I have discovered something stunning while interacting with several PPP supporters and activists. Although Mr. Jagdeo’s style of campaigning is primarily responsible for the decline of the PPP since 2011, he has emerged as the saviour of that party. Some PPP activists who were critical of him prior to the 2015 election are now of the firm belief that Jagdeo is the only person who can save the party. Young and old people alike are forming this conclusion.
Democratic Centralism has stifled the flow of ideas in the party. It has allowed Mr. Jagdeo to capture the party. It is packed with young people who cannot make a career outside the protection of the party. Then there is another group who bought their degrees and can only achieve career mobility by being part of the PPP. Those with genuine academic capabilities are systematically marginalized in this captured PPP. There is no big idea coming out of the party. Essentially the PPP has become a cult. This is dangerous for Guyana because the challenges facing the country need political cooperation.
It is possible that age determines Jagdeo’s strategy set. Being 53 years old allows him to capture the party and play for the long run. By 2025 he will be just 63 years old, an ideal age to be President. Even if the third term thing is not fixed by then, he will pursue a second best strategy. This involves packing the party with people who cannot provide a viable challenge to him. In the process the development of Guyana will suffer because the country needs a nimble PPP with big and credible ideas, not the kind of propagandistic nonsense coming out of Freedom House since the May 11 election. The second best solution will involve inserting his chosen Presidential candidate in 2020, thus further limiting the role of the party.
To be fair, there were successes in the Jagdeo era in spite of the inconsistency in the Low Carbon Development Strategy. The country made some gains in structural transformation as is evidenced by the increase in the relative share of the services economy. The exchange rate remained relatively stable compared with earlier periods. The housing programme was a success, although a lot more needed to be done to implement better drainage and infrastructure. However, these have to be weighed against some big negatives, including the destruction of University of Guyana, the death of the sugar industry, poor sequencing of projects and the widespread tolerance for bad governance that allowed corruption to thrive. Moreover, the tolerance for bad governance has weakened governance systems and help to magnify the perception of corruption. So much so, that one uninformed reporter from another daily claimed the level of government corruption to be G$500 billion each year.
Part of the PPP’s strategy going forward will be to claim victimhood. Rural PPP supporters feel as victims because the old “cheated, not defeated” strategy is in play again. Emotional oppression will be used by the Jagdeo PPP to subjugate East Indians into fearing APNU-AFC government. The APNU-AFC government will respond with a strategy that allows the PPP to make some gains in this unenlightened scheme. So far the new coalition government has shown little appetite for diversity. This will help the PPP. No one is going to jail, also. Why jail the leaders of a seriously weakened and idealess opposition?
Jagdeo’s approach assumes the APNU-AFC alliance will make grievous mistakes and thereby open the door for its victory in the future. The PPP is however mistaken. In spite of the unwieldy cabinet and some omissions (like failure to have a Diaspora Ministry), the new government is doing quite well. It has been a long time since I have observed so many criminals being caught immediately after the crimes have been committed. Drug pushers are being apprehended, so much so that it appears the cartels have ordered the spike in banditry to embarrass the Granger Administration.
This implies the PPP will not have the low-hanging genips and mangoes it anticipates. In spite of the dire economic and security challenges, Guyana will be a better and safer country by 2020. Jagdeo’s primary and second best strategies will backfire and result in the PPP getting fewer than 45% of the votes. The substantial mixed ethnicity votes the PPP gains will be less sympathetic to this strategy of victimhood. It is also possible a new political party will emerge that will help to split Guyana’s votes four ways. If a new party does not occur, the AFC will become a stronger party breaking out from its 10% threshold. Coalition politics will be the future.
What can the PPP do to save itself and help the country? At this stage the PPP cannot rid itself of Jagdeo as he has become the PPP. Folks willing to reform the PPP would have to enter a mutual equilibrium with Jagdeo. Democratic Centralism is a major drag. It must be ditched! But I will not hold my breath on that one since it is the decisive mechanism that is used by Jagdeo and Mr. Rohee to capture the party and purge it of intelligent dissenting perspectives. Stalinist show-of-hands is there to stay since it is a useful method to intimidate dissenters.
Being an educator, I propose modernizing the curriculum of Accabre College. Marxism should be read as a tool of epistemology and not for its ideological flavour. Other tools and methods of analyses must be taught to PYO activists if they are to at least demonstrate some IQ with beef on Facebook. Walter Rodney’s History of the Guyanese Working People must be given equal exposure as Cheddi Jagan’s West on Trial. International Economics should enter the curriculum.
Accabre College must update its understanding of the role of the United States in global development. The United States is the only historical power which has opened its markets, many times at the expense of its own working people, to allow other nations to develop. This includes South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and others. All the nonsense on Facebook and the blogs suggesting the United States helped to remove the PPP because of the oil find must be tempered with reason. Accabre College for training the next generation of PYO activists is a good place to start.