992? Was it not Cheddi Jagan who allowed the local private sector to re-tool their factories duty free?
21. Is it not true that we are continuing Jagan’s policy when we help the local private sector to develop? Clearly Jagan knew that he had to build a working class but he could not do it only with government resources.
22. Ramkarran is right, we have corruption in our country and we have to fight against it, we have to get rid of it, root and branch.
23. What he has not recognized is the measures that this government has taken to fight this scourge. It is the PPP/C that reintroduced the preparation and tabling of audited public accounts in the National Assembly after the PNC had discontinued this practice for over a decade. This was an early major step in improving transparency and accountability in Government.
24. It is the PPP/C that ensured amendments to the Constitution of our country: to strengthen the independence of the Audit Office ensuring that that Office reported directly to the National Assembly through the Speaker instead of through the Minister of Finance as obtained previously; to widen the mandate of the opposition-chaired Public Accounts Committee including by giving that Committee responsibility for exercising general supervision over the functioning of the Audit Office; to establish Standing Sectoral Committee with responsibility for scrutiny of all areas of Government policy and administration.
25. It is the PPP/C that took to Parliament and secured the enactment of modern financial management legislation, including the Procurement Act, Fiscal Management and Accountability Act and the Audit Act. ndeed, it is the PPP/C that introduced competitive public tendering for Government procurement, and removed the political directorate from the contract award process by reposing in the Cabinet just the right to grant its no objection. It is also the PPP/C that has made the opening of tenders a public event witnessed by the media and that ensured public announcement of tender awards, including through publication on a dedicated website. Many others measures have been put in place. No other country in the region has these mechanisms. What we did not anticipate was the tenacity of the culture of corruption created by the PNC regime.
26. On the economy, Ramkarran dismisses the achievement of stable macroeconomic fundamentals as unimportant. The fact of the matter is that the achievement of those very stable and strong macroeconomic fundamentals has been a signal achievement of the PPP/C in Government.
27. Having inherited an economy where every investor had to factor into their investment decision unstable domestic prices, a volatile and rapidly depreciating exchange rate, high and unpredictable interest rates, insufficient external reserves, and unsustainable external debt, the PPP/C had to restore Guyana to solvency, international creditworthiness, and investor attractiveness. This has been an essential prerequisite to making Guyana a place that is attractive to international business investment, which has led to creation of jobs and generation of incomes for thousands of Guyanese families.
28. Ramkarran also dismisses Guyana’s real GDP growth performance as inadequate. The fact of the matter is that over the past six years, despite the global economy being in the worst crisis in living memory, the Guyanese economy has recorded six years of uninterrupted positive growth at an average of 4.5 percent. Importantly, the sources of Guyana’s economic growth are more diversified today than ever before, and we are less dependent on and vulnerable to the traditional sectors than we ever were although these sectors remain important.
29. Ramkarran also states that the economic growth achieved was not sufficient to make a substantial enough impact on the lives of working people, and he makes a passing and dismissive reference to gains made in social programmes such as housing and health care. The fact is that tremendous progress has been made in improving every key indicator relating to access to social services and social sector outcomes. These include the achievement of universal access to primary education and near achievement of universal secondary education, reducing disease incidence, increasing access to potable water and sanitation facilities, improving gender equality, reducing child mortality, and of course improving access to housing and safe shelter.
30. Furthermore, Ramkarran completely ignores the phenomenal accomplishments of successive PPP/C administrations in restoring the collapsed physical infrastructure of Guyana. When the Party came in office in 1992, the country’s infrastructure was in a state of complete dilapidation and collapse. Roads were riddled with potholes, bridges were crumbling, the airport was in a decrepit state, and our river crossingswere slow and inefficient. Today, almost all of the country’s major roads have been rehabilitated, thousands of community roads have been upgraded, new bridges have been constructed including the major accomplishment of a bridge across the Berbice River built in partnership with the private sector and a bridge across the Takutu River built in partnership with our Brazilian neighbours, and the groundwork for the Amaila Falls Hydropower is well underway. The sum total of all this is that the physical infrastructure of our country has been totally transformed and is currently being further expanded and modernized.
31. As a result of these fundamental omissions, Ramkarran’s analysis of the performance of the PPP/C administration as it relates to management of the Guyanese economy is fundamentally flawed and incomplete.
32. Ramkarran views on the Party’s rule would not be discussed here. That will be done internally. We have mechanisms to do so. They have not changed at least not yet.
33. Ramkarran is wrong when he said that “………the only factor which appears to be keeping the government in office is the lack of enthusiasm of all parties for new elections ……..”
34. The fact is that the government is kept in office because of thesupport of the people for the administration.
35. It is apposite to repeat that the opposition was very opposed to a recount of the votes. They may very well be afraid of losing their one seat majority at new elections.
36. Finally Ramkarran speaks of shared governance.
37. He however, knows that the PPP has never opposed this. We have said clearly that for it to be successful we have to build trust. Otherwise it could be a failure.
38. Everything that has happened since the elections of 2011 has vindicated that position.