APNU moots ‘Social Contract’ for national unity

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) yesterday proposed a new ‘social contract’ in order to promote national unity and foster economic development.

In a statement, APNU said that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration has shown that it is incapable of solving the country’s current woes on its own.  It called on the PPP/C to seriously re-examine the prospects for the future relationship between citizens and the state as a means of  tackling the country’s pressing political, economic and social problems.

A social contract, a broad agreement between societal stakeholders on matters such as wages, crime and economic development, has been discussed here for many years but without success. Social contracts have been hammered out in several Caribbean countries.

APNU argued yesterday that the “economic crisis” has lowered the standard of living. It added that protests by two of the country’s largest trade unions – the Guyana Public Service Union and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union – have underlined how relations between the state and its workers have deteriorated. The number  of unemployed young people is growing and poverty is rampant, APNU charged.

It adverted to the  World Bank’s 2014 World Development Report, which rated Guyana as the second poorest country in CARICOM. The Report highlighted Guyana’s Gross National Income (GNI) of US$3,410 per capita compared to The Bahamas at US$21,280 per capita and Suriname at US$8,480 per capita. Only Haiti in Caricom was lower than Guyana.

The opposition coalition argued that the “security crisis” has disproportionately hit  the poor and that Guyanese have been pained by the rise in serious crimes in  2013. The party pointed out that there were 1,038 reports of robbery under arms at the end of November 2013. This represented a seven per cent rise over the same period in 2012. There was also a jump in the number of armed robberies involving the use of firearms by 16 per cent. Other serious crimes were also up.

APNU said it was  therefore proposing  a new ‘social contract’ through which the major sections of society – including the government;  opposition; trade unions; private sector and civil society – can seek agreement  on a broad national programme to move the country forward.

APNU contended that the ‘social contract’ could be the main means of harnessing the talents of a broader constituency and of fostering the conditions for social cooperation and economic development.

APNU called on the PPP/C administration to honour its obligations to:

*         undertake and continue tripartite talks with workers’ and employers’ organisations in order to promote heightened production and productivity;

*         establish, in accordance with CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community, “… a framework for genuine consultation among the social partners…”

*         buttress the mechanisms for tripartite consultation in accordance with ILO Convention No. 150 on Labour administration, 1978.

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