Three headlines, all in one edition of Stabroek News attracted my attention: ‘Interesting times?’ `Private Sector voices concerns to IMF team over taxation, decline of dollar’ and ‘SARU’s excessive allegations polarizing society -GHRA’
Read and analysed together they reflect the main characteristics of our country’s challenges and future prospects for the way forward. The solution, which has been there for a very long time, is within the grasp of the PPP and the PNC if not together, at least separately. However, the fundamental question is, is this possible or is it highly improbable?
The recent two- stage consultation between the President and the Leader of the Opposition on the selection of a new Chairman of Gecom and the appointment of a Chancellor, Chief Justice and judges recommended by the Judicial Service Commission brought out in bold relief the formal constitutional and the informal political nature (albeit in a formal setting) of the two engagements. As was to be expected, the formalities with respect to recommendations and the responses to those recommendations took centre stage in the course of the two-stage consultation. And in the exchange of views on those particular matters, political considerations must have been uppermost in the thoughts of both sides.
Of interest was the fact that while engaging in the specific matters for which the invitation was extended, the Opposition Leader took the opportunity to raise a number of economic and political issues affecting the nation, inter alia, the high cost of closing as against maintaining sugar estates, the SARU legislation and SARA allegations, issues concerning witch-hunting, and so on. In sum, it was in effect, a political engagement on constitutional and extra-constitutional issues.
This augurs well for the tried and tested strategic approach of unity and struggle. Both government and opposition should not worry about losing their support base or be seen as collaborating within the meaning of unity and struggle. In other words, you cooperate in the interest of the nation but you fight it out politically in the interest of your respective constituents.
Experience has shown that educating party members and supporters is critical in terms of the endgame of each party. In this approach, there will always be extremist elements on both sides who are opposed to any form or shape of cooperation, and who will exert every effort to push a non-cooperation agenda having cast each other as iniquitous in the cut and thrust of everyday politics. In this respect, the media can, depending on its editorial policy, play either a divisive or supportive role.
In its meeting with the IMF visiting mission the Private Sector Commission is reported to have raised a number of matters affecting the economy, including, loss of investor confidence, application of VAT to a number of consumer items and services, lack of incentives to investors, corrupt acquisition of state assets, decline in the value of the Guyana dollar, lack of supply of foreign exchange and the absence of a facilitating environment. Finally, the PSC called for the creation of a “forward looking economic plan.”
While in government, the political opposition had committed to strong economic growth, fiscal and monetary management, economic diversification, job creation, improved infrastructure and a strong private sector.
In relation to the latter, the PPP/C committed itself to exchange rate stability, expansion of credit to the private sector, facilitating the growth of the private sector and encouraging public-private sector partnerships in infrastructural development.
The party also committed to reviewing the impact of taxes and other factors on the cost of living.
Any attempt to find solutions to these problems would require, under any circumstances, a tri-partite approach on the part of government, the private sector and the parliamentary opposition.
Hoping for a significant improvement in one’s electoral fortunes while Rome burns can eventuate in the loss of people’s trust and confidence in the extant establishment and its political fixtures and possibly, the emergence of a totally new political dispensation in the country. Cooperation between government and opposition on specific issues of mutual national, economic and social interest does not mean adopting a collaborationist approach or abandoning the struggle for political power.
Theoretically, gains won by the opposition can help them broaden their support base. The same applies to a ruling party. Responsibility for losses can be attributed to the opposition by the ruling party and conversely, by the opposition towards the ruling party. In other words, rather than engaging in a zero sum game what should be pursued instead is a win-win situation.
Under such conditions, the political opposition is not bound by any cooperation with the government of the day as it seeks out and make allies in its struggle for democracy and for the advancement of people’s living standards.
Regardless of how critical some may be of the GHRA, the Association’s charges in respect of SARA’s role is solid, viz, that SARA’s “constant and excessive allegations are fragmenting the broad national consensus on anti-corruption…” And that, “…the anti-corruption drive is contaminated when corruption is effectively interpreted as beginning and ending with the last administration.”
The PPP has stated time and again that as far as corruption is concerned it will confront corruption in the past, present and the future, and that it will support any investigation into corruption providing the process of such investigations is transparent and above board.
President Granger said that “the absence of social cohesion will inflict unbearable social and economic costs on this nation.” How this social cohesion that President Granger referred to will be achieved in a sea of social and political unrest, instability, fragmentation and disintegration is anybody’s guess.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it is the electorate which will assess the pluses and minuses of the contestants in the campaign leading to general and regional elections and which will determine which party deserves to administer the country.
Clement J Rohee