The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says a premature call for elections would not be good for the country and leaders from the business community yesterday said engagement and compromise are what is needed.
In light of the possibility of the opposition bringing a no-confidence motion against the government to a vote and President Donald Ramotar’s declaration that his administration is ready, the PSC yesterday said the move would be “unfortunate” because it would signal political instability to foreign investors while driving up the political risk premium added to the cost of capital when overseas funding is sought by private entities.
“The calling for elections prematurely is signaling that only in a ‘winner takes all’ environment can progress be made. This does not augur well for a plural society such as Guyana,” the organisation said in a statement.
The PSC said it believes that for progress to be made in the current dispensation, where the PPP/C has a minority government and opposition controls the National Assembly, the political culture should consist of “dialogue, compromise and patriotism” on issues of national interest and development. “This culture has been very much absent since our last general elections in 2011 as both sides of the house have exposed their limitations in dealing with such a dispensation,” it added.
The PSC said it “is not hopeful” that general elections would resolve the many problems facing the country but added that should they be called, the results would be accepted by all so that citizens can be a guaranteed a better life.
Ramesh Dookhoo, PSC Honorary Secretary and a member of the organisation’s governing council, told Stabroek News that the “childish politics” currently playing out are causing the economy and the private sector “to take a battering.”
“It’s a shame that politicians cannot work for the good of all of Guyana,” Dookhoo said, while noting that after two and a half years in office the politicians currently running the country cannot do anything good to improve the lives of the people who put them there. He said, “If we have to go to the polls to enjoy a better life then that’s what we have to do” and indicated that it would be a shame if we go back to the polls and end up with the same situation. “What would happen to the country then”? he asked.
Regarding the effects that the current situation is having on the economy and the possible effects of if a no-confidence motion were passed, he said it would be drastic. “The private sector is taking a battering because of the non-passage of the [anti-money laundering bill]. Financing and trade have become much more difficult. We are taking a battering in general because of all this political turmoil,” he said, while urging that politicians “stop the childish games” and engage in dialogue to resolve the issue. Regarding the no-confidence motion, he explained that he wouldn’t be able to speculate on the outcome because there are many interpretations. “With the legislature at odds with the judiciary and the judiciary at odds with sections of the legislature; with the president at odds with both of them and an Attorney General who is not independent in his position as he should be, we don’t know what is right from wrong, we don’t know what would be the interpretation of the outcome,” he pointed out.
Former president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry Clinton Urling took the position that general elections are needed as they would allow the electorate to pronounce definitely on their willingness to have shared governance and express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their elected officials. He said that if they return the same situation, then they would have made it clear that they want shared governance and the politicians would have no choice but to consider the concept much more seriously.
Urling also said the politicians are creating an unnecessary crisis for the economy. “The Guyana dollar is weakening. It is becoming much more costly for several import reliant industries to purchase the raw materials they would need to maintain profitability. With the non-passage of the [anti-money laundering] bill, the unapproved expenditure on infrastructure, in the mining industry, we are seeing our largest contributor to the country’s GDP, gold mining suffer. Even the Marriott Hotel, which has already completed so much construction, might become a white elephant and the list goes on,” he noted.
Saying compromise was the preferable option, Urling warned that if the politicians continued as they have for the last two and a half years, then we may not have an economy left. “We have politicians who are mature in age on both sides of the aisle but their behaviour is all but the contrary; if they are serious about putting the interest of the Guyanese first, then they need to start discussing shared governance,” he said.
Roraima Airways Chief Executive Officer Captain Gerry Gouveia also is in favour of fresh general elections. “I welcome national elections and I think we need to get on with it. The private sector and I think that we need elections and I surely welcome the move,” he said. “We can’t run the country with a minority government and an opposition that acts the way this one does. If the electorate returns the same dispensation, then we know that we need an inclusionary government,” he further said, while pointing out that the parties would then have to find a way to work together, build trust and in good faith get on with the work of the people. “However, if any majority is delivered to any one party, everyone would need to respect and support that decision by the people,” he added.
Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association President Clinton Williams said he would not object to snap elections if that is what is needed to allow the country to be properly governed. He, however, stated that everyone needs to be cognisant of the likelihood of another minority government and stalemate governance. He went on to say that the preferred course would be for the politicians to engage each other in genuine compromise, which he strongly suggested is the only real answer. Asked about the effects of snap elections, he said, it would have a negative impact on the economy, as elections in general are a time of uncertainty.
Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) President Kit Nascimento said that he would prefer to see the differences between the opposition and governing party worked out “by means of constructive and intelligent dialogue.”
He added, “If that becomes impossible then the only resolution would be to return to the polls.”
However, Nascimento said snap elections would hurt the economy and would not be good for tourism either. In fact, he said, any election destabilises an economy but opined that it’s a necessary aspect of democracy and further the right of every political party to access and consult their voters.