THE FLYING PRESIDENT
November 16, 2006
At the funeral of his late Agricultural Minister, Satyadeow Sawh, the President confessed that he did not like government officers traveling overseas. By this of course he meant those ‘trips' such as attending conferences, meetings and training programmes as part of their official duties.
Of course the President is himself one of the more frequent flyers in the government, globe- trotting at the State's expense as he attends to the business of his administration. I wonder just what limitations he places on his many excursions outside of Guyana , some of which, such as the recent meeting he attended in London , are not likely to bear any immediate fruit for Guyana .
Today the President, according to reports in the press, wings out for Washington . When this was first announced I wondered whether he was going to lobby the new Democratic-dominated Congress for further assistance to Guyana .
It was however reported in the State-owned Guyana Chronicle that President Jagdeo is scheduled to leave Guyana for Washington tomorrow to attend a meeting of the Commission of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
My immediate reaction was to question why the President of Guyana is still a Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank. This is an honor that the President should have bestowed to his Finance Minister. It was also reported that the meeting is also a follow up on debt relief negotiations held recently between the IDB and Guyana 's Finance Minister in Haiti .
This is what I think constitutes one of the major stumbling blocks to progress in this country. The decision of the President to go to Washington represents a mindset that has to be reversed if Guyana 's government is to enjoy respectability and credibility.
Surely if a Minister of Finance cannot be entrusted with undertaking such negotiations, or with the governorship of the IDB, that Minister of Finance should not be there in the first place. It is almost embarrassing that the country's Executive President has to wing out to the IDB to discuss debt relief matters that should be competently handled by the Minister of Finance and the technocrats within his ministry. And to think that ministry does not just have one minister; it has two.
I have said that the need for the President to attend this meeting represents a mindset that needs to be reversed because no country should be so administered that the Chief Executive has to go to Washington to finalise the negotiations on matters that would normally be handled by a country's finance minister. Nor should the President still be a governor to the IDB.
It is not simply a case of micromanagement; the malaise runs deeper and if Moses Nagamootoo is even contemplating being an adviser to a President that has to do these things, then Moses had better reconsider his position because there is no way that he will be allowed to do the things he says he wants to do.
If you read what Nagamootoo says he wants to do, you will realise that it amounts to a virtual revolution in governance in this country and that is not going to happen under a President that finds it necessary to be in Washington this weekend.
The same principle I believe should apply in all other sectors of the country. The President should allow his ministers to take the lead and he should second-guess their actions because this would allow him to reverse any bad decisions they would make. However, when the President takes the lead in negotiations, there is no provision for reversing any mistake that will be made by him. This is why this column has always opposed the President being involved in front line negotiations whether it is with the IDB, the World Bank and IMF or with investors.
I think a serious study needs to be done about the Jagdeo leadership to determine why it is he consistently takes a “hands on” approach to governance in the country. As argued by others, while this style may work and has worked admirably in crisis situations such as the January 2005 floods, it belies a certain leadership style that can impact on governance because as Uncle Freddie has argued in these pages, you cannot divorce the role of the personality in the making of history.
I wish the President well in Washington . I hope that he gets the debt relief that he is seeking and that on his return he tells the nation exactly what it is that we would have to do to enjoy this debt relief and, more importantly, what he intends to do with the money that will be forthcoming.
Debt relief has been a strong point of his administration and one therefore understands his enthusiasm in ensuring that Guyana benefits from any new initiative by the multilateral banks. However, I see no reason why he cannot leave the negotiations to his Finance Minister even if he has to give him a specific mandate and guidelines around which to negotiate.