It has become necessary to underscore the fact that a new trend seems to be developing, whereby persons wishing to etch their names in the public psyche latch onto a prominent individual in society, which, more often than not these days, is former president and current Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo – an art that some could argue has been perfected by columnist, Freddie Kissoon. A recent iteration of this has been evidenced in a recent letter penned by Saieed I Khalil, headlined ‘Jagdeo is no Lee Kwan Yew’ published in the September 19 edition of the Stabroek News.
The letter writer attempts to discount Mr Jagdeo’s stewardship of Guyana’s economy and credit our country’s consistent economic progress under his tenure to favourable global conditions. Students of economics at least should possess the basic understanding that global conditions alone do not translate to economic progress, even when those global conditions are favourable, which is why our leaders are tasked with advancing policy direction to enable future and sustainable growth. Guyanese did not enjoy over a decade of economic progress under Mr Jagdeo and the former PPP/C administration because of favourable global conditions; they did so because of the careful planning on the part of Mr Jagdeo and the PPP/C. One only has to look at the letter writer’s own arguments to understand this.
Mr Khalil contends that, “Oil prices are now lower than they have been in more than a decade…the US economy is in the middle of an eight yearlong upswing and stocks are 235% higher than they were in 2009.” Yet, what is our current economic position? Where are the foreign direct investments? Where are the jobs? Where is wealth being created for average Guyanese? What is the position of our foreign exchange? These are only a few of the many criticisms voiced about the current APNU+AFC coalition government’s management of the local economy.
The reality is that despite the favourable global conditions cited by Mr Khalil, Guyana is not doing well due to the lack of a coherent economic policy from the current government – a vastly different state of affairs compared to the policies put in place by Mr Jagdeo and the former PPP/C government. The letter writer also fails to recognise that there has to be a profound analysis of several inter-related issues, including several major transformational projects, to improve the general understanding of the economic situation at that time – as opposed to the simplistic expression Mr Khalil offers.
What Mr Khalil does is ‘name drops’ disparate and unrelated economic concepts, including mention of the global financial crisis, in an attempt to lend depth to his supposed analysis. He also mentions the Economic Recovery Pro-gramme (ERP), but it must be noted that no analysis of the ERP is offered, nor is there an acknowledgment of the fact that the ERP, by its very nature, exposes the situation that the former PPP/C government took over in 1992. Mr Khalil states only that “the Economic Recovery Pro-gramme (ERP), a package of reform measures overseen by the late President Desmond Hoyte to ease the economy away from decades of debilitating cooperative socialism and towards a market oriented economy, was beginning to pay dividends”. Guyana went through an ERP because the country was bankrupt – a fact acknowledged by then Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge.
Guyana having to go through an ERP sets the starting point of what the then PPP/C government inherited from the People’s National Congress (PNC).
Mr Khalil goes on to say that Guyana received a “roughly US$1 billion aid package from the Euro-pean Union granted in compensation for the impending 36 per cent cut in the preferential price for Guyana sugar heading to the bloc.” The reality is that Guyana only received US$138M – nine times less than what Mr Khalil claims.
Interestingly, this student of economics could not differentiate between US$1B and US$138M.
That said, there are fundamental transformative moves that can be directly credited to Mr Jagdeo and the former PPP/C administration including the facts that: 1. A bankrupt country was transformed to a country that was the most viable in the Caribbean. If Mr Khalil was analyzing a trend he would have recognised this fact. 2. All the macro-economic fundamentals advanced by the PNC had been transformed from unsustainable to ones that are highly conducive to growth and development. 3. The biggest single constraint to growth was debt, which was substantially reduced. 4. Guyana was moved beyond stabilization to a growth era. 5. Growth areas were identified to create the wealth for the future. Oil and gas was one of those. Also, in pursuit of the said growth areas, the Low Carbon Development Strategy was one of the most transformative and progressive in the world, which led to Guyana being recognised globally. 6. Guyana was leading in Caricom with an initiative that had Jagdeo’s name on it ‒ an initiative relative to food security.
Mr Jagdeo was chosen by Dr Cheddi Jagan to head the committee to draft the National Development Strategy. In his tenure, he advanced the NDS, the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Low Carbon Development Strategy. He was selected as one of the young global leaders by the World Economic Forum in 2005 and served as the Vice Chair of the ACP Eminent Persons Group. He was also appointed by the UN Secretary General to the High-Level Advisory
Group on Mobilizing Climate Change Resources. He was selected by the Summit of Heads of State held in Congo in 2011 as the Roving Ambassador for the Three Forest Basins. He was named as IUCN High Level Envoy for Sustainable Development in Forest Countries and Patron of Nature in 2012. He was the First President of the Green Growth Institute Assembly (2012-2014), a newly formed international organization based in Korea.
Time Magazine had named President Jagdeo a 2008 ‘Hero of the Environment’. The United Nations, in 2010, declared President Jagdeo, as one of its ‘Champions of the Earth Awardees’. As recently as 2016, he was chosen as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Special Ambassador on Forests. All considered, Mr Jagdeo need not respond to a poorly constructed attempt to discredit his accomplishments, as well as those of the former PPP/C administration.
Adrian Anamayah, MP