IF the APNU+AFC coalition provided an earful to listen to the downside of our beloved country Guyana in the leap year 2020, then the PPP/C did provide a mouthful to talk about on the other side of the coin. To narrate on the upside of this dear land of ours in a trying and testing year when it is easy to conjure only negative things happening, it is a relief and change to welcome anything beneficially positive. The best thing that happened in Guyana was the swearing in of a new and legitimate, duly elected president, Dr. Irfaan Ali, replacing a caretaker president, Mr. David Granger, who had to unwillingly demit the office of President, after squatting in office for five months and being ordered to “step aside.” This good turn materialised due to the PPP/C winning the General and Regional Elections held on March 2nd and defeating the APNU+AFC to form the new government.
But this would not have been possible had it not been for many stakeholders condemning and preventing the APNU+AFC coalition and some GECOM officers and employees from attempting to rig and defraud the electoral process. Guyana has a better reason to smile because many people, places and parties contributed to upholding democracy and to support the Guyanese people in the struggle to prevent dictatorship, defend freedom and maintain peace. Those playing significant roles include diplomats from the ABCE, CARICOM, OAS, AOL, ACP, UN, The Elders, all the then opposition parties, the vigilantes keeping watch on the ballot boxes, most local organisations, personnel from the media and the people of Guyana at home and abroad. One of Guyana’s proudest moments remains in the fact that, not a single Head of State for any regional or international country supported Granger and his APNU+AFC coalition in their fishing expedition, when they attempted on numerous occasions to deny the free will of the Guyanese people and to undermine democracy in the country. Responding to Granger with, “The truth hurts,” according to past Chair of CARICOM, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley, the world did not budge but stood beside Guyana to fight against the APNU+AFC’s tyranny and bullies. Also, Granger could not find an ally from any of his CARICOM friends who turned their backs on him.
On another positive note, it was good to see GECOM Chair, the honorable judge (retired) Claudette Singh, enforcing her power to direct the CEO Keith Lowenfield to produce a final report as per the findings of CARICOM recount election result, which enabled her to declare the PPP/C winner of the elections, defeating the APNU+AFC. A creditable note must also include the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack, discontinuing criminal charges of misconduct in public office against Madam Claudette Singh brought by agents believed to be from the APNU+AFC. On a high note also, was to see so many females and young people appointed MPs by the PPP/C and the APNU+AFC coalition. Guyana again scored points in seeing the PPP/C defeating the APNU+AFC’s frivolous and vexatious petitions, both in the local courts and the CCJ. Guyana rejoiced also in the dismissal of APNU+AFC’s victimised charges politically motivated, brought against President Irfaan Ali, AG Mr. Anil Nandlall, Finance Minister Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington.
Definitely, climbing up the scale was the PPP/C government successfully piloting an emergency $330 Billion budget to cover the remainder of the year from September to December’2020. Guyanese had a lot to cheer about on learning that the many taxes imposed on them by the APNU+AFC were removed, reduced and reversed to the status of 2014, when the PPP/C was in government. The Granger government had punished the nation for five years and, the revenue demanded and squeezed from the people’s blood, sweat and tears were squandered by the callous and unscrupulous administration. Guyanese had to pay to upkeep the exuberant and exorbitant, good lifestyle of the APNU+AFC party. The Value Added Tax was removed from a number of goods and services including water and electricity rates, exports, hinterland travel, medical supplies and building and construction. Fees for the rental of agricultural land, irrigation and drainage have been reduced to 2014 figures. Fifty-thousand (50,000) house lots have been identified for housing and the MIR (Mortgage Interest Relief) has been increased to $30 Million. The three sugar estates closed by the APNU+AFC government will be opened incrementally and some $7 Billion has already been disbursed to Guysuco and already almost a thousand workers have been re-employed. The 25 percent Corporate Tax on education institutions was removed and the uniform voucher allowance was doubled to $4,000 per child. Also, a cash grant of $15,000 will be made available for all public school students, effective Jan.1st. The PPP/C government has announced that 20,000 scholarships will be available and education should be free at UG from 2024. The Indigenous people had a lot to cheer about with some $800 Million allocated to the ADF and, the re-employment of some 2,000 CSOs who were fired by the APNU+AFC government. Pensioner’s allowance has been increased to $25,000.
Guyanese applauded on learning from President Dr. Irfaan Ali that there will be massive development in infrastructural transformation plans, including new schools, hospitals, roads, highways, police stations, a new Demerara River high-span bridge, bridging Guyana and Suriname, and a deep-water harbour. A new city along the Soesdyke-Linden Highway was also announced and the construction of more international hotels and another airport a Lethem. A hallmark achievement in 90 days was the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, bringing an end to GTT’s 30-year monopoly in Guyana. A professionally structured committee was implemented to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and a cash relief of $25,000 has been disbursed to over 150,000 Guyanese households so far. Suriname’s new President has already visited Guyana, U.S. Secretary of State, the United Arab Emirates and many other financial investors from around the world, all interested in investing in Guyana. Guyana has earned US$200 Million in revenue from its controversial oil industry and plans are afoot for the gas-to-shore project. The mining, bauxite and forest industries have started to expand with previously established companies.
Guyana should be proud to end the year on a happy and high note to learn that the International Court of Justice ruled that it has jurisdiction in the matter of the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela. The PPP/C government’s generosity was extended to include bonuses to the police, the army and front-line workers. After suffering, struggling and suffocating from the strangulation of APNU+AFC’s knee on Guyanese necks, Guyana was privileged and heartened to know that Guyana still has many kind-hearted people who genuinely care and are concerned about the welfare of the poor, underprivileged, handicapped and less fortunate. Many announced and unannounced Guyanese reached into their personal pockets to take care of their fellow Guyanese from all walks of life, from all villages and all ethnicities and to share in their plights. The PPP/C and government, employers, organisations, institutions, houses of worship and private citizens gave generously in cash, clothes and food hampers to the needy in society in all three counties. The APNU+AFC was limited and selectively involved. This charitable drive was caused by the hardship brought on by the APNU+AFC administration and the COVID-19 pandemic. This 2020 leap year did share its pros and cons with Guyana and served its advantages and disadvantages. The expressed fear of a leap year myth did materialise and pervaded with its perilous qualms, psalms-singing, open palms for help, distribution of alms, a calm after the storm, curious peeping Toms, not wanting to bid salaam and a jam-packed programme for the next year. While many are sadly not with us to ring out the old year, hopefully, you may find something to cheer to ring in the new year. May God bless all. Happy New Year Guyana!