I am responding to a letter in your edition of March 9 by Minister Robeson Benn captioned ‘Over 23 years in government the PPP/C has managed to bring Guyana from dire straits to one of expanding progress and prosperity.’
Without once pausing to establish the PPP government’s situation in 2011 after an election in which they lost the control of the National Assembly, Benn then lists some of what he perceives as the major projects which were halted by the combined opposition, which was never consulted on any matter even though they held the majority of the seats. Any sensible government would have understood that in such a situation the PPP would realise they were no longer in charge, and would have to consult and compromise with the opposition in order to get their projects done. They refused and thus reaped the whirlwind.
But let’s deal with a few specific projects which Minister Benn named as indicators of progress, and even some which he did not name.
He alleges that we stopped the University of Guyana scholarship fund. Actually on February 13, 2015 the Guyana Times, a known PPP mouthpiece, reported the following, “Opposition Leader David Granger said that if State funds to the University of Guyana (UG) are not significantly improved, the kind of changes that are needed at the institution will not be possible.” This does not sound like an opposition which wants less money to flow to the university.
He alleges that the opposition blocked the Amerindian Development Fund. Yes they did, and analyst Chris Ram told the Kaieteur News on April 24, 2014 that “the $1.1B that the parliamentary opposition did not approve (and) was said to be used under the Amerindian Development Fund was exposed as money for uncontrolled vote-buying in the Amerindian communities. The money had nothing to do with capital expenditure. Ram also indicated that ‘Not surprisingly, none of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Ministers seemed in the least bit embarrassed at being caught red-handed, even as they abused some bemused Amerindians to picket the National Assembly.’ In Parliament during the debates opposition finance shadow Greenidge said “We are not against Amerindian Development, but we are opposed to misappropriation. When we examine the details, $798M of the money allocated was to be provided for a monthly stipend to youths. But reports from throughout the hinterland show that the money was not being spent for its intended purpose (career development) but rather used to introduce politics into the community.’”
Benn then alleges that the opposition blocked the money for the CJIA development project. The opposition did use their majority to stop allocations to the airport project since 2012 because they were not properly consulted as to the source of the money. It is encapsulated in this article: “CJIA Manager Ghir has revealed that a total of $366.9 million was spent on the airport expansion project, despite the combined parliamentary opposition disapproving funds during the consideration of the 2013-2014 budget estimates, however, when quizzed by the media on Friday, January 16 on the source of the money and whether it was from the same funds that were disapproved, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn became seemingly enraged and refused to answer the question bluntly.”
So notwithstanding that the funds were disapproved by the National Assembly according to a recent judgement by the Chief Justice, Benn continued to spend this money in violation of the National Assembly’s wishes representing the majority of the taxpayers in this country.
Mr Benn was spending our money which he was not authorised to spend.
He then says that the opposition was retarding the Amaila Hydro project although in fact when the Sithe Global representatives met with the opposition to explain how electricity rates will drop, Carl Greenidge’s reaction was “that the APNU party’s major concern is the cost to the consumer after Amaila comes on stream, he noted that the government keeps purporting that the tariff will be reduced “‘but that has been proven not to be so.’” In fact we find this in the KN in December 2014 “Budgeted originally for US$15.4M, when Winston Brassington awarded that contract to Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall, the cost for the entire road has ballooned upwards to US$30M. Motilall had never even constructed a pavement or sidewalk but Brassington said that he did and gave him the huge contract.” They can’t even build the road, but they are going to build a hydro dam?
And then we find this in the same article in December 2014, “Just a few weeks after Government said that a critical section of the multi-billion-dollar access road to the Amaila Falls hydroelectric dam has been completed, there is indisputable evidence that parts of it are washing away”; the KN showed 8 photographs of the road washing away. In addition the disaster does not end there: a study released in 2009-10 of an Economic and Financial Evaluation Study done by Mercados Energeticos of Argentina in connection with the water flows at Amaila reported on the possibility of low or no power from Amaila during the eight months’ dry spell each year.
The opposition were right to stop this project; they have nothing to apologise for, and we saved the nation’s taxpayers US$840 million. It would have made the Skeldon US$200 million expansion a joke by comparison.
For those who don’t understand the implications, the US$840 million that the opposition prevented from being misspent, is almost equal to the 2012 national annual budget.
What is the offer from the newly re-minted opposition as a coalition? They are going to keep the PPP from making these disastrous decisions and keeping us in abject poverty. If we do nothing else and let the country run itself we will be better off.
Mr Benn says that the opposition caused the 10th Parliament to fail; actually it was the PPP’s foolishness and intransigence about conceding that they lost the 2011 elections which led the 10th Parliament to fail.
And then the biggest misrepresentation of all: “Over nearly 23 years of government the PPP/C has managed to bring Guyana from dire straits to one of expanding progress and prosperity.” In a letter to a newspaper on 21st April 2011 M Maxwell wrote the following: “When the PNC took over in 1964, Guyana was already stumbling along economically. The PNC accelerated the economic demise. The country’s GDP went from US$308 in 1964 (50th ranking) to US$506.37 in 1992 (133rd ranking), a dismal growth of US$198.37 in some 28 years at US$7.08 per annum. Between 1992 to 2011, the nation’s GDP per capita grew from US$506.37 to US$2656.
“The PPP crows incessantly about this growth. It is hollow crowing. For while Guyana’s GDP per capita has expanded some 5.2 times under the PPP since 1992 at a yearly rate of about US$119, Guyana still remains currently ranked 115th in GDP per capita compared to the rest of the world. We are still the second poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.” Maxwell was right; when everyone else was running ahead we were crawling.
As I continue to tell the nation it was Hugh Desmond Hoyte who gave us a bright shining glow in the darkness we had had since the dawn of independence. It caused Mr Christopher Ram to write in his 20 year anniversary of Business Page, “When Business Page first appeared in December 1992, the Guyana economy had continued the improvements witnessed in 1991. In 1992 the economy grew by 7.7%, the fastest rate of growth ever recorded in Guyana; aggregate expenditure had moderated; inflation had declined from 75% to 15%; the overall deficit on the balance of payments fell from US$66 million in 1991 to US$41 million in 1992; the stock of public debt had already begun to fall; and the exchange rate had stabilized following the unification of the official and the market exchange rates.”
Were he not defeated in the 1992 election I wonder what we would have been today. According to Mr Maxwell, “A nation that grows its GDP per capita 5.2 times in 18 years (1992-2011) cannot be commended when its growth is lagging or minuscule compared to the rest of the world…”
I normally write only on sugar and broadcasting, and sometimes on the law when I have had the privilege of speaking to Fenton Ramsahoye, but this is election time and I will keep my promise to criticise anyone who is misrepresenting the facts. The PPP inherited an economy which was growing at 7.7% in 1992; it has not grown at that rate since, thanks to the amateurs the PPP put in place to run this country. Very shortly I will start a commentary until elections on Channel 9.