TO properly understand a political party’s programmes and policies that it intends to implement, one must have a good insight into the nature and scope of its ideology. In the case of the PPP/C, the various strands (warp and weft) have been pulled together and woven into an interesting ideological tapestry that covers and helps to explain its policies and programmes. It is this ideology that is also guiding the preparation of the “One Guyana Development Strategy”.
Having developed this insight, it is noted that the PPP/C’s approach to good governance and nation building is guided by its ideology (referred to as GNB), and not by ‘ad hoc’ or ‘piecemeal’ measures. Though the PPP/C’s ideological framework has specific core values (like free and fair elections, freedom, Individual responsibility, separation of powers, limited government, less taxation, and competition as base for resource allocation and acquisition of political power, etc. ), it also allows for adaptations in response to changing needs (like technology, ICT, science, alternative sources of energy, etc.) of the society.
While the PPP/C, like the PNC/R, had its origin in the first nationalist movement, the subsequent history of both parties has been diverse, controversial, divisive, depressing, and conflicting, while their ideology evolved in different directions. In this analysis, however, references will be generally restricted to the decades of the 21st century (2000s) while focus is given to the PPP/C’s ideology relating to good governance.
In the past (second ½ of 20th century), the PPP/C had relied upon Marxist principles to guide its approach to governance and nation building, while they subsequently watched, with trepidation, how the PNC assaulted democracy and nonchalantly installed a dictatorship. Despite the PNC’s belligerence and their trampling upon democracy, the PPP nevertheless rendered critical support in the 1970s for the PNC’s aggressive nationalisation campaign. Eventually, the PNC government captured and controlled 80 per cent of the country’s economy.
Since the 1980s, however, the influence of the Soviet bloc had begun to whittle, and democratic values and capitalist ethos begun to rise. The PPP/C had to move away from their Marxist ideological posture and gradually embrace a new GNB ideology (based on a combination of the Westminster and the American model of democracy) of governance and nation building. Powered by this new GNB ideology, the PPP/C has continued pushing forth market reforms which were initially imposed on the country by the IMF in 1989 under the Presidency of Desmond Hoyte. I do not believe that there will be any reversal of this new GNB ideology.
The dialectics of the Guyana’s experience, combined with changing social reality, have allowed for the incorporation of core ideals, values, and principles, into the construction of the GNB ideology; one expression of which is the PPP/C’s manifesto. The intensive interactive process (between the PPP/C and civil society) in developing the manifesto, helped to strengthen several ideological elements (fiscal discipline, separation of powers, transparency and accountability, limited government, free enterprise, etc.). This civil society engagement has enabled the PPP/C to deem their manifesto as a ‘covenant’ (solemn agreement) with the people.
On the question of governance, all the political parties say they want constitutional reform, but their level of commitment to this effort varies widely. In my opinion, the PPP/C does not necessarily view constitutional reform as ‘urgent’ and it is more concerned with constitutional compliance. For example, the Carter-Price formula for the appointment of the GECOM Chair that worked well for over 23 years was discarded by the PNC/R when they unilaterally appointed a Chair, contrary to the Constitution, only to be admonished by the Caribbean Court of Justice. If existing constitutional provisions cannot be observed, what sense does it make to infuse more provisions into the Constitution?
Furthermore, it was under the PPP/C leadership, that some radical and fundamental constitutional changes were instituted in 2000s, such as the establishment of (i) the five Rights Commission, (ii) a new system of Parliamentary management that allows for inclusivity (e.g., the Chair of each sectoral committee is rotated between the PPP/C and PNC/R), (iii) and a significant reduction in the powers of the Presidency (e.g., restricting the incumbent to hold office for two terms). These and other changes signalled a rupture with the Westminster model of democracy and an embrace of components of the American system of democracy, as reflected in the GNB ideology.
Patching up the Constitution through the process of reform would not necessarily be a constructive use of public resources. It is better to re-write a new Constitution that reflects the existing social and economic conditions, including advances in technology, science, exponential growth of social media, as well as to include stringent constitutional compliance/penalties. If the purpose of constitutional reform is to institute executive power-sharing that is hardly likely to be supported by the people, as it would eliminate a fundamental principle of good governance, that is, electoral competition.
Dr Tara Singh