When irresponsible politicians spew barefaced lies to deceive the people of Guyana, we need to expose their dishonesty and hypocrisy for all to see. In his recent tirade on social media, the disgraceful Leader of the Opposition took aim, in a very personal way, at the man he and the PNC fear most — the Hon. Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo.
Last Sunday, at Babu Jaan, Jagdeo was critical of former Mayor Hamilton Green, for suggesting that Forbes Burnham, not Cheddi Jagan, was the real “Father of the Nation”. Of course, Hammie would like us to forget that Burnham’s legacy is carved in stone as the man who raped the Constitution by rigging every general election he participated in, and whose policies bankrupted the nation, causing tremendous hardship on our people.
Even knowing this to be true, Aubrey Norton shamelessly defended the myth that Burnham was a great leader, and proceeded to glorify 28 years of tyranny under the PNC. Thankfully, we live in an era when lies and distortions can easily be exposed with a few clicks on the internet; and while I wouldn’t waste precious space here debunking the obvious, there are two topics that need exposure. And so, I present the facts here that no one can dispute.
At Babu Jaan, Bharrat Jagdeo informed the massive crowd that the Guyanese people would soon benefit from 12 state-of-the-art hospitals and 7 additional schools equipped with computer labs. Now, any normal person with interest of our people at heart would rejoice and commend this young Ali Administration on such a magnificent achievement in just two and a half years. Any normal person, that is, except Aubrey Norton, who has never acknowledged anything the PPP/C Government has done to transform the lives of Guyanese, including his own supporters, so he quickly labelled these projects “a scheme for corruption”.
Norton said, “Now you’re talking about building 12 hospitals. You have to first improve the health system. Hospitals don’t make a health system work, it’s the human resource in there and the systems to deliver in health…”
Now, let’s see how the PNC managed the nation’s healthcare system while they were in office. The following extract was taken from the 1992 World Bank Report, and reflects the dismal conditions in the healthcare sector prior to 1992, when the PNC were in office. The World Bank is no friend of the PPP, it is a world-renowned financial institution that provides loans and grants to Governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. In this report, the World Bank reported on the conditions that existed in the healthcare and education sectors under the PNC Government prior to 1992:
“13.73. The quality of health care provided in Guyana has declined markedly over the past decade. Although Government allocation to the sector dropped sharply over this period, high levels of inefficiency, the fragmented organization of the sector, an inability to identify and prioritise objectives, and the limited coordination between the relevant agencies has greatly contributed to this decline. Deterioration in care has been most severe in smaller urban and rural areas, where health facilities are severely understaffed and lack even the most basic drugs and diagnostic equipment.”
“13.74 The health referral system in Guyana was designed to include five different levels of facility. However, the extremely poor quality of care offered at lower levels of the referral system has caused patients to bypass these services and seek care directly from Georgetown Public Hospital, the highest referral level. The breakdown of the referral system has greatly increased inequities; it is the poor and rural population who have access to the poorest quality facilities, and who are least able to afford the costs of travel to Georgetown to obtain better care. The consequences of these inequalities are reflected in the low health indicators reported in poorer and more rural regions, such as Regions 9, 8, and 5.”
“13.76 From the late 1960s, Government has provided fully subsidised public health care to all citizens. In an effort to equalise access to health care across all groups, the Government severely restricted the development of the Private Sector and prohibited public employees from working outside public facilities. Resource constraints, however, have meant that the Government has been unable to fulfil its objective of providing high quality, free health care to all its citizens. Funding and manpower shortages have led to sharp declines in the quality of service offered, and the Government has been forced to relax constraints on Private Sector activity.”
The Infant Mortality Rate in 1991 was 46.799 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 25.120 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022.
Then Norton said something that I consider to be absolutely outrageous. He said, “In power, Forbes Burnham delivered the most to the people of Guyana. When Forbes Burnham came to power in 1964, he didn’t have 6 secondary schools in this country. When he left power, there were secondary schools all over this country.”
So, let us examine what the 1992 World Bank Report said about those schools that Norton said Burnham left:
“13.25 In the 1960s, Guyana’s educational system was considered one of
the best in the Caribbean. Today, it is very probably the weakest. Learning in the schools, as measured by national and Caribbean-wide examinations, is extremely low, a large proportion of the teaching force is unqualified and untrained, and textbooks and other teaching aids are seldom available. Guyana’s success in achieving universal access to primary school in the early 1970s appears to be eroding, and is accompanied by rising repetition and dropout rates. The sector’s problems are further exacerbated by educational subsidies which tend to be regressive, favouring wealthy rather than poor children, and tertiary rather than primary education.
“13.54. The percentage of primary students passing the SSEE is exceedingly low; in 1990, only 19 percent passed English, 18 percent Mathematics and 19
percent Social Studies. If scores on this multiple-choice test are adjusted for guessing, almost half of these students scored less than one sixth of the
marks available. Inefficiency and the failure to learn basic skills at the primary level translates into poor student preparation for secondary school, and ultimately very low pass rates on the secondary level examinations.”
“13.57 The quality of the teaching force in Guyana is extremely low, both at primary and secondary levels. Data for 1990 show that 38 percent of teachers in primary schools and 42 percent of teachers in secondary schools were either untrained or unqualified. The situation is considerably worse in poorer and more rural regions; 76 percent of primary teachers in Region 8 and 90 percent of secondary teachers in Region 7 are unqualified and untrained.”
“13.61. Limited capital investment in the sector has meant that very few schools have been constructed during the past two decades. Much of the capital stock is extremely old and dilapidated; Ministry records show that approximately 35 percent of schools in use were constructed before 1920.
In addition, facilities are often severely overcrowded. Visits to schools revealed, for instance, that facilities built to accommodate 150 students may house as many as 420. Learning is probably seriously impeded in these crowded conditions, especially since most schools consist of one large room divided into classes only by blackboards. Limited investment in infrastructure maintenance means most structures are severely dilapidated. A limited survey of infrastructure in the sector in 1991 showed only 10 percent of schools to be in satisfactory condition. Forty percent need significant repairs, and the remaining 60 percent require substantial rehabilitation. Many schools lack doors and windows, and have inadequate sanitation facilities without running water. Steps and floors are often shaky and have large holes.” (https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/339231468750549645/pdf/multi-page.pdf).
Editor, as you can see, the conditions under which our students and teachers existed were absolutely deplorable, just like the rest of the country at that time. The entire infrastructure was in a state of disrepair. The treasury was empty, and all of the country’s foreign and gold reserves were gone. And from the mouth of the then Finance Minister Carl Greenidge, Guyana was bankrupted.
It took sheer brilliance and the prudent leadership of Bharrat Jagdeo, ably assisted by another brilliant economist, Dr Ashni Singh, to navigate Guyana through turbulent times with an Opposition that was hostile, non-cooperative and violent. Those who were too young to experience the rape and theft of a nation under Forbes Burnham’s PNC had a snippet from Granger’s APNU+AFC and voted them out.
This World Bank Report should be compulsive reading for all APNU Parliamentarians, for them to play a supportive role in nation building and turn away from the destructive path that their leaders are hellbent on pursuing.
Former Member of Parliament