A mixture of distortions, untruths and misrepresentations

Dear Editor,

Under the theme ‘Working for a Better Tomorrow,‘ the PPP/C Manifesto for the 2011 elections is a mix of distortions,  untruths and misrepresentations, wishful thinking or no thinking at all. The two-page introduction, written by the presidential candidate Mr Donald Ramotar seems signally disconnected from the rest of the 43-page document.

Not content with the half-true contents of the Manifesto, Mr Jagdeo, the PPP/C’s presidential candidate for the past two elections showed that he still does not believe that truth is a virtue. His capacity for inventiveness, make-believe and contempt for the intelligence of his audience guaranteed that he authored the most astounding untruths of the Manifesto launch night when he told the audience that the PPP/C government had only just paid off a US$300 million loan for the PNC’s failed hydropower project!

Not only was it deception for the Manifesto to choose 1991 as its reference point when the PPP/C was in fact elected in the fourth quarter of 1992, but some of the selected information both then and now are fictitious and or fabricated. GPL line loss was not 50% in 1991 nor is it less than 30% now (page 13). GuySuCo does not produce 30 MW of bagasse power at Skeldon – a Wartsila diesel powered engine does – and the current external debt is not “approximately US$800 million” – unless for the economist Mr Ramotar and his economic team US$800 million and US$1,111 million are “approximately” the same!

The Manifesto boasts of the growth of the economy over the past nineteen years. It does not bother with the inconvenience that a substantial portion of the growth comes from the re-basing of the economy in 2009, an exercise which even a half-decent economist knows makes long-term comparisons meaningless. Of course it would have been too honest to expect the Manifesto to tell us that the exchange rate of the US Dollar has sunk 65% since 1992; or that the domestic debt has climbed from $18 billion in 1992 to $103 billion at June 30, 2011; or that the cost of electricity was $12 compared with $54 per KW currently; or that greenheart was $85 per board metre compared with $350 now.

Mr Jagdeo and now Mr Ramotar repeat ad nauseum that 96% of revenues were consumed in servicing debt “when they took over,” and it is now 4%. They should read the 1993 Budget Speech in which the first PPP/C Finance Minister Asgar Ally referred to “scheduled debt service obligation” and not actual debt servicing. And if they look at the 2010 revised figures, they will see that debt-servicing to revenue is not 4% but 13.3%.

What is also striking is that Mr Ramotar’s ‘vision’ for the next five years does not add a single new idea to the corruption-laden projects of Mr Jagdeo’s last term. So we have:

1. the expensive and untested Chinese laptops that will run us into billions;

2. the Amaila hydropower project which will earn us the award for the most expensive hydropower in the world, guaranteeing that electricity rates will remain prohibitively high;

3. the tourism hospital which Mr Jagdeo and his friend will import from India;

4. the Low Carbon Development Strategy that is neither low in carbon nor developmental in nature; and

5. the fibre-optic cable.

Mr Ramotar shows a dangerously limited understanding of democracy and the constitution when he promises local government elections within one year and “the strengthening of the local government ministry to oversee local government bodies.” The man seems blissfully unaware that that is the purview of the constitutionally required Local Government Com-mission which his party in government has refused to establish, and that Article 79 requiring Parliament to provide criteria for allocating resources to the regions has not been given effect to.

Despite our border problems with Chavez’s Venezuela and Bouterse’s Suriname, or the imperative to resile from Jagdeo’s excursions with Kuwait, Libya and Iran, Mr Ramotar does not think that foreign policy deserves a mention in 43 pages.

But he dreams that in five years he can transform an education system – known as much for a few exceptions like Ms Dev, as for its drop-outs and the creation of a functionally illiterate population – into one that is “world class and globally competitive.”

That race and race relations for the PPP are the imagination of a few aging malcontents is evident from the failure of the Manifesto to recognise those issues or to acknowledge the International Year for People of African Descent.

One wonders whether the leaders of the private sector in attendance, including Clinton Williams, Norman McLean, Ramesh Dookhoo and others, noticed that nowhere is the private sector or the manufacturing sector mentioned in the Manifesto. Good for them.

But labour too got no mention and one is left to wonder for how much longer the Jagdeo-Nadir $800 per day minimum wage will drive the pay policy of the PPP/C. No mention of the depressed communities or efforts to stamp out corruption or to integrate the corrupt elements in the informal economy into the tax-paying formal economy.

Governance too is treated by omission. And for a man who was nurtured in the ideologically obsessed Marxist PPP, Mr Ramotar’s Manifesto does not even mention the model of economic philosophy which his administration will pursue.

Whoever wrote the section of the Manifesto on Information and Communication Techno-logy (page 22) must have been smoking something. How in Edghill’s heaven’s name can Guyana produce 25,000 high-quality jobs over the next five years in computer engineering and software development? Perhaps we will import them from India or China as we will do for our tourism hospital.

Women who make up 51% of the population, children, the elderly and the family get one page in the Manifesto at page 36, that includes a commitment to a comprehensive review of the NIS. The PPP/C’s mismanagement of the NIS under the chairmanship of Dr Roger Luncheon for the past nineteen years has placed the NIS at grave risk with outflows far exceeding inflows – three years earlier than the 2006 Seventh Actuarial Study had feared.

And youth who make up 46% of the voters share one page with sports and culture, although culture is noticeably missing in the plans for the next five years.

One can draw analogies from Alice in Wonderland or Aesop’s Fables, but perhaps the most appropriate assessment of the PPP/C manifesto was offered by their own former minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, who told the nation on ‘Plain Talk‘ last Sunday that he could not vote for the PPP/C on the basis of this Manifesto.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

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