With the announcement of an independent bid for the presidency, businessman Peter Ramsaroop is banking on the support of young voters, saying that they are an untapped constituency that could shift the balance of power at next year’s election.
“These politicians are stuck in a time warp,” Ramsaroop told Stabroek News. “And I tell them, if you do the same old thing, the same old way, you will get the same old results. It’s time for us to think differently.”
Ramsaroop, a founding member of the Reform component of the PNCR and former CEO of the AFC, launched his bid under a “People’s Partnership” movement he recently started. He admitted that traditionally an independent bid would be unrealistic but said with changing demographics and particularly the growth of new voters, there is room for new thinking. “Not barring our historical perspectives, our racial voting patterns… I really believe that there is an opening to excite the new generation, that it’s time for them to put the future back in their hands,” he explained.
He drew a distinction between himself and “career politicians who want to be president,” saying that those who have been around for decades are not focusing on the needs of the people. He charged that as a result of the disconnect between politicians and the working people, there is an absence of advocacy for “the ordinary man”. He cited the state of the University of Guyana as an example, arguing that while it is the country’s premiere educational institution, it has suffered from a lack of investment that calls into question how the students would lead the country into the future.
Ramsaroop said that he still believed that a united coalition or national government of unity is the only way towards radical economic transformation for the country. In this respect, he said the People’s Partnership is willing to work with anyone committed to make the country better, regardless of political affiliation. “Keep your party card, I don’t care if you’re PPP, PNC or AFC, but if you believe our plan can help you make Guyana better, then vote for us,” he said. He added that this was the reason for the movement’s slogan, ‘Together We Will’. “Yes, it sounds like fluff, it sounds like dream, but it’s a dream that we can believe in,” he added.
He said he was also open to working along with other parties and in the event that he participates in an alliance for the polls he would be would not insist on being the presidential candidate. He explained, “All of us can’t be at the top. My goal is to make sure we are on the team to shape policies that makes people’s lives better and give our children a better future.”
He is in support of public debates by the presidential candidates to allow the people to determine the best candidates. He said people should be allowed to ask questions and not just accept the candidates from the respective parties.
According to Ramsaroop, the WPA, ROAR-Guyana and the AFC have tested the waters as alternatives to the PPP/C and PNCR.
However, he said that the People’s Partnership would seek to exploit the generation change, as opposed to seeking to draw from the base support of either of the two major parties. He also emphasised that he would not engage in adversarial politics, saying that while the PPP/C and the PNCR might suffer from bad leadership and policies, they also have something to offer. “And that’s why I say I have no problem with Mr (Bharrat) Jagdeo, he did his best to hold the country in an international global crisis. Yes, he had a lot of support from the underground economy, from remittances and all those things that helped him do it,” he said.
He added that with a clear absence of capable leadership within the PPP to take up the presidency, there remains a need to find someone to radically transform the economy. “And that is where I believe the skill sets of me and others come into play,” he said. “To take the foundation and build it to the next level.”
Ramsaroop said while the PPP has had nearly 20 years in office, people’s lives have not gotten better. He said while there has been some infrastructure and social sector development, there have been no real policies to transform the economy to allow for massive employment and career progression. He noted that he has written about the possibilities of greater links with Brazil, which he said could usher in radical change.
He also said than instead of taking Norway’s money for the LCDS, the country should negotiate for an investment in jobs. “Make them build two ships here. That’s 20,000 jobs. If you are the best ship builder in the world, we’ve got the ports and we’ve got the water, come do it right here,” he said. “We’ve got to get away from selling our country out for cheap dollars. We need to learn to negotiate hard… We can have 30,000, or 40,000 of us working and gaining experience, knowledge, engineering, training, those are the type of things we need to negotiate….”
He was also critical of the government’s lack of focus on hydropower, saying that it has been pursuing the Amaila Falls project as pipe dream while not focusing on the development of hydro electric plants in other areas around the country. As a result, he said it is unlikely to radically change the economy in the way of supporting expansion in the manufacturing sector, where jobs are.