The veto power and good governance
Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News
February 9, 2007

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A few weeks ago the President bemoaned problems within the bureaucracy in the education sector. He mentioned an incident where funds allocated for some radio program were not utilised.

I did not expect the President to answer the question as to where the buck should stop, because that question is never asked by our journalists who every time they are at a press briefing with the Head of State seem to be overwhelmed by his presence.

My question is, if the President had or has problems with the bureaucracy within the education sector, what has he or his ministers of education done, or are doing about it?

It is pitiful to hear someone with so much power complain about problems in a bureaucracy. What we should have been learning about is what action was taken.

We are also not so sure as to whether these problems developed under the incumbent ministers or whether they developed under the previous minister, but whomever they developed under, ministers are the persons who are ultimately responsible to parliament, and therefore if there is a problem or problems with the education sector, then we expect that those responsible for this sector would take the necessary action to avoid the embarrassment of having the Head of State complain about problems.

The Peeper is not going to be bamboozled by any comments government officials make about poor performance. I do not wish to hear about what is wrong; I wish to learn what was done to put things right.

I think we have reached the stage in this country when results must be demanded, not excuses. Public officials, from top to bottom, must be held to performance. Those who do not shape up must be shipped out regardless of their rank or seniority.

The 2007 Budget lacks vision, lacks imagination, lacks ideas, and does not prescribe policies that arise out of any properly thought-out plans for the critical sectors of the economy.

As I mentioned yesterday what we have in Guyana is a “numbers” Budget. So for example, we say that we will have a two- billion-dollar sports development plan, but the plan has not yet been developed. That must be the joke of the year.

If poor planning is to characterise the development programme of the government, at least let us plan poorly, but let us deliver on what must be delivered.

The Minister of Finance has announced detailed plans, including plans for ten megawatts of bagasse power to be supplied to the national grid.

I do not mind if this ten megawatts goes back to fire GUYSUCO's operations, what I want to see and know is when this power will be brought on stream, and when that time comes and the power is not brought on stream, I would not want to hear about problems of the bureaucracy or about delays in shipping. I want to learn who is going to take responsibility and what action will be taken against that person.

If there is anything that emerges from this year's Budget Debate it is that there must be a clear understanding of what is expected to be achieved this year, and if this is not achieved, where the buck will stop.

What we are witnessing in the world today is a phenomenon where little changes can result in big rewards. Thus, minor adjustments here and there, small adaptations and a simple change in focus can make a world of difference to performance and success.

And so the Peeper is not looking for any radical alternation of the country's Budget for this year. That is totally unnecessary.

I have seen the PNCR make a genuine attempt to reach out to the government by tabling a motion for a review of the national development plan, and I have seen how childlike this was rebuffed by the government, not recognising the implications for inclusive government.

The PPP does not wish shared governance at the executive level. I support them on that score. President Jagdeo's idea is some nebulous plan called an enhanced framework for political cooperation, one that demands the opposition must come on board his agenda for development. With a landslide victory at the polls, that is unfortunately his right, however much it will reduce his concept to a sham.

However, if one is seeking to find ways in which the opposition can be involved in a development plan, why be averse to a review of the plan so that it can become more amenable to political cooperation across the political divide.

I do not think we will hear much more about this nonsense; about an enhanced framework for political cooperation. I urge the opposition parties not to accept any invitation to be involved in that process. That is child's play, and the role of the opposition parties is serious business.

Since there is not likely to be any major plan for inclusive governance within the country, I believe that the opposition should use parliament firstly to outline an alternative Budget for Guyana . This is primarily the role of the opposition in any country - to provide alternative plans and policies to those being put forward by the government.

The second thing the opposition should do is to advance their lobby with the international financial institutions to ensure that persons are held accountable for performance.

I do not believe that it is purely accidental that so many Bills passed in the National Assembly were not assented to by the President. I am wondering whether the reason they were not assented to had anything to do with the positions adopted by the international donor agencies and governments.

The Budget Debate should therefore be an opportunity to press for small concessions on the good governance front: the first should be a commitment to holding public officials and the government accountable for their performance and the second should be to expose legislation that removes or diminishes parliamentary oversight, in the hope that the IMF and World Bank will use their influence to veto these plans.