No proper historian can doubt that the most difficult economic years for the ordinary man in post-independent Guyana were during the last years of Forbes Burnham in the period 1984 to 1985. Unfortunately for Desmond Hoyte, he was given the unenviable task of leading the turnaround of the economy post-1985. Significantly, he chose the Economic Recovery Programme as his tool to assert his leadership, and eventually by 1991 did turn around the economy. We have to remember that the last three years under Burnham, the economy did not grow at all. It went backward by negative 13%, negative 7% and negative 5%.
Fast forward to the Granger presidency and we can find that he came into office on a foundation where the economy grew by approximately positive 5%, positive 5% and positive 4% in the three years prior to his arrival. So why is he sitting on top of an economy that is regressing incrementally? The growth rate for 2015 and 2016 averaged 3% and is expected to do worse in 2017.
Let me be absolutely clear: Hoyte got a mess and made something good of it; so it clearly shows that the PNC did have talent. On the other hand, Granger got a stable economy and is making a mess of it. To divert the people’s attention from the gross mismanagement of the economy under Granger, his team continues to mislead the people into believing that this mess will be cleared up when the oil money flows. It is a downright untruth since Guyana does not have the systems in place to manage this oil money, and if you observe the operations of the Granger government, it has Burnhamist economic thinking all over it, and Burnham was a hot mess at economic leadership. Under Burnham’s rule, he did everything policy wise during the 1980s to shrink the opportunities to the wider population at large, and while he was drinking whisky, the ordinary folk had ‘rice maar’ for dinner. Today if you carefully observe this student of Burnham (Mr Granger), his policy closely resembles that of Burnham from 1984 with all these vanity projects that are built at great cost to the treasury but offer little economic usefulness towards lifting our people out of poverty.
So while the lead government spokesperson parrots morning, noon and night comments like the majority of the population is happy with the coalition government’s performance, the reality is very different. Today we have a raw commodity-driven economy that excludes the majority of the people from sharing in the wealth of the nation, while the executives in the government are travelling the world on a billion dollar budget and paying themselves a total package that adds up to more than $600 million a year. Further, within 6 months some 10,000 more Guyanese directly and about 50,000 indirectly in rural Guyana, will feel the impact of these policies as retrenchment continues in the sugar industry. Clearly these are policies that continue to exclude the people.
So as history repeats itself once more in Guyana, the conclusion is, we are back to the attitudes of 1984 in the executive branch of government. In 1984 the Burnham government stole the dreams of the majority of the Guyanese people and history is repeating itself in 2017 under this Granger regime.