Ideology guides governance and nation-building

Dear Editor,
To properly understand the programmes and policies that a political party intends to implement, one must have a good insight into the nature and scope of that party’s ideology. In the case of the PPPC, the various strands (warp and weft) have been pulled together, and woven into an interesting ideological tapestry that covers and helps to explain its policies and programmes. It is this ideology that is also guiding the preparation of the “One Guyana Development Strategy.”
Having developed this insight, it is noted that the PPPC’s approach to good governance and nation building is guided by its ideology (referred to as GNB), and not by ‘ad hoc’ or ‘piecemeal’ measures. Though the PPPC’s ideological framework has specific core values (like free and fair elections, freedom, individual responsibility, separation of powers, limited government, less taxation, and competition as base for resource allocation and acquisition of political power, etc.), it also allows for adaptations in response to changing needs (like technology, ICT, science, alternative sources of energy, etc.) of the society.
While the PPPC, like the PNCR, had its origin in the first nationalist movement, the subsequent histories of both parties have been diverse, controversial, divisive, depressing, and conflicting, while their respective ideologies have evolved in different directions. In this analysis, however, references will be generally restricted to the decades of the 21st century (2000s) while focus is given to the PPPC’s ideology relating to good governance.
In the past (second ½ of 20th century), the PPPC had relied upon Marxist principles to guide its approach to governance and nation-building, while it subsequently watched, with trepidation, how the PNC assaulted democracy and nonchalantly installed a dictatorship. Despite the PNC’s belligerence and its trampling upon democracy, the PPP nevertheless rendered critical support in the 1970s for the PNC’s aggressive nationalisation campaign.
Eventually, the PNC Government captured and controlled 80% of the country’s economy.
Since the 1980s, however, the influence of the Soviet bloc had begun to whittle, and democratic values and capitalist ethos began to rise. The PPPC had to move away from its Marxist ideological posture and gradually embrace a new GNB ideology (based on a combination of the Westminster and American models of democracy) of governance and nation-building. Powered by this new GNB ideology, the PPPC has continued pushing forth market reforms which were initially imposed on the country by the IMF in 1989 under the Presidency of Desmond Hoyte.
I do not believe there will be any reversal of this new GNB ideology. The dialectics of the Guyana experience, combined with changing social reality, have allowed for the incorporation of core ideals, values, and principles into the construction of the GNB ideology; one expression of which is the PPPC’s manifesto. The intensive interactive process (between the PPPC and civil society) in developing the manifesto helped to strengthen several ideological elements (fiscal discipline, separation of powers, transparency and accountability, limited government, free enterprise, etc). This civil society engagement has enabled the PPPC to deem its manifesto a ‘covenant’ (solemn agreement) with the people.
On the question of governance, all the political parties say they want constitutional reform, but their level of commitment to this effort varies widely. In my opinion, the PPPC does not necessarily view constitutional reform as ‘urgent’, and it is more concerned with constitutional compliance. For example, the Carter-Price formula for the appointment of the GECOM Chair, which worked well for over 23 years, was discarded by the PNCR when it unilaterally appointed a Chair, contrary to the constitution, only to be admonished by the Caribbean Court of Justice. If existing constitutional provisions cannot be observed, what sense does it make to infuse more provisions into the Constitution?
Furthermore, it was under the PPPC leadership that some radical and fundamental constitutional changes were instituted in the 2000s, such as the establishment of (i) the five Rights Commission, (ii) a new system of Parliamentary management that allows for inclusivity (e.g., the chair of each sectoral committee is rotated between the PPPC and PNCR), (iii) and a significant reduction in the powers of the Presidency (e.g., restricting the incumbent to hold office for two terms). These and other changes signalled a departure from the Westminster model of democracy and an embrace of components of the American system of democracy, as reflected in the GNB ideology.
Patching up the Constitution through the process of reform would not necessarily be a constructive use of public resources. It is better to rewrite a new Constitution that reflects the existing social and economic conditions, including advances in technology, science, exponential growth of social media, as well as to include stringent constitutional compliance/ penalties. If the purpose of constitutional reform is to institute executive power-sharing, that is hardly likely to be supported by the people, as it would eliminate a fundamental principle of good governance; that is, electoral competition.

Dr Tara Singh

Previous articleHelping abusers
Next articlePenny wise, pound foolish