Fatalistic step into the journey of disintegration
Freddie Kissoon column
March 19, 2007
Most people in Guyana and the Diaspora believe that the image of the PNC and the way it is seen throughout the world will be changed tremendously if and when the PNC leadership acknowledges that it was wrong about many things during its reign and offers the Guyanese people an apology.
Similarly, a majority of people in this country would have a positive attitude to President Jagdeo if in one of his many speeches in and out of Guyana, he would concede that at least in one way, not in many ways, not all the time, but just in one way, his government was wrong.
My job as an analyst is to monitor political speeches (though I must confess I do not buy the Chronicle because I feel it is money wasted. I prefer to peruse it when I get it; I would read it if I get a free copy from the Chronicle) and to date I haven't seen that observation made by the President.
This obdurate stance permeates the entire leadership of the ruling party. During the confusion brought by the introduction of VAT, the acting Speaker, Clarissa Riehl, was made the scapegoat because she refused to entertain a motion to allow an amendment to VAT legislation.
The government put a tax that didn't exist before on working class foods. But it never conceded it made a mistake. This government, for the sake of its image and credibility, should admit when it is wrong. Due to some weird, psychic contortion, this government sees an apology as a fatalistic step into the journey of disintegration or loss of power. President Jagdeo, speaking at the rehabilitation ceremony of the Ogle airport, told his audience that, at the cocktails he goes to, all he hears from those that come up to speak to him are negative things about Guyana.
But what does he expect to hear? What does President Bush expect to hear when he goes to the cocktail circuit? The war in Iraq. It is going badly, and the American people want their government to leave before it is too late.
What does Prime Minister Tony Blair expect to hear when he gets his invitations? The British people feel that Labour has let them down. The President needs to reflect on what he hears at these social occasions. Are all these negative vibes wrong? Is there indeed a crescendo of negative things in Guyana?
To answer that, we just have to examine the statistics. Statistics do not lie. We can ignore them but we can't change them. A majority of citizens in this country want to leave. A majority of UG graduates leave. Is that a negative thing? It is. And when the President goes on his visits these are the things he will hear.
What does he expect to hear from his hosts? People tell the leaders of their countries about the things that impact negatively on the country in which they live and in which they have to bring up their children.
Does the President want to hear people tell him about the City Mall built by Lennox John? Indeed it is a magnificent structure but how does its existence help the private sector that cannot find engineers because they migrate all the time? How does the beauty of Buddy's International Hotel help the public servants that have to retire at age 55 when they are at the prime of their lives and will have to live on a pension that is tantamount to slave wages?
Are these the things the President wants to be told about when he goes out to social gatherings? If he expects that, then he will be disappointed.
People want to talk to their Head of State about the national negatives that they feel and believe the President can do something about. Guyana is not Trinidad and Jamaica. In the former, money is over-flowing. Guyana does not have that kind of cash so we continue to lag behind our CARICOM partners. But is the lack of money the only reason poverty persists in Guyana? What about concepts like good governance? What about the willingness of the government to reach out to the constituencies that make up this country?
Here is where the role of the apology comes in. For six consecutive years, public sector workers have had a five percent salary increase imposed on them. But there has been no meeting of minds between state and trade unions. There has been no apology featured in the address of any ruling politician, for example, “Look, we are sorry about this continued state of affairs but the Treasury is weak and we hope to do better in the coming year.”
Such a simple apology goes a long way in instilling some confidence in the citizens.
Take the 2007 budget. It was composed without consultation. In a trenchantly divided country as Guyana is, one would like to think that some attempt at accommodating sectoral interests helps the healing process. Social groups may not get all that they want but at least they would feel that their government has some respect for them.
Yet, when this government is criticized for its flaws and failings, it brings angry retorts of rumour-mongering from the corridors of power.
One of the problems this government will have to live with for a long time to come is what the traveling public sees when it leaves Guyana either for reasons of business or vacation purposes. When they come back, the lamentation is never-ending. They see development in other countries, and they curse the backwardness of their land.
Why are they not entitled to complain? Three days of the Rio Summit helped us to get lights on the Railway Embankment. Now is that not insulting to a modern nation? The obvious question is if there wasn't a Rio Summit in Guyana, would we have ever seen lights on that part of Georgetown?
Then there is the situation with the traffic lights. Should we not have asked the President when we met with him before 2007 about the need to have these installations? Was it wrong to lament on the absence of this facility?
We will have them now, thanks to CWC 2007. So we should ask ourselves a curious question. Suppose there is an intervention from nature and for some disastrous reason, CWC has to be stopped, will the lights go up? Of course this is just being provocative, but the point I am trying to get at is if there wasn't CWC would we have had the lights go up in 2007 as presently being done? When are we going to see lights on Carifesta Avenue? Or is writing about that a negative thing?