Home Letters Equity is foundational to Govt’s policies, programmes
The incessant cries by PNCR operatives and some opposition elements over alleged racial discrimination in allocations of state’s resources could hardly find support in available evidence. Recycling the old cliché: “Govt must avoid repeating the fundamental mistakes that led to justifying the oppression of Africans”, does not enhance the Guyanese people’s understanding or edification of the PPPC Government’s pursuit of equity. What would satisfy people’s heightened social consciousness are rationality and evidence.
The claim that the PPPC Government is creating an “apartheid” state is astonishing. Invoking this system and trying to apply it to Guyana is dangerous, self-serving, and devoid of reason and scholarship. Apartheid is an institutional system based on convoluted values and an ideology of racial superiority/inferiority, which regulates social stratification according to skin colour. Guyana is a democracy based on constitutional rule, and it subscribes to the various UN conventions on freedoms and individual rights. The country’s stratification system is determined mainly by open market forces, and not by executive fiat and authoritarian rule, which are central to apartheid. This obnoxious system exists only in the fuzzy minds of critics.
The evidence is abundant: Guyana is on the track of equity (fairness). There is still some distance to travel on this path, but it is in the right direction. The Government’s position is that development must touch all Guyanese. This is encapsulated in its philosophy of “One Guyana.” Accordingly, the Dr Irfaan Ali Government has established several projects, such as on infrastructure (roads, bridges), housing, land titles, jobs and education, that reflect equity (fairness).
Two of the most powerful tools of empowerment are housing and education. Owning an asset like land and a house is crucial for a person’s/family’s self-worth and self-fulfillment. While the PPPC Government inherited, in 2020, a huge backlog of 70,000 house lot applications, its leaders insist that they will meet their 50,000-manifesto target by 2025.
Minister Susan Rodrigues says that the Government is committed to equity in house lot distribution, and the data provided by the Prime Minister on the first 11,000 house lot allocations are supported by the Minister’s position. Afro-Guyanese have a house lot allocation rate of 19.98 per 1,000 population and Indo-Guyanese have a rate of 15.46 per 1,000, while for Mixed and Others, there is a rate of 5.63 per 1,000 population. Also, the Government has initiated 37 housing schemes nationally that reflect the ethnic and regional diversity of the country.
On the question of equity, one would recall that in Region 5 (West Coast Berbice), the PNCR coalition seized legally titled lands from Afro-Guyanese farmers, and it was left to Mr. Anil Nandlall to fight to restore those lands to the 50 farmers through the Court system. Was this a classic case where the PNCR coalition discriminated against their own supporters?
Beyond this case, Mr. Nandlall, in his capacity as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, is leading an initiative to sort out land titling and African ancestral land issues in Regions 5 and 4. “We are doing regularization now for Afro-Guyanese villages in Berbice, where residents are going to get titles for land that they are living on for centuries since slavery.” The PNCR regimes (of 1964-1992 and 2015-2020) never regularised those lands.
Another powerful empowerment tool is education. The Guyana Government knows that one of the quickest ways to develop the country is through the strengthening of its education system. Accordingly, one approach has been the grant of 6,000 GOAL scholarships that cover all disciplines and at all levels, in the first batch allocation. Mr. Aaron Pires conducted a content analysis and found equity in the allocation. Afro-Guyanese have a rate of 10.69 per 1,000 vs 8.07 per 1,000 for Indo-Guyanese and 5.46 per 1,000 for Mixed and Others. Space would not allow for the presentation of more data on equity.
While discrimination of any kind is repulsive, allegations by Opposition political operatives must be founded on evidence (empiricism) and not based on polemics and platitudes. The Government’s foundational principle is equity (fairness) in the allocation of resources.
Dr Tara Singh