MY TURN | SAME PARTY, NEW GOVERNMENT

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I HAVE checked the tweet by US Senator Marco Rubio on Guyana, which was tweaked out of proportion by the opposition press.

This was what the Senator said: “I look forward to the democratic electoral process of our important regional ally, Guyana. It’s in our strong interest to stand in support of the Guyanese people as they seek to elect a new government that can advance their security and prosperity.”

The next day in a headline story, the Guyana Times misquoted the Senator as saying that a new government was needed in Guyana, which would make it appear that the Senator was calling for regime change in Guyana. Nothing that the Senator has said could give that impression.

FOREIGN INTERVENTION
In Guyana, unless otherwise removed, the life of a government ends after five years. When elections are called, the electorate would vote to elect a new government. Our experience has been that the incumbent party could be re-elected to be the new government for another term, or for several consecutive terms. We do not need to distort pronouncements by foreign dignitaries, or to glorify foreign intervention to replace the will of the electorate.
It is unfortunate that on October 5, when the PPP/C should be observing “the dawn of a new era” when it came to office in 1992, its leader was busy justifying foreign intervention in Guyana’s affairs as “wholly necessary”.

Historically, Guyana has been the victim of foreign interference and intervention. After the first-ever elections held under universal adult suffrage on the basis of one man, one vote in 1953, the British landed troops in what was then their colony. They removed the democratically-elected PPP government, suspended the Constitution, imprisoned its main leaders, and governed through an interim stooge regime.

By 1964, foreign imperial powers used Guyana as a laboratory for various stratagems of interventions. Racial, religious and ideological differences were exploited to divide our people, leaving a legacy of social bitterness and distrust. Direct intervention resulted in violence, electoral fraud, and support for authoritarian rule.

It is a sad commentary, therefore, that the self-styled PPP leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, should comment that intervention in Guyana is “wholly necessary”. It is a tragedy that a party that has been “cheated, not defeated” should now advocate interference by invitation!

GEO-STRATEGIC INTEREST
Our history also shows that the same party could be elected or re-elected to form a new government. As a party, the PPP/C won elections consecutively in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011, and formed new governments.

The APNU+AFC defeated the PPP/C and formed the new government in 2015. As was the case when the PPP was the incumbent, the APNU+AFC Coalition is set to be re-elected. There are many good reasons why the Coalition will form the new government after the March 2, 2020 polls.

In my view, the Senator made a politically proper statement that does not imply preference for any party, nor does it advocate the election of any party. Our Western friends look out for their investors. They are concerned with the security and safety of their citizens, which is why they issue periodic travel advisories. They are interested in good governance practices that hold out guarantees for their corporate and other citizens. Above all, our foreign partners generally encourage investment in a political environment that is stable.
As I see it, there have been, over the past weeks, statements without sanctions. I consider those to be broad reprimands. For me, as an experienced practitioner, those demonstrate routine political interplay among democracies.

GOOD PROSPECTS
Our foreign partners have sound reasons to know that under the APNU+AFC Coalition Government, the macro-economic fundamentals are intact. They monitor reports, like doctors checking the pulse of patients, showing that the economy is developing at 4.5%; that prospects are good for exponential growth, as Guyana is poised to become, in the near future, the single richest country on a per capita basis, once oil production gets underway.
Our Western partners and allies have influenced and even participated in the crafting of long-term sustainable development plans. They have access to the new “Guyana Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040”. They have seen the Guyana Natural Resources Fund legislation, our equivalent of the much-vaunted Sovereign Wealth Fund, and other legislative instruments that would ensure prudent management of our oil resources. They have witnessed Guyana’s adherence to anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism and integrity in public life practices. Our democracy is stable and safe.

But the Opposition is also making out a case to be elected to government. As we saw from paid advertisements during the broadcast of the cricket match, the PPP/C is promising, in the lyrics of the spicy Caribbean creole medley, the moon and the stars.

Its presidential candidate is promising free education within five years, and perhaps free university degrees long before then. They are promising to reopen sugar estates that they had run into bankruptcy, and had placed, by 2010, on the divestment block. They are promising reduction in VAT, which they had imposed at 16%, but was reduced to 14% by the Coalition Government.
They are promising everything that they failed to deliver in the past.

PLENTY GOOD REASONS
But there are plenty good reasons why the Guyanese people will re-elect the APNU+AFC as the new government. There are some compelling statistics, and I give only a random handful that would appeal to citizens:-

1. Increase in the minimum wage by over 60%; removing thousands of workers from the Income Tax list, as those earning $780,000 or less do not pay; and increase of old age pension by 56 per cent, now at $20,500 monthly.

2. Government workers at lowest salary got 8% increase since 2016, plus Christmas Bonus, and tax-free back-pay.

3. Corporate tax reduced from 40% to 25%, with tax amnesty given to deal with arrears; small businesses under $15 million exempt from VAT; with Revolving Fund created to help entrepreneurs, together with grant of duty-free concessions for machinery imports; and remigrants get $5 million tax-free for vehicles.

4. Over 5,000 new jobs created, some by self-employment under micro-financing for startup projects; youths from sugar and bauxite belts receive oil-and-gas training, and from Youth Skills Training projects. Many others are enlisted at call centres and info-hub facilities.

5. Youth population and educational institutions have 4G Internet; free Internet for schools and government institutions; free distribution of laptop computers to teachers, and tablets for students. A new Centre of Excellence in IT, and Campus Radio at the University of Guyana.

6. Thousands more persons joined new mining syndicates as workers; hundreds of mining blocks handed out to small miners. Gold production jumped to 700,000oz.
7. Farmers are better off now. New agricultural lands opened, including in hinterland areas. Markets found for paddy and rice in Mexico, Panama and Cuba, and over 35 other countries.

8. New housing communities have been created. House lot costs have been reduced. 50/50 Jubilee Payment Plan benefitted 2,881 applicants. Home Improvement subsidies granted, with no VAT on Government housing units.

9. New housing schemes and several other communities received access to clean water for the first time. Three new water treatment plants constructed. Eight new wells completed in the Rupununi.

I give these as samples of the better quality of life under the Coalition Government. But more is to come when the APNU+AFC becomes the new government next year.
October 6, 2019