Now in opposition, the PPP and former President, Bharrat Jagdeo are behaving like they were angels when in office. Their present rhetoric seeks to convey the impression that they had administrated the government in a nonpartisan manner, and had adhered to the practice of good governance. On the contrary, their record demonstrates something quite the opposite.
An examination of that party’s 23 years in power shows that the PPP deliberately instituted a policy of awarding contracts, both at the central and local government levels to mainly party members, supporters and favoured cronies of the Party Leader or President. This political partisan policy has had far-reaching effects on political and race relations in the country, since it resulted in the marginalization of the African and Amerindian community, with economic and social consequences which threaten their viable existence. This was the situation at the end of PPP/C rule in 2015.
In spite of this reality, Jagdeo recently displayed yet another manifestation of his shameless politics. Claiming, that the African condition under the PPP was rosy, even challenging President David Granger to a public debate on this issue, under the guise of “race relations”. Like all political oppressors, he seeks to present his oppression as great improvements in his victim’s lives, and expect them to agree with his self-serving declaration on their situation.
The PPP, Indian Rights Activists and other government detractors have succeeded in framing the debate on the government performance in an unfair way: by judging the government’s performance against that of the PPP, without taking into consideration that the PPP was in power for twenty-three continuous years. The achievements, whatever they are, of this protracted period in government, should not be the test for the performance of the 3 years old APNU+AFC government. A fairer and more meaningful comparison should be the first three years of the PPP rule after the 1992 General Elections, with that of the first three years of the coalition government. The above observation is a good example of how Jagdeo and the PPP get away with falsifying the national political discourse on issues worthy of serious and objective discussion and debate.
Guyana cannot heal unless the truth is told, and the PPP held politically accountable for its discriminatory policy on awarding of contracts. Government‘s expenditure constitutes the largest injection of money into the economy, and those who control, and have access to these significant sums of capital have advantages for economic and social development, that other sections of the society were denied. And even with their best efforts could not compete given this huge disadvantage. It is estimated that the government expenditure on contracts between 1992 to 2015 was around G$865 billion.
The policy of channeling taxpayer funds to create a super-rich elite has seriously damaged race relations and national cohesion. Further, this policy has created new dynamics in the country which we have not fully come to grips with as a nation. Not surprisingly, we experienced the worst degeneration of the political culture, a sea of corruption at all levels of the society and the rise of the criminalized state under Jagdeo’s de facto and de jure rule.
In government for a long period, the PPP had the time and political space to place party hacks in many important areas of the procurement process. This allowed them to be in the position to subvert the laws and procedures relating to awarding contracts. The national and regional tender boards were dominated by officials controlled directly or indirectly by the party. These officials operated a system where there was bribery, collusion, fraud, kickbacks, misappropriation, contract overrun, over and prepayments as well as inflating the cost for projects, and the purchase price for goods and services. This system became so well entrenched, that the APNU+AFC government to date has been unable to dismantle it so as to create a level playing field.
Any keen observer is forced to conclude that the government seems to be held to ransom since the same contractors that were established and favoured under the PPP are still getting the bulk of central government and regional contacts across the country. Dislodging this well-entrenched infrastructure has proved to be a formidable task that the current regime is either incapable of changing, or lacks the political will to do so. Ironically, this indecisiveness by the government on this grievous matter has resulted in growing political discontent, especially in the APNU+AFC support base. In spite of this, the coalition is constantly being subjected to hostile and false propaganda by the PPP and Indian Rights activists of victimizing Indians and awarding contracts solely to Africans, and persons politically affiliation to the coalition. These erroneous claims of Indian victimization are not supported by the facts on the ground.
An effective way to combat this wicked and racist propaganda is an aggressive public awareness campaign by the coalition to address this falsification of reality. An important aspect of the campaign should be a published list of contractors and business who have received government and regional contracts since the new government came to office. And a similar list for the PPP period 1992 to 2015.