A B- grade for the government in 2010

Dear Editor,
The government will earn itself a mixed report card for 2010, and I guess for the remainder of the time in office. The many sanctions to silence voices were well noted during this year and even in years past. It does not look too good when a democratic government professing to be a government for the people and by the people takes legal action against members of the public and media houses for libel and what they perceive as misleading statements. I received a lawyer’s letter from the Regional Administration this year for sharing my views in these columns. The newspapers were also implicated. I will never forget the desperation of those in the corridors of power to protect their interests and silence the cause of democracy.

The extravagant presidential trips are another demerit for the government. Guyana, over the years, has had one of the largest travel bills, payable only by the taxpayers and that is sad. Travelling to foreign nations has been like going to Berbice or to a next-door village.

Unsolved murders and a security force that leaves much to be desired earn the government another low grade for this year and previous years.
And blackouts? Let us not even go there. I have checked the number of blackouts in Berbice for 2010 which I will share with the general public shortly. The figure is no better than last year’s. The government has done very little to ease this burden from the shoulders of Guyanese. With the Skeldon Sugar Modernization Plant and Kingston Power plant, Guyanese are no better off than they were in terms of the delivery of electricity.

Blocking more radio stations and expansion of other TV stations while allowing its own state-owned entities access to wider audiences is a double standard by the government, and earns them minus points.

However, a mixed report card also denotes the positives that I believe the government has achieved over the years, 2010 included.
With one of the most stable economies in the Caribbean, much credit should be given to the financial advisors and planners whose silent initiatives have made the economy what it currently is. The government was able to hand out increases to the sugar workers, teachers and public servants.  Are salary increases even possible in other countries during these turbulent economic times? I really don’t think so.

The one laptop per family initiative earns the government credits for the past year’s performance. Still yet to materialize but it will soon be done, the laptop programme as well as the government’s promise to computerize secondary schools in Guyana by next year is definitely a step in the right direction for us all. However, rolling blackouts, computers and computer labs do not go hand-in-hand.

The 24-hour educational channel which is proposed by the government in the new year is definitely a tool that will boost education access and delivery for the children of Guyana. Kudos to the government for this.

An improved water supply has been seen in 2010 with the commissioning of more treatment plants all over Guyana. This is highly commendable as more international policies regarding the water sector are adopted and citizens can finally receive treated water, at least in many areas. It is anticipated that this drive will continue in 2011.
The uniform voucher programme as well as the National School Feeding programme have been excellent initiatives by the government. As a teacher myself, I have seen the huge impact of these two ventures in the public education system. Parents turned up in large numbers during the August vacation for the assistance the government provided to purchase uniforms. The juice and cookies which many students receive and hot meals as well in the interior locations, believe it or not, may be the only meal some children partake of for the day.

Thankfully, our East Coast Berbice roads have been illuminated and driving/riding/walking has become much easier. The road lighting project has been moving apace and already much of the Corentyne  and Canje roadways have been transformed into bright areas in the night.

The National Remediation programme launched by the Ministry of Education is certainly a step in the right direction to curb illiteracy and innumeracy. I have been a part of these programmes during the August holidays and have seen the tremendous impact they have had on learners. The government, especially the Ministry of Education, needs to be lauded for heightening its programmes in 2010 such as the Literacy Hour in schools, Interactive Radio broadcasts, numerous teacher workshops and training seminars in various regions, preparation and publication of a wide array of educational materials by NCERD, etc. NCERD also launched several micro-courses for teachers, one of which is the Education Management course for school managers.

I really do expect the government to recognize the importance of teachers and their impact on the achievement of the national goals of a country.
So many positive accomplishments yet the government could have performed so much better during the period of review. Is this really good enough for them, once again, to get my vote in the 2011 elections? Time will tell.

Notwithstanding, I administer a B- grade to the PPP/C Government for 2010.

Yours faithfully,
Leon Suseran

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