Since the beginning of the year the APNU+AFC coalition government has been faced with one controversy after another, calling into question its style of governance and its resulting efficacy. With any number of missteps, miscalculations and outright blunders gaining public attention in any given month, 2017 so far can be said to be characterised by a steady stream of one unfortunate event after another.
So the question is: is there anything exemplary which the current administration can point to as their major achievement since coming into office?
With criticisms abounding from the political opposition to the Private Sector Commission, to the man and woman in the street, one is hard pressed to find positive developments among the morass of incompetence, outright cluelessness and some degree of inexperience that has characterized the workings of the David Granger-led administration over the last two years.
And it must also be noted at the outset that President David Granger, a man who swept into office on a wave of expectancy of good governance and personal decency tempered by strict discipline, has all but exhausted the tremendous political capital that was his to spend as he saw fit from the time his tenure as president began.
And spend it he did, from the outset, testing the confidence of his rank and file supporters, defending immediate salary increases for his ministers and the many other blunders and missteps by those same ministers who were rated highly enough to be deserving of increased emoluments almost from day one.
His latest expedition to rescue a minister came after the fire and prison break at the Camp Street Prison that regrettably cost the life of Prison Officer Odinga Wickham, shot as several armed prisoners made a bid for escape.
The assurance of his continued confidence in Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan had hardly seeped into the collective consciousness of the general public when 13 prisoners who had been transferred to the Lusignan Prison after the destruction of the Camp Street penitentiary, escaped via no more basic a tactic than digging a tunnel in the ground.
With all this going on, it probably went unnoticed that the Minister of Finance was bemoaning the sloth in budgeted spending by the various ministries and government departments, suggesting that many projects will be undisbursed at the end of 2017 and the budgetary allocations will have to be rolled over in 2018.
One way to kick start a sluggish economy is usually through carefully directed government spending, but it seems there is a vast disconnect between planning and execution at the highest levels of the government.
Given the amount of flack that the Minister of Finance endured because of changes made to the taxation regime during the last budget, one would expect that there would have been a more concerted effort to get certain important segments of the economy moving, and government spending must have certainly been the planned medium through which this was to have been achieved.
Yet here we are, with the subject Minister being the one to lift up his voice in lamenting admission of the non-performance of the ministries and departments who are not executing their projects with any sense of urgency or awareness of the part they are supposed to play in our economic development.
But if there is anything good that can be said of the President Granger-led administration, it is that it has not yet tried to stifle negative comment. It has not shown the relatively thin-skinned reaction of some previous administrations. However, it has hardly responded with the appropriate corrective measures either. Despite the series of unfortunate events that we have been treated to just with respect to the prison system in Guyana alone, the public has not been gifted even one significant remedy to any of the painfully obvious shortfalls and misconduct within the prison system.
For instance, up to recently, the former Camp Street inmates while resident in the enclosed field of the Lusignan Prison were allegedly able to make Facebook posts even going “live” on Facebook on occasions. There is absolutely no way that contraband can bypass the Prison authorities, who are responsible for the control of the inmates, without their active complicity, or (arguably) worse, their abject ineptitude.
Yet we are faced with unprecedented catastrophes, tragedies and the like, but no action is taken against those who must, at the very least, be culpable at the lower levels and responsible at the higher levels.
This attitude of sugar coating, circling wagons, and burying our heads in the sand is very Guyanese to say the least. This is a scourge that has dogged the leadership of many of our institutions so that mediocrity, corruption and incompetence become cemented with the individuals who for one reason or another are beyond reproach and beyond censure.
But if these negative character traits are so deeply ingrained in the Guyanese psyche, what can President David Granger, still considered a decent man by all standards, do to redress this blight on the Guyanese ethos? Or put differently, given the ingrained corruption, incompetence and negligent behaviour in many sections of the Government structure, what can be the redeeming features of a Granger-led government going forward?
If the President is interested in defining the legacy that he would wish to have cemented by the end of his first term, he may be well advised to set targets for achievement and standards of behaviour for his ministers of government.
Also the constant counter play indulged in by the two major political parties over the years justifying poor performance in government by recalling the past poor performance of a predecessor should no longer be countenanced by civil society, as it is a worn out and duplicitous practice.
In closing, one would be hard pressed to speak glowingly of the performance of the APNU+AFC coalition since coming into office in May 2015. But if anyone can redeem the administration it must be the man at the top, providing he is ready and willing to make the hard choices.
The President must urgently and practically address the structural deficiencies in the system, and not simply make cosmetic changes and token gestures as he begins to address his legacy and to lead from the front.