It has been two years since the APNU+AFC coalition government assumed office. Like most Guyanese, at home and in the diaspora I was excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. The country was going to be led for the first time in over two decades by a man who was held in high esteem by most, a man with an impeccable reputation, and thus expectations were high.
It goes without saying that leading a coalition government is difficult and rife with challenges, particularly one as tenuous as this six-party coalition. I expressed some disappointment with the make-up of the original cabinet, but hoped for the best. I can now say without any reservation that the best is clearly not good enough.
Yes, there are members of the cabinet who are performing amazingly well, and those names are known by all: Patterson, Trotman, Hughes and Harmon, to name the stars. The list of non-performers, however, is long.
What ministries appear to be under performing? I am willing to hazard a guess that ninety perent of informed Guyanese will list the Ministry of Legal Affairs as the number one under-performing ministry. This is embarrassing as the former AG is allowed to castigate and humiliate the existing AG with persistent claims of incompetence.
One just has to look at how many times the courts have ruled against the legal arguments of the state to be concerned with the quality of legal advice the government is receiving. Looking at this from another perspective, this speaks volumes about the independence of the judiciary and is a positive development.
It is important to note that this government spent all its time in opposition correctly pointing out how corrupt the former government was and to date it seems very little has been done to prosecute the wrongdoers. Forensic audits conducted at great expense to the state have produced little. The President suggested that no international help was needed. The low number of successful prosecutions suggest that this was indeed not a priority and remains an idle electioneering gimmick. A large number of government supporters regret this ambivalence.
A lot was expected of the new Minister of Finance. He was rumoured to be so good that he was picked over a highly respected former Finance Minister specifically because of his institutional knowledge garnered from the role he played in helping the former government with what limited success it had in the budget process. In my humble opinion, the issues with this ministry are not knowledge or competence, but are directly related to ineffective and insensitive messaging and lack of parliamentary experience. The Minister has repeatedly uttered
insensitive comments suggesting a lack of the appreciation of the importance of the politics that led to his elevation. His rush to implement the 50% salary increase defines his failure in his role and the more recent imposition of VAT on private education proves how out of touch
he continues to be.
Agriculture has major issues that require change from the top. The ministry needs to be revamped urgently. The Ministry of Communities also has major issues, and the Ministry of National Security has to perform much better. In fact, the current Minister has the dubious distinction of two prison fires, prisoner breaks and a penal system run amok under his tenure. The Ministry of Business is in virtual quicksand with the Minister’s recent admission of his inability to deliver on his responsibilities, except the proud delivery of a plantain chip factory in
Leguan. So much for visionary thinking!
I am not smart enough nor do I have any desire to get involved in Guyana’s politics. What I do know is what a government needs to do from the standpoint of managing perception. The government has to live up to some of its promises prior to assuming power. The Government should sell the assets they claimed were so bad when they were in opposition, and prosecute some of those they made so many allegations about. The President was elected as the honest alternative, so when things like the medical bond matter come up, these cannot be defended but must be addressed immediately.
While I and many Guyanese abhor the Jagdeo alternative for 2020, the litany of errors under this government elevates him in the eyes of many. His bungling former AG seems to have emerged as a star when compared to our current AG.
Guyana can do better!