New government

Congratulations are in order for President Granger and the APNU+AFC coalition on their electoral victory. The campaign conducted by the opposition alliance is a hopeful sign for a different form of politics and a transformed type of governance. While there were the usual allegations about the level of corruption in the PPP/C government and the abuse of power, the campaign did not descend into the type of vile race division engineered by former President Jagdeo on behalf of the PPP/C. The baseless fear-mongering discharged at several meetings by Mr Jagdeo should have been grounds for him being banished from the campaign. Instead, former President Ramotar and the PPP/C adopted and capitalized on this in desperation, notwithstanding the risk of even deeper divisions in the country. It was a scorched earth policy which failed but which no doubt sharpened cleavages.

This is the atmosphere in which the Granger administration must now function and which requires deft and meaningful steps to begin building confidence. The parliamentary result: 33 to 32 tells in the simplest manner possible about the deep divide in the country and there are other troubling motifs which demand that this chasm be addressed as an immediate and continuing priority of the new administration. President Granger made a positive start in his inaugural address at Parliament by extending a hand of friendship to former President Ramotar and the PPP/C. It is hoped that in the coming days President Granger and other senior members of the alliance will begin the vital task of building bridges. Constitutional reform and a whole series of important parliamentary and constitutional functions such as the appointment of the Public Procurement Commission require that the two sides grapple with each other’s nettle and produce results which are tenable for both sides.

It must be said that in the three years which were available to him, former President Ramotar made no genuine attempt at comprehensive dialogue with the opposition in the interest of national unity. Had he done so by reaching an accommodation with either APNU or the AFC, the PPP/C would have been able to pass its budgets and legislation and an early election could have been obviated. Instead, the former President courted division by refusing to accept the reality that control of the legislature had been lost. As a result, he had no options by the time of the intended moving of a parliamentary motion of no confidence in his government.

Just as important, President Granger will undoubtedly want to draw a distinct and ineradicable line between his brand of governance and that of the outgoing administration. The hope by citizens for clean, reliable and trustworthy government has been an article of faith for decades. Such service was absent from the Jagdeo administration in particular, which was taken over by opaque transactions, cronyism and jobs for the boys. It was a toxic combination of the opportunists, plutocrats and oligarchs all at once at the feeding trough while the poor and working classes suffered.

Such are the challenges facing the Granger administration that the new President can ill-afford the luxury of time. He will have to begin making appointments to his Cabinet rapidly in consultation with his alliance members, civil society and always with the interest of all of the people of the country in mind. Careful selections will have to be made. The country must be run like a meritocracy and bearing in mind that there is nothing paramount about the party/alliance. After decades of division and maladministration, the 412,000+ people who voted on May 11 deserve a government which will put their interests first.

The alliance has already set out a 100-day agenda. Among these are pivotal undertakings like setting the path for the rejuvenation of local government. Convening local government polls and passing all of the outstanding pieces of legislation meant to transfer power from the centre must be completed as quickly as possible. The city of Georgetown, the other municipalities and neighbourhood democratic councils are in urgent need of revamping. The people need to be given the opportunity to have a full stake in the management of their communities.

Undoubtedly, President Granger will set a testing agenda for himself and administration and there are many areas which lend themselves to urgent attention. These include the creation of jobs and opportunities for university graduates and others who can’t find employment. A climate conducive to inward and foreign direct investment must be nurtured in consultation with the private sector organisations and business community as this will help in the creation of more jobs.

The sugar industry is one area that will require immediate attention via the Economic Services Committee of Parliament. What will become of the Skeldon sugar factory will pose an onerous challenge. Other projects such as the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, the Marriott Hotel and the disastrous fibre optic cable project demand immediate action to ensure the protection of the interests of the country. Swift passage of anti-money laundering legislation must be on the cards.

Accountability and value for money in government procurement will by necessity be high on the agenda even in the absence of a procurement commission. At a minimum there must be fairness, transparency and a clear-cut mechanism to challenge the award of contracts.

International investors such as Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna must account comprehensively for the commitments they have made to the state for the right to extract and export precious natural resources.

The security of the populace demands immediate attention. A most horrific home invasion and murder at Belvedere, Corentyne on Thursday night underlines the seriousness of the situation.

On all of these areas, openness and the willingness to provide information must become a hallmark of the Granger administration. The public looks forward to an era of greater access to information and the ability to elicit this from the appointed office.

The multifarious challenges and responsibilities ahead will severely test the President and his administration. They will require the full cooperation of the citizenry and the diaspora in charting a course for success.

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