Guyana needs the vision and leadership of Jagdeo

Dear Editor,

Without a doubt, the greatest obstacle to an APNU+AFC re-election bid in 2020, is the man who now holds the strategic positions of Leader of the Opposition and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

Now that the Guyana Court of Appeal has cleared the way for his re-election, the PNC/APNU fear of Jagdeo is justified and for good reason. That is why this ruling will soon be challenged in the nation’s highest court, the Caribbean Court of Justice. Although the PPP/C has not made a decision as to who the presidential candidate will be, the thought of running against this political maestro must be nerve-wracking for the coalition leadership.

For many years while in opposition, the APNU+AFC cleverly executed a long, sustained campaign of destroying the character and credibility of the People’s Progressive Party by painting the party and its leadership as corrupt and racist. The question remains, was the PPP/C administration corrupt, and is the former President and now Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo a racist? Who else is more qualified to answer these questions than someone who had for a long time, been a major critic of both the PPP/C and Bharrat Jagdeo.

You see, years ago while living in New York, I was a known critic of the Jagdeo administration, writing regular letters to the press demanding transparency and accountability. But back then, I allowed myself to be influenced by all the negative news coming out of Guyana by the independent press, and the daily criticism of the Jagdeo-led PPP government by Mark Benschop on his internet radio, a medium popular among Guyanese in the diaspora.

Over the years since, I’ve tried to right a wrong and to recognize and support the PPP/C for good governance; and for improving the quality of life of every Guyanese, more so, those living in opposition strongholds like Linden and Buxton, and our Amerindian brothers and sisters who have long been neglected by the PNC regime.

I had good reasons to justify my apologies to former President Bharrat Jagdeo for the harm I’ve caused to his credibility and character. For without knowing the facts, I had committed an injustice by judging him too harshly. As a PPP/C Member of Parliament, I am living proof that the man holds no grudge, and is committed to work with anyone who genuinely holds the national interest at heart.

Knowing Dr Bharrat Jagdeo as I do now, the conditions under which he was able to transform   Guyana into a thriving economy while dealing with an obstructionist, non-cooperative PNCR parliamentary opposition, has strengthened my resolve and confidence in his leadership, his love of country, and his desire to improve the quality of life of all Guyanese regardless of race or ethnicity. And despite the many accusations made against him by his enemies, I can honestly say unequivocally that Bharrat Jagdeo is not racist.

One lie perpetrated by the APNU+AFC in opposition, now in government, is that Bharrat Jagdeo and former PPP ministers are corrupt and that under the PPP/C administration, billions of dollars were stolen from the treasury.

Another lie perpetrated by the Granger-led administration is that Guyanese are now enjoying the “Good-Life” under the APNU+AFC. But while there is conclusive evidence of massive taxation; high unemployment; the suppression of the rice and sugar industries; an unacceptable surge in the crime rate; a declining economy; a high cost of living; and the devaluation of the Guyana dollar, our citizens are now waking up to the harsh reality because they are the ones suffering under this government. The evidence is everywhere; both PPP and APNU+AFC supporters are suffering alike. Over the years there have been numerous reports, mostly in the pages of Kaieteur News, accusing the government of corruption. The allegations continued, and featured as the main platform of the APNU+AFC coalition on the campaign trail during the 2015 general election. The repeated lies of PPP corruption finally paid off for them. But now that they’re in government and have all the accounting documents at their disposal, where’s the evidence?

Only recently and without evidence, the Head of SARU, Dr Clive Thomas alleged that the PPP stole $305 billion a year during their administration. Yet the government refused to support the PPP/C motion in Parliament to make public the tax declaration and Integrity Commission’s submissions of current and former politicians for the past 10 years. Further, although they have alleged that PPP officials stashed away billions of dollars abroad, they have refused the repeated call by the Leader of the Opposition for the government to hire a firm specialized in tracking hidden assets.

Editor, I’m confident that some of your readers never thought that they could ever own a house-lot, a home, a car or mini-bus in their lifetime, but are now enjoying the fruits of successive PPP/C administrations that made it possible for them to do so. These necessities were only a dream for most Guyanese before the PPP took office in 1992. Because of the PPP, the landscape of the Guyana coastline was transformed to reflect the progress the country enjoyed then. Infrastructural and economic development can be seen nationwide, and Guyanese were enjoying the good life. Foreign exchange was abundant and through good governance and a growing, stable economy, commercial banks were all too willing to give mortgages to new and existing homeowners, and loans to buy vehicles. Development was so commonplace that most Guyanese took them for granted: New schools; a new Berbice River Bridge; new roads and bridges; new hospitals and health centres with ambulances and modern medical equipment; a new Police Training Centre; new police vehicles and modern technology to fight crime; a new forensic lab; a new cricket stadium and other sports facilities: incentives given to the private sector for job creation; and a brand new Marriott Hotel that the APNU+AFC once opposed but now use as their own personal playground.

Surely the PPP/C government faced serious problems with a rising crime rate and poor student grades at CXC in Maths and English to name a few, but Guyana was able to accomplish what perhaps no other nation has been able to achieve given the economic state of the country. Editor, it took the efficient and effective management of the nation’s financial resources and the wizardry of Bharrat Jagdeo who became Senior Minister of Finance in May 1995, and President of Guyana on August 11, 1999 to stabilize the Guyana economy and produce growth and development.

In March 2007, it was Bharrat Jagdeo and others who successfully negotiated with the Inter-American Development Bank, Guyana’s principal donor, to cancel Guyana’s US$467 million debt, equivalent to 21% of GDP, which along with other Highly Indebted Poor Country debt forgiveness, brought the debt-to-GDP ratio down to 50% in 2015 under the PPP/C. By contrast, Jamaica and Barbados recorded much higher debt-to-GDP ratios of 140 and 115 per cent respectively in 2015.

During the 23 years of PPP rule, there was a dramatic increase in the per capita Gross Domestic Product purchasing power parity. In 1992, the per capita GDP (PPP) was US$509.37. In 2014 under the PPP/C, the CIA estimated Guyana’s per capita GDP at US$7,500.

The inflation rate of the Guyana dollar in relation to the US dollar had been stabilised. From a massive 3150% during the PNC era, to 66% under the PPP. This represents a massive reduction in inflation or an average inflation of 2.9% in comparison to the US$.

Under Jagdeo and the PPP, Guyana experienced tremendous growth in the standard of living; life expectancy; economic stability; and the distribution of over 100,000 house-lots. There has also been an increase in the overall standard of living as shown by the Human Development Index -HDI. Between 1990 and 2015, Guyana’s HDI value increased from 0.541 to 0.638, an increase of 17.9 percent. The HDI measures three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

In 1990, the average life expectancy was 63.5 years. By 2015, this figure had increased to 66.5 years due to tremendous improvements in the diagnostic capabilities and overall improvement in the health sector.

Editor, these accomplishments did not occur by mistake, it was the prudent management of our economic resources by the brilliant economist, Bharrat Jagdeo followed by Dr Ashni Singh that brought prosperity and development to Guyana. My point is, if indeed the Jagdeo and Ramotar administrations were so corrupt, where did all the money come from to accomplish what has been achieved given the infrastructural ruins left by the PNC government in 1992. It just doesn’t add up. People must learn to think for themselves rather than parroting the lies perpetrated by the APNU+AFC coalition government without facts.

I challenge anyone with hard evidence that would prove Bharrat Jagdeo stole money from the taxpayers of this country to enrich himself, to produce such evidence to the police or SARU. For with all the billions he is accused of stealing, that should not be difficult to do. The APNU+AFC administration spent about $130 million of taxpayers money on 45 forensic audits, conducted by auditors who are no friends of Jagdeo or the PPP, to find evidence of corruption under successive PPP administrations, and all they can come up with is to have the former President illegally arrested for paying for land in Pradoville 2 below market value. When one considers that all of the 100,000 house lots distributed to Guyanese by the PPP/C were sold below market value, the arrests of the former President and PPP ministers were undoubtedly a political which-hunt.

Like all of us, Bharrat Jagdeo is not a perfect human being. But his vision and sound economic policies had brought prosperity to our country that was left in ruins by some of the same players who feature prominently in APNU today. I would like to believe that the mistakes he made while in office were not intentional, but rather appear to be the best course of action presented to him at the time. God knows I’ve made my share of mistakes too, and so have all of those reading this. But Guyana needs the vision, experience, expertise and leadership that Dr Jagdeo is gifted with. I believe in his ability to restore the prosperity Guyanese once enjoyed before the 2015 general elections. He has extended an olive branch to those who were deceived by the AFC and has made it very clear that the PPP is multi-ethnic, multi-racial and an all-inclusive party. Believe me, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t believe this to be true!

Yours faithfully,

Harry Gill, MP

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