The halfway point in the Ramotar administration term in office has now passed. Unfortunately we cannot find any public policy or strategy that has permanently and positively transformed the well-being of the people who make up the 40 per cent at the bottom of the economic ladder.
During the 2011 campaign, the PPP leaders outlined their philosophy and guiding principles in their manifesto as “Freedom, Democracy and Rights”; “Upliftment of All…”; “Equal Opportunity and National Unity”; and “Integrity and Accountability.” Words and more words but clearly without substance.
It was John Adams, the second President of the United States who said, “Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry, chicanery and division of society.” These empty words from President Ramotar’s regime continue to divide the society since they have delivered very few of their promises so far.
Is that 40 per cent at the bottom more free, do they have more rights, feel more uplifted politically, socially and economically than two years ago? Do they feel that they have an equal opportunity to enjoy the patrimony of the nation? Do they feel that they live in a more united country today as compared to 2011? Certainly not!
Politicians with good rational judgment would seek balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and economic and social degradation. This economic imbalance is driven by the irrationality in how we arrive at the GDP figures in Guyana.
There is an accumulation of evidence that the GDP figures have been fudged since before 2011 and 2013 was no different. But they cannot fudge the GDP figures forever. The majority in that 40 per cent at the bottom of the economic ladder will confirm that their lives have not improved since 2011. In other words, the trickle down effect they promised in the 2011 PPP manifesto did not happen. In fact, it trickled up to their rich relatives and friends, thus making them richer and the poor poorer.
In support of our conclusion, one only has to look at the macroeconomic numbers for 2013 and one can easily find indisputable evidence that the 5 per cent growth rate was an act of economic illusion. In 2013, the overall balance of payments recorded a deficit (shortfall) of US$119.5 million compared to a surplus of US$32.9 million in 2012. The deterioration was primarily due to an expanded current account shortfall and a lower capital account surplus for 2013.
Today, the current account deficit (shortfall) has widened by 16 per cent or US$58.6 million, worsening to US$425.3 million at the end of 2013. This bloated deficit was mainly on account of lower capital inflow of current transfers and higher service payments. Bottom line, lower capital inflows and higher outflows of cash from the economy have deeply influenced the overall deficit.
A real concern to us is that the regime is not telling the people the truth. The country’s exports have declined by some 3 per cent to US$1,375.9 million. Except for rice, exports from all the other main sectors (gold, sugar, bauxite, timber) have contracted over the past two years.
During this period, the deficit on the services account expanded by 50 per cent or US$102.5 million to reach US$307.1 million on account of higher payments for non-factor services (outflow of cash from the Guyanese economy). Remittances decreased by 30 per cent or US$141.1 million to US$328.2 million when compared to 2012.
The capital account surplus also decreased by 25 per cent to US$314.8 million in 2013 on account of lower foreign direct investment and local investment by the private sector. Foreign direct investment actually declined by US$80 million or 27 per cent in 2013 confirming the economic meltdown in Guyana. Inflows from bilateral and multilateral agencies have decreased by 27 per cent to US$221.4 million.
If one should read this scorecard, one will have to really search between the weeds for this 5 per cent GDP growth. The Minister of Finance should clearly know better. It is either the technicians are fudging the figures for political purposes or they are grossly incompetent at their basic arithmetic.
In light of all this, we challenge the Minister to illustrate to the nation how he arrived at the 5 per cent GDP growth rate. But what is worse is that this act of economic illusion is that the majority political opposition does not curtail the squandermania adequately. We found evidence of billions voted on by the majority opposition that will only serve to feed the greed machine in Freedom House. Why are they constantly capitulating to the Minister of Finance?
The principal role of the opposition is to interrogate every action of the government and hold them accountable to the public. Hopefully in the process of safeguarding the people’s assets, the people will be convinced that they can better run the country. Can we say the majority opposition has taken on its responsibility to the people well? Certainly not!
We recommend not a cent more for the Ramotar administration until and unless they put greater internal controls in place to save the nation from the Freedom House greed machine. We can start by renewing our long overdue local government system with local government elections.
We urge the opposition to take the fight to President Ramotar’s administration. That is the only solution so that all the people can secure justice and equality all the time.