What rich policy directions?

Dear Editor,

Minister Ramsammy’s proclamation that the PPP has always been rich in policy directions and programmes is hollow and false (‘The PPP has always been rich in policy directions and programmes,’ SN, June 18). I wonder what exactly Minister Ramsammy views as richness. He mentions a multitude of areas that are within the domain of government. Every government whether the PPP or PNC or AFC or the APP (Any Political Party) in power has to deal with and must formulate policies and programmes for these areas. It is nothing new. Quantity is not richness of policy. Quality is. There is no quality in any of the policies implemented by the PPP in the past 19 years. Many PPP policies when executed have been tainted with corruption,  mismanagement, waste, incompetence, inequality and dismal results. None of these policies are original. They have been borrowed and copied from other countries, dictated by foreign lenders or crafted by foreign governments and handed to the government. There is no innovation and no semblance of quality. No proven results. The PPP has never created a successful made-in and made-for Guyana policy or programme. Even the few policies that had some measure of success such as housing and debt relief saw those benefits erased by corruption (see the property prices in Pradovilles and the extreme borrowing on the footsteps of debt relief). There is no palpable evidence of efficiency, transparency and accountability in any of these so-called rich policies. Everything has been knee-jerk and reactive. The people end up with a loss or no return on the investment in any policy. Alternative assessment and cost-benefit outcomes are forgotten. I am really at a loss to understand which cloud of delusion Minister Ramsammy plucked this idea from.

The three biggest areas of concern of the past 19 years have been (1) the economy (2) crime and (3) ethnic insecurity. The PPP has demonstrated a richness of failed policies in each of these areas. What exactly has been the rich policy on the underground economy, the drug trade, runaway crime, phantom gangs and an economy of inequality which has flowered and flourished under the PPP? The centrepiece of the PPP’s claim to success in the past 19 years is infrastructure. But is building something that had to be built in any event such as a road where there was no road cause for celebration and chest puffing? Is that the epitome of a rich policy? Is the PPP really trying to tell us that if the AFC won power it would not have extended the East Bank highway to four lanes or built another highway aback of the villages to deal with traffic congestion? That is not rocket science policy-making. It is expected action from government. Any knee-jerk reactive government no matter how incompetent or managerially reckless and without a clue would extend that highway or build another one. It is that simple.

Just like it is not expected that government will spend taxpayers’ money recklessly overbuilding, it is expected that government will not build facilities purely for the sake of seeking political leverage in an effort to buy people’s votes with their own money. Is it good policy to squander the taxes paid by not only PPP supporters but by supporters of the PNC, AFC and also non-voters? Building substandard infrastructure at exorbitant costs when only a few benefit with contracts is not rich policy. Constructing roads that wash away with the first rainfall, bridges that collapse, stellings that float away, wharves that sink, sugar factories that run empty, hospitals that remain empty and facilities that break down with stark regularity is not rich policy. Who builds a 1.6 million tonne processing capacity sugar factory in a country that has never produced more than 450,000 tonnes in any year in its entire existence? Do these policymakers think that a big, shiny and empty factory costing a fortune to operate that takes food from the mouths of poor sugar workers who have to pay more from their pay-cheques in taxes to keep the behemoth white elephant running is rich policy? Do these magnificent policymakers Minister Ramsammy elevates know that when taxpayers’ money is wasted, used corruptly and mismanaged it takes away medicine, education, security and social services from those same taxpayers? Does the Minister realize that any policy that collects an abundance of taxes from its citizens and transfers them to a select few in lucrative contracts is never rich policy? This legacy of overbuilding, reckless planning, wastage, failure to consider alternatives, incompetence, corruption, shoddy work, poor execution, dismal maintenance and mismanagement is destructive policy. Money that poor people don’t have to spare is being squandered in this country.

If the PPP thinks its 19-year game of trying to fool the people with their own money will last, they have another rich policy of vote disappearance coming in October 2011. The people of this country and the PPP’s own constituency know the truth; their money is being wasted and some of it is ending up in the wrong pockets. The people of this country do not wake up every day in this stifling heat and venture out into this cauldron of struggle called Guyana, the country of their birth, of their ancestors who slaved for generations, to waste their money. They stay up at night trying with herculean might to find savings to stay alive in this paradise the PPP has given them. If they do not waste, squander and mismanage their own hard-earned sweat, blood and tears, why should they allow a government to do it? The PPP’s main support group knows the value of money very well. It is inconsistent with their personal ideals and values when their taxes are squandered by a government they elected. At the end of the day, it comes down to money. Guyana is getting harder and harder to live in by the day. The people of this land cannot be making sacrifices and spending with restraint while government is blowing their money into the wind with reckless ease. People build houses in this country every day and they scrimp, save, budget and battle to get the best value for the place they want to call home to rest their weary heads. They have the same expectation of government in managing their collective house. Not for the rise of Pradovilles with its mansions by the sea while they struggle to put food on their table.

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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