If we accept that conflicts are concerned with the distribution of power; the confrontation of powers; the distribution of benefits and with satisfying basic human needs and interests, then one can anticipate what will follow when people are unhappy with who governs them and how they are governed, and when the government oppresses them and doesn’t respect or assist them to meet their basic needs.
Recall October 1992. The Guyanese people were despondent and had all but given up hope of ever experiencing a good life in the country of their birth under a PNC government. Indeed, many had left the shores of Guyana in search of a better life. They were tired of being fed a daily menu of slogans by the PNC.
October 1992 saw the first free and fair national and regional elections in a post-independent Guyana. The Guyanese people welcomed it. It was to be the dawn of a new era. The leaders of the PPP/C government who were democratically elected had determined to restore the confidence of the Guyanese people in their elected leaders, and so reform the society that had been created from 1968 to 1992 and replace it with a government of national reconciliation and unity.
Dr Cheddi Jagan, the first democratically elected leader of a post-independent Guyana had determined that the masses had to be involved by way of the consultation process in major decisions on issues that would impact their lives; that ways had to be found to redistribute the nation’s wealth among the people in a manner that reduced the gap between the rich and the poor and set aside ethnic, religious, political and other differences. The key focus had to be addressing and overcoming conflicts in a divided Guyana.
Recall that Dr Jagan and the PPP had taken a first step even before the elections of October 1992 by welcoming in its electoral camp many from civil society who had shared their vision of a united Guyana where our people’s rights are respected; where the people are involved in the development of our country’s resources and in the sharing of those resources irrespective of their religion or ethnicity and where we could together build a thriving and sustainable economy. All of these measures had the potential to reduce disparities and social tensions which were the root cause of our political, social and economic conflicts.
Following its 1992 election victory, the PPP/C government began to work to ensure the people’s expectations were met. A constitutional reform process was begun and included consultations with the masses of the population throughout Guyana including civil society, community groups, the private sector, etc. This process was led by a Parliamentary Reform Commission and resulted in a profound revision of the 1980 Constitution.
The period of the 1970s and 1980s had seen the destruction of infrastructure, the decline of the social sector and a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. Under those circumstances, political instability and increased conflicts were the order of the day.
The PPP/C’s restoration plan refocused public expenditure on education, health care, and the social, economic, cultural and spiritual needs of the masses of the people. This plan also provided social safety nets such as public assistance, single parent allowance, uniform allowance and hot meals for pupils and other poverty alleviation programmes for the very poor, where increases of income would still leave them severely disadvantaged and where, for reasons of age, disability or illness they could not participate in the economy.
Then President Jagan and later PPP/C presidents also focused on seeking financial and technical assistance for advancing socio-economic development and reducing poverty. They all recognized the nexus between poverty and conflict. They recognized that poverty is multifaceted, manifesting itself in low and uneven levels of income and consumption, physical insecurity, poor health, low levels of education, disempowerment, high levels of unemployment, and social and geographical isolation.
Consequently, the PPP/C focused on the reconstruction of the social sector including our road network and bridges; drainage and irrigation and water systems; hospitals, diagnostic centres, health centres; schools; sea defences, and the enhancement of production. The banking sector expanded; the housing sector blossomed and foreign direct investments increased tremendously. Working people benefited from a significant rise in the minimum wage and more disposable income. Guyanese were able to acquire more goods and services and invest in various business ventures.
Furthermore, agriculture performed well under the PPP/C that took over an agriculture sector that was struggling due to neglect by the PNC. The PPP/C took it to a height it had not achieved before.
The PPP/C was able to chart a course of rapid investment and growth in Guyana by way of finding consensus on the measures to be taken to accelerate investment, attract external funding and reduce poverty in the medium and long term. These investments brought improvements in the quality of and access to essential services.
The PPP/C government’s policy changes and programmes of the post-October 1992 era revitalised our country’s economy, reduced feelings of marginalization and created the atmosphere and condition so that the wheels of progress began to turn again.
The almost two-and-a-half years of the APNU+AFC government have been characterized by social and economic decline and stagnation and Guyanese are suffering the consequences. Our economy has contracted significantly due in large measure to economic mismanagement and fiscal indiscipline. This has resulted in a loss of investor confidence and the consequential inability to create new jobs for the unemployed.
The APNU+AFC government is nowhere close to addressing ten per cent of the needs and concerns of the Guyanese people. In fact Guyana is gripped by hopelessness with the prevailing business environment unfavourable to local and foreign investment. All of APNU+AFC’s hope seems pinned on oil. But oil alone cannot and will not transform Guyana’s economy, and the President and his government seem far removed from the realities around them. The Guyanese people are obviously fed up with the poor performance of a no economic policy government devoid of initiatives on how to attract investment, create employment and take Guyana forward.
No decent, honest Guyanese would deny that the era of October 1992 to May 2015 has been the best of the post-independence period of our country. Compare the progressive social and economic programmes of the PPP/C governments of October 1992 to May 2015 and their positive impact on our lives, with the PNC governments which went before and made Guyana an uncreditworthy country.
The PPP worked and succeeded in building Guyana, restoring the social, economic and agriculture sectors. That is why an increasing number of the Guyanese population eagerly look forward to national and regional elections come year 2020.