On October 5, 1992, Guyana experienced a desperately needed second chance at a better life after the British left in 1966. On that date, a new government, led by legendary political fighter, Cheddi Jagan, took over from the PNC, which held on to power via fraudulent elections for the previous 24 years and plunged Guyana into a national crisis from which it is yet to fully recover.
It has been said that newly-minted President Jagan realized his communist allies no longer existed for him to rely on for any economic recovery, but he dreaded the prospect of dealing with the West, to whom Guyana was indebted. He knew his predecessor, Desmond Hoyte, by deliberate design, dumped his own party’s socialist ideology and worked with the West to reduce the debt and turn around the economy with his Economic Recovery Programme (ERP).
For the five years he was President, Jagan either was formulating an economic plan or he simply had no plan; at least not that the people knew of. Even his wife, when she became President, seemed bereft of an economic plan. The fact that Bharrat Jagdeo, who succeeded Mrs Jagan, turned to Hoyte’s ERP and scored huge successes for debt resolution and fresh foreign loans, seemed to confirm the PPP had no plan and, as a result, Hoyte must be credited with Guyana’s recovery in the ʼ90s.
Many have argued that Jagdeo had the Midas touch and even strongly contended that Guyana was much better under his presidency than under David Granger’s. But little did these people realize that Jagdeo ran a government that saw hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted and some of whose officials were associated with corruption.
Even foreign funded projects were not spared the sticky fingers of government employees on many levels and associates of the ruling party.
Botched projects, no-show projects, no-show contract jobs and unfulfilled delivery of services and products paid for by government were in evidence. Combine that with the fact that cocaine, gold, fuel and log smuggling helped propel the money laundering system, and we get a better understanding of why many believe in the ‘good times’ under Jagdeo.
Today, October 5, 2017, Guyanese at home have one solid question they must answer to determine if October 5, 1992 was ever a turning point for the country and ushered in ‘the good times’ for most: Are they better off today than they were 25 years ago? One may point to multiple businesses dealing with mostly imported consumer goods, the erection of high rise buildings, and the sight of imported cars and mansions which have been constructed, but have these resulted in a trickledown economic effect for the ordinary Guyanese? If things were better in Guyana under Jagdeo-Ramotar, then better for whom?
It would appear to me that because of systemic corruption and a lack of a standard of living improvement among the ordinary Guyanese people, the PPP received its first warning sign to shape up in 2006 when election results showed it lost voter support compared to 2001 even though it retained the government.
In 2011, voter support dipped again and it was barely lucky enough to form a minority government as the opposition took control of Parliament. To stave off a no-confidence vote because then Finance Minister Ashni Singh spent money on line items voted down by the then opposition in the 2014 Budget, President Donald Ramotar prorogued Parliament but eventually had to call snap elections in the hope of his party regaining parliamentary control. The gamble failed to pay off and the opposition, which was banished due to the prorogation, joined forces and unseated the PPP in 2015.
The new coalition government campaigned on promises of change and ‘a good life for all’. Many who never voted before voted because of two factors: the unacceptable behaviour of the Jagdeo-Ramotar PPP and the idea of a Granger-Nagamootoo ticket which appeared to offer a symbol of hope and racial unity. However, at almost the halfway mark of this coalition government’s tenure, even I, an ardent supporter of the coalition, am not impressed with government’s performance. In some instances, quite frankly, I find it disappointing with flashbacks of the Jagdeo-Ramotar PPP.
No one expected stunning miracles in two-and-a-half years, especially given the extensive cleaning up and restructuring needed to make government efficient and effective at service delivery, but I believe, overall, President Granger has failed to make an indelible impact as a leader. In fact, he came highly recommended by the PNC after retiring as a top army honcho, though never Chief of Staff, and with a background in writing.
There is a debate over his relationship with the army, but one of the versions has it that it was his failure to deliver that caused his falling out with the late Forbes Burnham. If that version is true, then it may explain why he appears to be a disconnected and laid back leader, instead of one who energizes the nation. For all his detestable flaws, Donald Trump energizes his base.
I am not going to engage in itemizing the myriad areas of the coalition government’s dismal performance, but, suffice to say, if May 15, 2015 was supposed to be the equivalent of October 5, 1992, where hope and change inspired Guyanese to vote for change, then it has failed to deliver in a manner that would have the ordinary people talking about observable changes. So, in summation, Guyanese seem to have gone from hope for better on May 26, 1966 to hope for better on October 5, 1992 to hope for better on May 11, 2015, but hope for better seems to be a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.
Editor, not only for the sake of Granger being re-elected, but for disillusioned Guyanese, I sincerely hope a more effective and energized President Granger surfaces in the second half of his tenure.