One of the criticisms of the PPPC by the PNC-led coalition and its partisans has been their insistence that their electoral vehicle is, ipso facto, superior to the PPPC’s in addressing the political contradictions in our society. Their “coalition”, they claim, brings together under one umbrella parties that comprehensively represent the diversity of Guyana.
The PPP, on the other hand, contend that the PNC-led “coalition” is that only in name, and as such is actually subversive to the virtues of that form of governance. Their approach has been to craft a developmental agenda that embraces all of the groups in Guyana, invite from all social groups individuals who are not PPP members, to enter their electoral vehicle as individuals, where they can ensure that the benefits of development are distributed equitably.
Luckily for us, we have the concrete experience with both models of governance since 1992, and as such have the opportunity to look beyond the rhetoric and examine what happened when “rubber actually hit the road”. In 1992, the PPP inherited an economy completely devastated during the PNC’s 28 years at the helm, and had been delivered up to the ministrations of the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
The PPPC worked assiduously to attack the major problems at both the micro and macro levels. For instance, while the IMF insisted that the Public Service be downsized, and the PNC’s Desmond Hoyte administration had initiated moves in that direction, the PPP halted this because it was fully cognisant of the effect this would have on African Guyanese.
Its reduction of the inherited US$2.1billion debt through the efforts of Bharrat Jagdeo allowed the enormous funds that went towards debt servicing to be redeployed into the social sectors. The resuscitation of the education, health, and social services sectors benefited every group, even though the Indigenous Peoples were so structurally excluded that their development lagged.
The benefits were most graphically illustrated by the reduction of poverty levels. The summation by the PPP critic Clive Thomas made the point quite lucidly in an article from 2014. Under the heading “Poverty by ethnicity”, he wrote, “To wrap up the results, Table 3 reports the data on poverty by ethnicity as revealed in the 2006 HIES survey results. These are compared to the World Bank’s survey results for 1992. As the table reveals, the situation has improved for all ethnicities and the dispersion of outcomes considerably narrowed.”
Source: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2011-2015, GoG, 2011
What jumps out of the report compiled by Thomas is that, by the end of the PNC’s regime, African and Mixed Guyanese had the highest rates of poverty, but by 2006, this had been slashed most significantly.
For instance, while poverty among Indian Guyanese decreased by 3.7%, that of African Guyanese plummeted by three times that figure – 11.4%. Yet, from 1998, the PNC had led violent protests in the streets of Georgetown, claiming that African Guyanese were being discriminated against by the PPP. These claims provided the cover for the bandits who posed as “African Guyanese Freedom Fighters” to stage a frontal attack on the Guyanese state.
What has been the experience of the “national coalition” formed by APNU (itself a vaunted “coalition” of “five parties”) and the AFC? Firstly, the APNU coalition is actually a PNC ploy, using paper organisations GAP, JFAP, NDF, NFA and WPA to change its discredited name.
As the WPA publicly complained, none of them was ever consulted on decisions made by the PNC. The AFC did have a credible following, but after entering government in 2015, ignored its raison d’etre to the coalition – to show Indian Guyanese were represented in the government – and became “dead meat”, in the words of its leader.
The bottom line is that even though in theory a coalition may be a more appropriate governance model for Guyana, the PNC’s insistence of paramountcy destroyed it in reality, since they refused to cater to non-PNC interests.
The PPPC, eschewing “fig leaf coalitions”, has to work to prove its national focus.