OP-ED : Comparing performance of two leaders of Guyana

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By Rawle Lucas

Continued growth
Even though the Guyana economy continued to grow each year after elections in 2015, much criticism has been heaped on the Granger administration about its performance. Very quickly those who opposed the new government tried leading the people of Guyana to believe that the sky was falling and doomsday was upon the country. One should indeed wonder about how well a new leader would handle the responsibilities of office when he or she takes up the position for the first time. In a company, a new leader might have an opportunity for onboarding and integration, a grace period for settling into the job.

In government, expectations of performance are almost immediate with new and old demands coming to the new leader from all over. People tend to use the first 100 days in political office as the grace period. Even with all the coaching that a new leader of a company might get, she or he would still need time to familiarise herself or himself with the culture and systems of the entity. Governments must do that too. However, it is during this period of entry and settling that things could go wrong in a company. It is a reason that auditors pay close attention to activities during transition periods when undertaking an audit of an organization. They believe that if management survives this period of vulnerability, it can manage an organization successfully into the future.
Traits of leaders

Borrowing from the practice of the audit profession, it was thought that one could compare the early years of the Jagdeo administration with the early years of the Granger administration to get a sense of the effectiveness of each leader and determine what could be expected from the new leader in the future. The period of vulnerability of a politician goes beyond 100 days or even one year. It continues through the election cycle. Countries assess their leaders in various ways. People look at various characteristics or traits such as vision, focus, integrity, humility or courage to assess leaders. Most people care also about the economic impact on their lives and they look to their leaders to make things better for them. In fact, most experts would contend that there was no perfect way or instrument for assessing leaders or leadership. However, this writer feels that the performance of the economy is perhaps one of the most objective ways to compare the effectiveness of leaders of a country. Much of the criticism directed at the Granger administration has been coming from the Leader of the Opposition as one would expect. The performance of the economy would give an idea of how readily and quickly Jagdeo and Granger took control of things when the reins of government fell into their respective hands.

Measure of performance
The performance measure that one would normally use is the growth rate of the gross domestic product or GDP of the country. Many people criticize the use of GDP as a measure of performance because they see it as a defective construct. The construction of the GDP tends to exclude work performed in the home. The GDP figure also relies on estimates and imputations about goods and services that are not sold. However, the GDP figure is what is used all over the world to measure economic performance. As an objective estimate of performance, the GDP metric removes the emotion and personal bias that can enter an evaluation of a leader’s performance. GDP can therefore be a legitimate metric to measure the performance of leaders of a country. It is their policies and decisions that influence the behaviour of the economy and its ability to grow. On that score, one has a basis for contrasting the performance of the economy in two different of two different leaders in different time periods. The Table below offers the people of Guyana a perspective of what happened to the economy of the country in the first four years of 2001 to 2004 that the Jagdeo administration was in power and the four years from 2015 to 2018 that the Granger administration has been in power.

Former President Jagdeo was first elected to office in 2001. In an effort to find out how the economy performed under both the elected Leader of the Opposition and the new President, this writer reviewed the annual reports of the Bank of Guyana for the periods that correspond to their respective leaderships. The annual report of the Bank of Guyana presents in summary form the way that the various sectors and key industries of the economy performed during the reporting period. This article will not be delving into that data. It merely wishes to point out the valuable education that one could get from reading the reports of the Bank of Guyana.

That document reports on the production of goods and services in the four sectors of the economy, namely agriculture, manufacturing, mining and services. It also talks about the money supply and credit provided by the banking system; it talks about the public debt and the foreign exchange activities of the country. Other useful data such as inflation rates and the external trade of the country are also contained in the report. All the factors above come together to determine the real output or real GDP of the country. It also provided the GDP data itself that was needed for the comparison.

In the case of the former President, the period of measurement was from 2001 to 2004. In the case of the current President, it was from 2015 to 2018. In the first four years of the Jagdeo administration, the performance of the economy was dismal. The highest growth rate of the economy was 1.9 percent. In the case of Granger, the highest growth rate was 4.1 percent. Granger’s best performance was more than two times better than that of Jagdeo. Under the Leader of the Opposition, the economy grew on three occasions and contracted on one occasion. The economy never contracted under Granger. The slowest growth rate under Granger was better than the best rate of Jagdeo. Persons might be curious about what happened to the economy in 1999 and 2000. Former President Jagdeo took office in August 1999. Thus, his first full year in office was 2000. In that year, the economy contracted 1.4 percent.

Former President Jagdeo came straight to the job of President from the job of Finance Minister. That experience apparently did not prove sufficient for him to take on the task of Head of State or manager of the economy. One can see therefore that even with a period in which it could practice and try and get things right, the Jagdeo administration did not manage the Guyana economy very well. In contrast, Granger was able to take what he was given and maintain positive growth rates of the economy throughout the period of assessment.

Despite an overall dismal performance for five years of handling the economy, the people of Guyana did not discriminate against Jagdeo and gave him a second chance at managing the economy. It is clear that the noise from the Leader of the Opposition since 2015 has drowned out the sound of the good performance by the Granger administration. With by far a better record than Jagdeo as a manager of the economy, the people of Guyana should not discriminate against Granger being returned to office to continue rebuilding and expanding the economy.