Tomorrow, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, installed when President Irfaan Ali was sworn in on August 2, will complete 100 days in office. This is against a backdrop of the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) blatantly attempting to rig the elections in front of representatives of more than 100 nations. It was a grim reminder that the PNC, under its new leadership of David Granger and Joseph Harmon, had not changed the modus operandi of their party from their 1974-1992 long stint at the helm.
The new administration was soon plunged into a crisis created by the PNC when the two named leaders callously exploited the grief of the families of the Henry cousins, who had been most brutally murdered in the backlands of West Berbice. Violent protests broke out as the solitary Public Road was blocked by burning debris and tyres and Indian Guyanese drivers and occupants of traversing vehicles were brutally assaulted and, in several instances, their vehicles and contents were torched. The Government has promised an inquiry into what can more appropriately be described as “riots” and it is the expectation of this newspaper this will be launched without further delay. As we have seen in the PNC’s post-1997 election protests, these actions can segue in further mayhem that can rip our social fabric asunder.
But in spite of this challenge, the PPP/C Government appointed a new Cabinet that was a mixture of experience and youth, which bodes well for the country. The experience will ensure that programmes can immediately be implemented and the youth will provide the energy to fuel that immediacy. There are so many examples that abound of the developmental thrust, but a few examples should suffice to illustrate the point.
First and foremost was the reopening of three of the four sugar estates that were arbitrarily and unilaterally shuttered by the PNC-led departed regime. They threw 7000 sugar workers into the breadlines – if Guyana had breadlines, which it does not. There were no provisions for alternative employment for these fired workers and the social dislocations and trauma were there for all to see in the three years since the closures. It extended beyond the workers into the communities’ businesses, which were sustained by their traditional spending. There was an injection of $5 billion into GuySuCo to jump start the reopened estates, as opposed to the PNC-led coalition sequestering the $30 billion bond that was floated on GuySuCo’s assets.
There was also a review of the contract with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) in their Payara field in which they undertook to immediately reduce flaring and to make arrangements for the excess natural gas retrieved along with the oil to be piped ashore. This natural gas would then be used to generate and feed some 200-250 MWh of electricity into the grid to bring down the cost of electricity from $52/kh to $14/kh – a reduction of 371 per cent. This would not only bring relief to our beleaguered citizens in terms of no blackouts and lower prices, but would facilitate new manufacturing businesses, since lower energy costs have always been identified as the single biggest hurdle for such activities.
Telescoping a process that usually takes months, the new administration passed a $329 billion Budget towards the end of September. This addressed the needs of the ordinary citizen, battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the business community that suffered a double whammy since they also had to deal with the previously anti-business PNC regime. It authorised a most welcome cash transfer of $25,000 to every household in the country as well as a $15,000 cash grant and a $4000 uniform voucher for schoolchildren. These will prove to be welcome boosts at both the individual and business levels. For the Indigenous Peoples, who remain the most deprived group in Guyana, there was an infusion of $800 million into the Amerindian Development Fund.
There is finally hope in the Guyanese people that their long darkness will be dissipated.