HEAD of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Lieutenant Colonel (Rt’d) Joseph Harmon, who has been appointed to lead the Government transition team by Head of State, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, has assured that A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government will hit the proverbial ground running, with specific priorities already identified.A priority, according to HPS Harmon, is that of State Property and Assets, Key Personnel at State Institutions, and policies pursued by the previous administration.
The high-level transition team, which is headed by HPS Harmon, also comprises Messrs Carl Greenidge, Nigel Hughes, Raphael Trotman, and Noel Holder, and Dr. Rupert Roopnarine and Amna Ally, among other persons.
HPS Harmon has indicated that his predecessor, Dr. Roger Luncheon, has intimated that he would be leading the team which held the reign under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, which officially came to an end over the weekend.
On the matter of State Property, HPS Harmon told the Guyana Chronicle that this is a matter of priority for the incoming administration, as there first needs to be a complete assessment of what assets are still owned by the State, what has been disposed of already, and to whom.
The National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), which also has under its ambit the Privatisation Unit (PU), has been the key body responsible for the disposal of State-owned assets as well as the management of State-owned corporations and other such bodies.
NICIL has been under considerable focus in recent years, and according to HPS Harmon, NICIL/PU, its functions and operations will be subject to full forensic audit, to firstly build a base of information upon which to act.
He said, too, that the APNU+AFC Government transition team will also have to deal with, as a priority, the matter of personnel at key State Institutions.
NO POLITICAL WITCH-HUNT
HPS Harmon has assured that there will be no political witch-hunt, and that as such honest, hardworking government employees under the previous administration need not fear any form of retribution, reprisals or victimisation.
He did point out, however, that the new Government will be paying keen attention to ‘Contract Employees’, some of whom have been accused of being ‘fat cats’.
He told the Guyana Chronicle that another of the key areas that the transition team will be paying keen attention to, would be that of policy and existing international agreements and contracts that the PPP/C Government would have signed on to.
The HPS observed that the previous administration has inked a number of agreements with foreign entities and companies that will have to be reviewed as a priority, given the numerous questions and uncertainties that still abound, a direct result of a lack of transparency practised under the previous administration.
While in Opposition, APNU+AFC had lamented the manner in which a number of large Government projects were being pursued, and even their feasibility.
Among the high-profile projects to have grabbed headlines were the Amaila Falls Hydro-Electric Project; the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) terminal and runway; the Skeldon Sugar Factory; the Berbice Bridge; and the Georgetown Marriott Hotel.
Policies pursued in the forestry, gold and related sectors have also been identified by the APNU+AFC Government as areas for review.
On the matter of imminent Cabinet appointments, HPS Harmon said that the only appointment so far is that of Head of the Presidential Secretariat, but he assured that the requisite information will be made public in a timely manner.
He said too that the transition team and government will also be looking to fulfill its mandate and deliver within the first 100 days in office what it had promised.
Under the proposed plan of action for the APNU+AFC Government, it intends to, among other things, provide significant salary increases for public servants across the spectrum; implement a phased reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT); increase Old Age pension; liberalise the telecommunications and ICT sectors; and hold Local Government Elections.
Head of State, Brigadier (rtd) Granger, was sworn in on Saturday last by Chancellor of the Judiciary, Mr. Carl Singh, at which point in time he announced the appointment of Harmon as HPS and the transition team he will lead.
In his inaugural address to the nation from the balcony of the Public Buildings, Head of State Granger said that with the elections over, democracy has been fortified, and as such implored: “Let us now put past rivalries behind us and work in unity to banish poverty, ignorance, fear and hatred.”
President Granger, in his address, told the Guyanese nation, “We have witnessed the damage done to our beautiful country over the past twenty-three years…We have had to bear the cost of the squandering of state resources on exorbitant but misconceived mega-projects…We have suffered most from the high cost of living and the high level of unemployment.”
He said, however, “We have not been filled with hatred by these conditions.”
According to President Granger, “We are, indeed, more determined than ever to refashion society…We the Guyanese people have seized the opportunity to vote for human safety, national unity and inclusionary democracy. We now look to the future.”
By Gary Eleazar