Attorney General Basil Williams greeted the Appellate Court’s decision to overturn the High Court’s ruling that the PPP’s NCM was valid with a 33-seat majority by declaring it was “business as usual”. One can only presume that the corruption, rising “serious” crime rate, graft, political witch-hunting, discrimination (jobs only for friends and PNC members), racially skewed appointments to state positions (16 out of 17 Permanent Secretaries of one ethnic group – African Guyanese), extravaganzas, no-job creation etc. that characterised the status quo ante will continue.
But corruption, crime and lack of job opportunities are highest on the minds of the populace right now – just as it was during the PNC’s first stint at the helm of the state back in the 1970s. It does not appear that the PNC has learnt anything from that experience. It is demonstrably incapable of running a free enterprise because its insistence on government by fiat is fundamentally opposed to the creative and unfettered environment necessary to stimulate business success and job creation.
One of the major reasons for the change of government in 2015 was that the PNC-led Opposition made charges of “corruption” against the PPP administration an article of faith in the minds of many. As such, they inevitably established a de facto standard for evaluating their performance on corruption once in Government.
But, very early on, there were signals that rather than resolving the problem, the coalition Government was going to simply redefine and deepen it. There was the acknowledgement by the AFC, for example, that a huge campaign contributor, who had been awarded Government approval for a wind farm, had financed their headquarters. The party leader, Minister Trotman, candidly proposed that businessmen make “investments” in political parties for which they expect “returns”.
The revelation that $768 million was expended by private business contributors for the Government to build Jubilee Stadium at D’Urban Park raised questions as to who actually made these “investments”, and which government contracts were awarded as “returns”. Those questions have never been answered.
There was the $2 billion invested by the Government to save face to complete the project.
There followed the “bottom-house” Pharma warehouse that eventually cost taxpayers over $500 million; subverting the procurement mechanism with the $632 million pharma purchase from Ansa at double previous prices; hiding the measly US$18 million Exxon bonus: issuing fuel-import licences to cronies who engage in massive fuel smuggling; sole-sourcing and later discarding of a $143 million bid for the DHB design; the collusion with the Chinese contractor on the CJIA, to deliver a substandard airport below the original specifications yet costing billions more. And all of this in a mere four years; imagine what their record would be if they are allowed to control the Consolidated Fund when oil begins flowing. No wonder they are fighting so desperately to gain time to complete their electoral fiddling arrangements.
The British statesman Lord Acton had posited, “All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But in Guyana, it would appear that we have turned the aphorism on its head: Corruption is power, and absolute corruption is absolute power. We had seen this ironic but ultimately tragic inversion during the first period of PNC rule in Guyana after elections began to be routinely rigged after 1968. The lesson, we would posit, is that once the rot of corruption is given an excuse, it inevitably spreads throughout the body politic until the entire political, social and economic edifice crumbles, as it did by 1989.
What is most insidious when corruption becomes endemic is that while the corrupter from outside the Government and the “corruptee” from within both satisfy their immediate desire for quick material gains, the corrupters who are members of society now accept the status quo, and corruption quickly becomes institutionalised. Everyone soon seeks to have someone whom he/she can bribe – from the Policeman on the roads to the Minister in his office – and boasts about having “lines”. Guyana will then become a failed state even though the oil will flow.
Guyanese must ensure history does not repeat itself.