PPP/C unveils ‘practical and realistic’ manifesto

– no new major policies

The PPP/C has unveiled a “practical and realistic” manifesto that builds on programmes already underway, re-presents previous projects, and incorporates no new major policies though it includes promises to continuously review Value Added Tax, build new infrastructure, housing policies for professionals and thousands of jobs.

“Amongst the many initiatives which we will complete are the development of hydroelectricity, a new fibre optic cable and the construction of a deep water harbour, an all-weather road to Brazil and a bridge to Suriname,” PPP/C presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar, said in a foreword to the manifesto. “The programmes that we will be pursuing, if elected to government, are aimed at elevating Guyana’s development to another level, one that would see us creating a new economy that would allow for more rapid and significant development whilst taking care of the needs of all our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable,” he said.

In a manifesto that trumpets its achievements, the PPP/C promises further development and a bright future for Guyanese. Several projects promised in its 2006 manifesto reappear in this new document.

The manifesto envisions a deep water harbour that will allow larger vessels to use the port and allow Guyana to exploit its geographical positioning as the gateway to South America. In its 2006 manifesto, the party had also promised to complete a deep water harbour. It envisions that the completion of the all-weather road to Brazil will see Guyana becoming a major hub for trade between South America and the rest of the world while the process of integration on the continent will be deepened through the construction of a bridge across the Corentyne River to join Suriname and Guyana.

The party had also promised to improve the road to Brazil in its 2006 manifesto.

The PPP/C promises a continuous review of the taxation system including VAT to ensure it remains competitive but has not committed to reducing the tax as other parties have done, though it speaks to reducing effective rates especially to the most vulnerable. The manifesto also speaks to strengthening public financial management with special emphasis on increasing competition and efficiency in the public procurement process as well as strengthening monitoring and evaluation capabilities – issues for which it has faced scrutiny and accusations of corruption.

Jobs and rapid growth

The party also says that it will promote rapid growth in the information and communications technology sector which will see 25,000 “high quality” jobs created over the next five years.

The PPP/C is promising to accelerate economic growth, increase exports and reduce dependence on imported inputs especially fossil fuels and food items. The party also promises a transformation of the productive sectors by encouraging faster growth in labour and skill-intensive sectors such as information and communication technology, large scale agriculture and agro-processing and sustainable harvesting of Guyana’s vast natural resources. It also speaks of improving the environment for doing business, extending the regulatory perimeter of the Bank of Guyana to include all entities providing financial services, improve the ease with which credit can be accessed by the private sector and strengthening the commercial court.

In relation to infrastructure, the PPP/C says it will also “examine the possibility” of establishing rail links from Linden to Lethem and along main corridors such as the East Bank and East Coast Demerara as well as “examine the feasibility” of rehabilitating and/or building new bridges at the Demerara and Canje rivers. It also promises to extend the runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and build a modern terminal. In relation to electricity the PPP/C says it will facilitate “a second large scale privately-financed hydropower project” to supply nearby markets while the Amaila Falls hydropower project will be completed and electricity will be brought to every single household. The manifesto also pledges that Guyana will produce sufficient power to meet the needs of the manufacturing, agro-processing and minerals processing sectors such as alumina and aluminum production.

With regard to ICT, the PPP/C promises to facilitate private sector investment in additional fibre optic cables in addition to completing the current fibre optic project as well as constructing and equipping information technology laboratories in schools.

In relation to the productive sectors, the manifesto speaks of increasing acreage on GuySuCo’s estates as well as incentivizing private cane farmers to increase acreage and cane production. The PPP/C also pledges to promote large scale rice production in other parts of the country and increase yield per acre as well as expand the range of incentives for value-added agriculture, particularly processing of crops.

With regard to bauxite, the party promises to promote growth including by facilitating a major investment in developing new bauxite deposits, facilitating further investment and working with the bauxite companies on establishing the feasibility of alumina production- something that was being worked on for years.

The PPP/C pledges to facilitate growth in the gold industry by supporting the artisanal mining sector and by facilitating investments in a number of small scale projects. The manifesto also speaks to the potential of an oil and gas sector.

Education, health and housing

In relation to education, the PPP/C promises universal secondary education and a school transportation programme for the poor where this is an impediment. It also pledges review and reform of the curricula, improving teacher quality, establishing online libraries, training to promote the culture of enterprise, promote offshore education as well as “take the necessary steps to ensure that the University of Guyana delivers top quality education to the students of Guyana.”

In health, the PPP/C says that key priorities will be the establishment of a “super-specialty” hospital providing facilities for cardiology, nephrology, oncology, dermatology, etc, and continued emphasis on universal access to primary health care and expanding access to specialized care. It also pledges to review the system of oversight of private health facilities to ensure a high quality of service and sound ethical practices and strengthen the national ambulance service, among other areas.

The PPP/C, in the next five years, promises special housing programmes for young professionals and single persons and aims to distribute 30,000 new house lots including a special remigrant housing scheme. It also pledges to enact “sunset legislation” for squatting and regularizing all possible settlements while also supporting community planning and housing pilots in the hinterland. The Georgetown sewer system will be upgraded, the manifesto says.

With regard to Amerindian and hinterland development, the manifesto says that the PPP/C will continue to expand social services in the communities, continue and accelerate land titling and demarcation exercises, and complete and upgrade the hinterland road network as well as increase the availability of ICT programmes and assets in hinterland communities.

In future, the PPP/C says it will continue to expand youth empowerment and technical and vocational training schemes and continue to expand sports infrastructure by completing the new athletics track, building a new velodrome, as well as upgrading other sports grounds and constructing additional indoor sport facilities.

Upping fight against drug-traffickers

The PPP/C continues to face criticism over its approach to national security issues, including its commitment to combat large-scale drug-trafficking, which was questioned by successive US mission leaders here, according to confidential diplomatic cables recently-released via WikiLeaks.

Among its key priorities, the PPP/C says it will place “new emphasis” on intelligence-led policing to enable a “more robust fight” against narco-traffickers. It says this would be pursued through strengthening the intelligence-gathering and processing capabilities of the police force, including the full establishment of the intelligence apparatus through ICT enablement and networking of stations for real-time access to databases, along with improved forensic capability. It adds that capitalising the military, specifically in surveillance of land, air and sea spaces, is also priority.

Crime fighting and prevention, it says, will be focused on information-led activities and the analysis of data generated from the criminal incident reports from the police divisions. Also promised is improved collaboration among the branches in the criminal justice system, particularly the magistracy, judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions chambers, police prosecutions and the Criminal Investigations Department.

The PPP/C adds that the operational capacity of the joint services would be enhanced through targeted training, forensic, communication and transportation resources along with the increased resort to ICT applications in the fight against crime. At the same time, it plans to continue the legislative programme to facilitate successful prosecutions, stiffen custodial penalties for serious crimes and to protect society by enacting a bail act. It also promises to strengthen legislation in the area of piracy and hijacking and to develop anti-piracy programmes with key stakeholders.

The manifesto also emphasises the accountability of members of the joint services, although it does not make reference to abuses by the security forces over the last term, which include the involvement of members of the police force in the torture of a teenage boy as well as torture allegations against soldiers. The PPP/C promises the application of statutory provisions to enhance the functioning and the accountability to parliament of the judiciary as well as continuing the improvement of accountability of members of the joint services by strengthening the remit of the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Police Complaints Authority and observance of reporting responsibilities to the parliamentary oversight body. Greater public support and confidence in the joint services will also be promoted, with more attention being paid to rapid responses, confidentiality about sources of information and respect for human rights, it says.

To complement the work of the security forces, it will be emphasising community security by increasing the creation of community policing groups and neighbourhood police personnel. Additionally, it will promote penal reforms and specifically in the areas of prisoner welfare, training and parole.

While counting gains “significant gains” in the justice system, including infrastructure and material resource improvements in the justice system, the PPP/C identifies addressing the long-standing problem of court-case backlogs among its priorities going forward. Special emphasis, it says, will be placed on “reducing and eventually eliminating the backlog” in matters before the courts and establishing systems to ensure no new backlog.

It also plans to review the current legal system, with a view to bringing greater equity in citizens’ access to justice, and especially in hinterland and rural communities through more regular sittings of courts and the establishment of the offices of the DPP in Berbice and Essequibo.

Another area for attention is sentencing reform, including penalty standardisation and strengthening the penalties for serious offences, while also making provisions that would allow for non-custodial community service. It adds that it will also implement several pieces of legislation recently passed which will bring efficiency to the legal system and to make the system more accountable.

No street dweller left behind

The manifesto also outlines human services policies to be pursued to address vulnerable groups, in keeping with its “unequivocal commitment” towards improving the lives of women, children, the elderly and physically and mentally-challenged persons.

Among its priorities is completing a home for the homeless “and relocating and rehabilitating, where necessary, every street dweller by providing them with skills training.”

In addition, it says it will examine options for making the tax system more family-friendly, including offering personal income-tax relief that would be conditional on the number of dependent children.

It also promises to conduct a comprehensive review of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the Dependants Pension Fund, and other pension arrangements in place for government employees. The aim of the review is to streamline the entities and in the case of the NIS to ensure its long-term viability and to improve its accountability and client-friendliness, along with strengthening the supervision of pension funds to ensure the protection of post-employment benefits.

Other priorities listed include expanding the benefits available to old age pensioners and single parents; establishing family counselling centres in all counties; expanding the foster care programme to ensure every child is placed with a family; expanding the work of the Women’s Affairs Bureau, the Men’s Affairs Bureau and the Child Protection Agency; and increasing support for programmes to prevent domestic violence and against molestation of children.

Outsourcing public services

Public sector reform will be a priority, the PPP/C says, in order to build a more effective and responsive public administration, explaining that this would be “absolutely critical” to deliver on the administration’s plans.

As a result, it says it will review every government agency to identify ways in which the bureaucracy can be made more people-friendly. At the same time, it plans to outsource more government services, in order to increase efficiency and promote private sector development. To support reforms and improve effectiveness, an ICT strategy would be designed and implemented for each government agency.

Agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority and Go-Invest, it adds, would also be examined to ensure that they discharge their mandates in a manner consistent with a modern, efficient tax administration, and a modern, functioning investment promotion and facilitation agency, respectively. The agencies responsible for land titling, business registration, among others, will all be streamlined to be made more efficient and responsive, the PPP/C promises.

The manifesto calls governance reforms one of the “signal achievements” of the PPP/C since 1992, with major constitutional changes, including the instituting of presidential term limits, the establishment of parliamentary sectoral committees, the establishment of constitutional commissions for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights, the strengthening of the independence of the Auditor General and enhancement of the mandate of the Public Accounts Committee being among the highlights.

The plans for a new PPP/C administration emphasise greater accountability and the promotion of rights through the parliament. It says it will reactivate the Office of the Ombudsman, which has been vacant for several years, to promote more effective functioning of government agencies and to receive and address complaints from members of the public.

Additionally, it proposes maintaining and enhancing reporting by the executive to the Parliament, using existing instruments such as the mid-year report on the economy and annual reports of government agencies and by introducing new instruments such as an annual report on the state of the nation’s women, children, and elderly. Further, it envisions increasing the reporting on the country’s international treaty obligations to disclose compliance.

The PPP/C will also set about completing the appointment and operationalising of the constitutional commissions, including the Public Procurement Commission as well as operationalise the Access to Information legislation, along with using technology more widely to promote better communication between government agencies and the citizenry. It adds that it will continue to implement the Broadcast Act, in addition to enacting and implementing legislation to liberalise the telecommunications sector.

The PPP/C also assures that within one year of the 2011 general elections, local government elections, due since 1997, will be held. In addition, it proposes to pursue local government reforms, including strengthening the ministerial oversight over local government bodies, while also helping these institutions to better discharge their functions. Other plans include enhancing accountability and transparency in the operations of local government bodies, especially as it relates to the awarding of contracts, ensuring more coordination between central government agencies and the local government bodies and expanding collaboration between local government bodies and community development groups.

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