Introduction: Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change to submit a weekly column on governance and related matters. Only APNU has submitted a column this week.
One of the major reasons that Guyanese continue to suffer under the yoke of the Jagdeo/Ramotar regime, is the lack of responsiveness to the needs of citizens. Responsive governance is the extent to which government’s actions correspond to the needs of the people. It is a defining characteristic of good, democratic governance.
It is saddening that in these modern times Guyanese still suffer owing to the continuing shortage of basic services. Many heavily-populated coastal areas are still without an all-day water supply, let alone outlying communities. Blackouts remain the norm after twenty-two years of PPP rule. Patients continue to die at the nation’s public hospitals for lack of basic medicines. The education system is plagued by inadequately staffed and under-equipped schools. As crime spirals out of control, emergency calls to 911 frequently go unanswered. The list of problems is long. Although the government knows of the numerous shortcomings, the administration governs with callous disregard for the interests of the majority. Instead, the ruling clique spends taxpayers’ money on ill-conceived, useless, irrelevant and doomed-to-fail projects; the primary concern being to fill their pockets.
More than 50 million United States Dollars went towards the construction of a Marriott Hotel. Foreign construction workers were flown in, to be paid with Guyanese taxpayers’ money; local citizens were not employed on the project. US$200 million was spent on the white-elephant Skeldon Sugar Factory which continues to be plagued by technical problems. Over US$32 million went down the drain when the Guyana-Brazil fibre optic cable project collapsed under the management of Alexei Ramotar, the President’s son. Taxpayers were left out of pocket after Surendra Engineering fled with the people’s money when the US$18 million contract for a specialty hospital was withdrawn, due to fraud. US$12 million was wasted to the same company, Surendra Engineering, to build a sugar-packaging plant in Enmore. Today, the facility sits virtually idle.
Guyanese must ask themselves, how much could have been accomplished with all of that wasted money? How many schools could have been built; how many pieces of equipment could have been procured for our hospitals; could the government have raised the salaries of teachers, police personnel or nurses? How many pairs of shoes could have been bought for hinterland children, with the $2.1 million of taxpayers’ money that the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, spent on cosmetic work to her teeth?
The APNU+AFC believe that government must respond to the people’s needs. Budgetary allocations, awarding of contracts and developmental projects must match that which is truly needed by the citizens. Taxpayers’ money must not be wasted. The people’s property must not be misappropriated or unlawfully diverted to private use.
The coalition is committed to responsive and accountable governance. The partnership will not only respond with speeches, empty promises and meaningless rhetoric. Words do not put food on the table or money into the pockets of Guyanese; action is required, action that is bold, purposeful and decisive. Effective policy agendas are needed. The APNU+AFC not only promise to heed the needs of citizens, but is, in fact, contractually bound to do so.
Experts say that a government’s responsiveness is directly linked to its perceptions of political competitiveness. In other words, a government which takes the support of its constituents for granted, is likely to be less responsive to their needs.
The PPP takes Guyanese, particularly Indo-Guyanese, for granted. Members of the ruling regime believe that the party’s traditional supporters will continue to vote for them, regardless of whether the administration performs or not. The government has no incentive to match their agenda to the people’s needs. The PPP is convinced that divisive tactics will keep them in power; they have no motivation to change their selfish ways.
The APNU+AFC coalition is under no such delusion. The coalition welcomes scrutiny and accountability. The partnership knows that Guyanese expect positive results, real development, tangible progress and a better life. As such, we must, of necessity, work to meet the needs of citizens.
We know that if we want the support of UG students, we must work to improve conditions at the university by increasing subventions and ending political interference. We will win the support of Guyana’s young people by facilitating job-creation. We will attract Berbicians by allocating resources to the region and lowering the toll on the Berbice River Bridge. We will establish much needed agricultural and technical institutes in each of our four hinterland regions. Opportunities for entrepreneurs will be provided so that citizens can realise their dreams. Ending the woes of rice farmers and sugar workers will be a major priority. The partnership will act, to stamp out piracy. We will address the people’s concerns.
An APNU+AFC government will win the trust of Guyanese through effective and responsive governance, instead of threats, intimidation and divisive rhetoric. The coalition will serve Guyanese instead of ruling Guyanese. Our social contract demands no less.
On May 11, 2015 Guyanese have the opportunity to partner in the new social contract by voting for the APNU+AFC coalition.