— says Minister Todd, tells House coalition’s foreign operations lacked vision, competence
By Rabindra Rooplall
GUYANA’s foreign affairs operations and achievements for the past five years represent a hallmark of incompetence and a lack of vision that has damaged the country’s image internationally, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd said.
Minister Todd was, at the time, delivering his presentation, during the budget debates on Wednesday.
After assuming his post, Minister Todd said he discovered that the ministry lacked presence, efficiency, effectiveness and competencies in many areas, especially in foreign missions.
“Our job as a new government will restore the vigour in the ministry and put the ministry back on the regional and world map,” he said.
With the restoration of democracy, Minister Todd said sovereignty and territorial integrity must be preserved for the future generations.
He said that, under the Granger-led administration, many things were done for photo opportunities and lacked the capacity to negotiate, win, maintain friendships and partnerships in the region and further afield.
“Their public diplomacy was lacking; all they did was trips around the world for fun, coming back with nothing to say but attendance,” he told the House, pointing out that Guyana’s bilateral, regional and hemispheric international engagements must now be enhanced.
“Most of our foreign partners and friends would have removed themselves from association with the previous government because of the political crisis. Many felt they were illegitimate and as such most of the diplomatic engagements and international cooperation would have been put on hold,” Minister Todd said.
Currently, he said that, with a change in administration, the international community is queuing up to re-engage, because Guyana is seen as a viable partner in the development of the region and hemisphere.
Adding that the PPP/C is preparing for massive growth and development, Minister Todd called on the opposition to read the party’s manifesto so when they are in Parliament, objective and critical analysis can be made to move Guyana forward.
“If you remain in ignorance and in that state of mind, and if you still do not embrace democracy it will be difficult for us to lift this country. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in the selfish attitudes and behaviour that ensued under the APNU+AFC. We have always stood by the people and ensured that the resources are equitably distributed and our budget is healthy and friendly,” Todd said.
Adding that the PPP/C believes in small governments, Minister Todd said the private sector is the one that makes gains to move the economy forward.
“We believe in pragmatic policies. We know that we can empower the private sector and we can have a small and lean government and we can have a budget that still works for the people,” the foreign minister said.
He called on the opposition to embrace policies that are progressive and are designed to enhance the lives of Guyanese.
The foreign affairs minister said the 2020 budget is in line with government’s manifesto of diversification and innovation.
Opposition parliamentarian, Haimraj Rajkumar, in his presentation, said that, under the APNU+AFC coalition, roads, schools, medical facilities and police stations were built or renovated along with IT hubs and Internet access for schools were provided.
“The people appreciated what we did and we are proud to have done it,” Rajkumar said.
However, Minister Todd noted that the opposition is a group of persons that do not believe in democracy, good governance, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
“We are dealing with people who are destructive to Guyana. We have been doing all of the heavy-lifting post-Independence into the era of globalisation and we are still doing the heavy lifting and it is sad that we have to endure these types of hardships in twenty-first century Guyana,” Todd said.
Rajkumar, a former business minister, said the coalition was unable to complete some projects and it is hoped that such are not left to languish under the new government.
Further, he said that the tourism sector, over the past five years, had been nurtured, developed and matured under the APNU+AFC government.
“In 2018, we received over 286,000 visitors which contributed approximately $62 billion directly in the Guyanese economy and at the same time creating 22,000 jobs. In 2019 we received 314, 000 visitors contributing significantly to our economy,” Rajkumar said.
He said Guyana won six tourism international awards in 2019 and one in 2020 while the country was placed on the map of the world.
However, Minister Todd said the PPP/C Government is preparing for massive growth and development and has a strategy in place for the next five years that aligns itself with its election manifesto, something the APNU+AFC cannot ever claim.
Todd also said that the coalition’s tenure in office only created structured violence.
“They dismantled institutions, the disparity became even worst between the haves and the have nots, which led to social ills, broken homes, suicide rate went up and we have been given a mandate to restore the country to its beauty.”
The APNU+AFC government, he noted, was categorised by ineffective national policies and strategies which culminated in failed national objectives.