President Donald Ramotar yesterday announced that former President Bharrat Jagdeo will chair a new National Economic Council (NEC) to accelerate the modernisation agenda and that he would also help with the preparation of the PPP/C manifesto for the upcoming general elections.
Jagdeo would be working on a pro-bono basis, Ramotar said, and the council is to begin work “almost immediately.”
The surprise announcement came amidst growing speculation about Jagdeo’s role in the upcoming PPP/C campaign and ambitions for a return to elected office.
Ramotar’s announcement will raise questions about the purpose of the NEC with general elections just months away and Parliament suspended.
If the NEC was not necessary in the three preceding years, the question will likely be asked why it is being set up at this point. Without a functioning Parliament, the NEC would be unlikely to thrive.
Observers also point out that when Ramotar was selected to succeed Jagdeo, the then president created a special advisory post for Ramotar in the run up to the 2011 general elections. This enabled Ramotar to campaign around the country with Jagdeo. The exact thing appears to have been done by Ramotar for Jagdeo.
In his announcement, Ramotar said the economic transformation and modernisation of the country are priorities that require the skills of every bright and experienced mind as well as an enabling framework.
He added that while he is proud of the progress made so far, greater focus and attention can lead to enhanced performance in many crucial areas. As a result, he said he took the decision to establish the NEC to bring “greater support” to his administration in “enhancing and accelerating” its modernisation agenda.
Although Ramotar said the composition and terms of reference of the council will be made public, he did note that it will, among other things, assist in conceptualising and crafting of economic strategies and initiatives as well as support in the oversight in the implementation of various projects and strategic interventions. “The council, I anticipate, can give impetus to the already successful efforts of ensuring that my government continues to be responsive to the socio-economic needs of our people,” he added.
Speaking to the selection of Jagdeo to chair the NEC, Ramotar noted that the former president has served for a number of years as “the pivot in the modernisation of our economy” and led in the crafting of many strategies, including the National Development Strategy, the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
In addition, he said that as Head of State for over a decade through a crucial and rewarding period, Jagdeo has much to offer and his growing international profile and work can be useful for the initiative. “While he has made clear his non-interest in any constitutional post, his Chair of this council would ensure that we tap his vast experience and competence in making our country more prosperous,” he further added.