The APNU+AFC administration has already gone past more than half of its elected mandate. Its performance in government so far has been less than impressive. Many of its campaign promises have been honoured in the breach including the issue of constitutional reforms, transparency, accountability and inclusive governance.
The first major indication of a departure from its stated commitment to fiscal responsibility was its decision to increase salaries and other emoluments to Cabinet Ministers by a staggering 50-100% after having accused the previous PPP/C administration of ‘fat cat’ salaries . The very least one would have expected was for the government to put on hold any further increases to those in the decision making hierarchy or to accept similar increases given to civil servants. Instead, it went ahead and provided hefty increases to Ministers of Government which was completely at odds with its earlier commitment to bridge the sprawling income divide in the public service.
But it is the decision to close down the four sugar estates, including the flagship Skeldon Modernization Factory that will go down as the most unpopular and ill-conceived act of the regime. As expected the closure of the sugar estates is already taking its toll on the wider economy, not to mention the devastating impact it is having on the lives and livelihoods of sugar workers and their families.
Instead of focusing on the economy and laying the foundations for sustained economic growth, the government seems to be more concerned with settling political scores while at the same time using the resources of the state to reward those perceived to be loyal or sympathetic to the government.
It is difficult to see how actions such as these could help to foster a climate of trust or social cohesion.
The APNU+AFC coalition has just about two remaining years to demonstrate that it is serious about constitutional reforms and shared governance. The biggest challenge faced by the administration is to convince the Guyanese people and the international community that it is serious about advancing the national good in a fair and unbiased manner and within the constitutional and democratic framework of the society.
The balance sheet of the government so far is not encouraging. The economy is not doing well and a mood of pessimism regarding the future of the country is already beginning to take hold among the populace
Guyana cannot move forward until and unless there is broad national consensus by key stakeholders on fundamental issues of governance. The current model of ‘winner takes it all’, whatever its past merit has now become dysfunctional from the perspective of national reconciliation and racial unity. Talks about social cohesion are empty and meaningless unless there are fundamental changes at the governance level which will allow for all major parties to be represented in the decision-making processes both at the Executive and at the Legislative levels.
This is why the issue of constitutional reforms is of such great importance. The current administration has a duty and responsibility to advance the process in a serious and meaningful way.