The World Bank controversy Editorial
Stabroek News
November 28, 2003

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The PNCR in its customarily shrill tone has criticized the Government for nominating Ms Lisaveta Ramotar to one of two positions being offered Guyana by the World Bank. The nominees are required to be academically qualified, and have considerable experience in the economic field. The second appointee was Dr Gobind Ganga, the Head of the Research Department at the Bank of Guyana.

Dr Ganga undoubtedly meets the criteria for the post, but the situation with Ms Ramotar is less clear- cut. She is certainly academically qualified, having a BSc from the University of Guyana in Business Mangement, and an MSc from the University of York in Project Analysis Finance Investment; however, she has very little work experience to boast of, and nor could she have considering she is only twenty-seven years old. According to her curriculum vitae, she has spent under four years in the Bank of Guyana, performing important tasks, but not ones which on the face of it appear to have involved her directly in policy or planning decisions.

Under normal circumstances, of course, Ms Ramotar's paucity of work experience might not have been an issue. This country is desperately short of human resources, and the loss of anyone with academic qualifications and wide experience of economic planning matters to the World Bank will have an impact on the local system. For every individual it nominates, therefore, the Government has to weigh the loss to its skills' pool here, against the importance of having its views adequately represented at World Bank level. Its ambit of choice is further restricted by the fact that it wants to send people who can be absolutely depended upon to represent its views; it will not take the risk in the present climate of selecting a candidate whose political sympathies are an unknown quantity.

Having said all of that, of course, appointment to the World Bank is regarded as a major perk, and as a consequence Government nominees will inevitably be scrutinised with an eye to establishing whether a minimum of fairness was obtained in the selection process. Which brings us to the real reason why Ms Ramotar's appointment has been such a source of controversy: she is the daughter of the General Secretary of the PPP/C, Mr Donald Ramotar.

When the fact of her limited experience is married to the fact of her relationship with a senior functionary of the governing party, critics are justified in asking what the procedures were in her selection, and if there were none, who made the decision. In a case like this, appearances are everything; it is not enough to be fair and transparent, the Government has to be seen to be fair and transparent. If the evidence of Ms Ramotar's wide-ranging experience in the economic field had been unassailable, then her critics would have had much less of a case to answer; but not only is that not so, but the Government has declined to tell the public how the decision was arrived at.

This newspaper made no headway in securing any comments on the matter after repeated calls to both the Minister of Finance and to President Jagdeo. Mr Robert Persaud did speak to us last Saturday, but he could throw no light on how the selection was made, save to say that neither Mr Donald Ramotar himself, nor the PPP/C had anything to do with it. For his part, Dr Luncheon told the media corps at one of his briefings that the Government was under no obligation to justify Ms Ramotar's appointment. Given the circumstances, he is certainly wrong on that score.

This Government came into office in 1992 promoting the twin pillars of transparency and accountability in administration. In a case where appearances give rise to suspicions about transparency, then the Government at a minimum must be prepared to explain its decision to the public; it did not get a carte blanche from the electorate in 2001 to do exactly as it pleased.

It would probably have done better not to have nominated Ms Ramotar at all at this stage, although a few years down the road she could no doubt have withstood scrutiny in her own right. However, as things stand, even if its intentions could in no way be impugned, the Government has probably done both itself and by extension Ms Ramotar a great deal of unnecessary damage. Even if untrue, the administration has left itself open to allegations of nepotism, which in turn will rub off on Ms Ramotar. As a consequence, she will have proceeded to Washington under a cloud of controversy, which through no fault of hers may affect her credibility as a representative of this country. As the qualified and competent young person that Mr Robert Persaud described to us on Saturday, she surely deserves better than this.