Home ownership is the main pillar of the PPP’s development strategy. From the beginning it was pursued more for its political returns than economic merit. If economics, environmental values and human well-being were the main motivations we would have seen housing being integrated with a policy of domestic content requirement for building materials (to promote manufacturing and domestic linkages). We would have observed strict building standards to reduce the demand for energy by optimizing the Atlantic breeze as a cooling system. We would have seen green parks and play grounds for children instead of the ubiquitous rum shops.

A housing policy was always going to force the opposition to play off the back foot. For example, could it be financed better, particularly for the poor? How could home building be done in a manner better for the environment? Home ownership could also induce a change in people’s behaviour as Lee Kuan Yew understood when he implemented his policy of 100% home ownership. They had some interesting financing models over there in Singapore. If the opposition is not careful and does not promote a positive message of vision, those receiving house lots will not be motivated to vote against the government, in spite of the PPP being CARICOM’s most corrupt government. Indeed, the 2014 LAPOP poll suggests that twice as many Guyanese are bothered by crime compared with corruption.

The PPP is essentially trying to redefine the concept of development. It wants Guyanese to view home ownership as the only component of economic development. When the 2012 population census was finally released, two years late, only selected parts were given. They released data showing the higher level of home ownership in Guyana. This is obviously a welcome development. But the PPP was always interested in quantity and not quality. They were never interested in improving the human condition in the new housing areas.

20150311development watchIt is customary to report in the census things like the employment picture and the ethnic composition of the population. However, none of these were ever reported. Anything pertaining to the labour force is now top secret; hence, we don’t know exactly what the rate of unemployment is. The government has stopped compiling poverty measures for at least 12 years. Therefore, we do not know anything about the depth of poverty or the headcount index. Meanwhile, a measure of income inequality is a complete mystery.

Nevertheless, development is much more holistic and reflects not only owing a home, but also having access to quality healthcare, education, physical security, garbage-free surroundings, polite mini bus operators, an orderly society and so on. It involves neighbourhoods which have more play fields for children and more green areas for families relative to rum shops. It involves well thought out four-lane highways with turn lanes and overhead walkways for pedestrians to safely cross the highway. Since the East Bank highway was expanded into four lanes, three of my neighbours from my native village were knocked down and killed. It involves clean villages and clean urban centres. An efficient system of waste management is part of an advanced society.

An important signal of development would be evident when senior government officials decide to stay at home for medical treatment and dental work. As we are aware, Mr. Jagdeo, Mr. Ramotar, Dr. Luncheon and all the senior ones go to Caribbean islands and North America for medical treatment. Interestingly they don’t go to Cuba, although they send young Guyanese to that country to be trained to treat the masses. I am old enough to remember that Forbes Burnham chose to die at the Georgetown Hospital. It seems like old boy Forbes was at least willing to signal his nationalistic tendency by dying at the same local hospital he gave to the masses.

If Guyana were indeed moving forward many more murders and executions would be solved. First time home owners would feel secure in their new homes. Families would be receiving justice for the lost loved ones. By now people would have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed for the assassination of Minister Sawh and Ronald Waddell. The judicial system would also be fair. So many case files would not simply disappear. Mr Maurice Arjoon would not have to wait on the Ombudsman to get some justice.

The 2014 LAPOP poll shows that the majority of Guyanese – I am sure many first time home owners – don’t trust the police and court system. LAPOP asked respondents to indicate 1, 2 to 6, with 1 indicating no trust at all and 6 a lot of trust. They did this for the police, judicial system, political system, army and other key agencies.

With respect to the police, 32.9% Guyanese expressed no trust at all, while 56.9% of Guyanese give the police a trusting score of 3 and lower, indicating low overall trust. Only 6.3% said they trust the national police a lot. With respect to the judiciary, 23.1% of Guyanese said they have no trust in the system, while 6.8% expressed a lot of trust in the judicial system. The poll shows that exactly 50% of Guyanese give the judiciary a trusting score of 3 and lower. Interestingly, the army does pretty well when it comes to the perception of the people. Almost 60% of Guyanese expressed a trust level from 4 to 6 (high trust). More Guyanese trust the army a lot than not at all; 16% for the former and 11.7 for the latter. A progressive country would have a modern university system. The University of Guyana is at its worst state ever. While it is true many problems at UG come from within, the government has displayed limited vision when it comes to the university, versus say the efforts it invests in building the Marriott. Imagine a consultant was paid millions of US$ dollars to create a curriculum for the university. No one in government saw that something was wrong here. Universities always hire capable professors, senior lecturers and lecturers to generate new ideas, courses and curriculum, not short-term consultants. What a waste of money.

Comments: tkhemraj@ncf.edu

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