Winston Jordan, APNU/AFC/PNC’s former Minister of Finance, has undergone yet another metamorphosis. He is more prolific in metamorphosis that butterflies. Every single time he opens his mouth, it is another version of “his facts”, another change in beliefs. On October 27, 2018, Guyana’s newspaper widely reported Jordan addressing the concerns raised about APNU/AFC’s debt binge. Guyana’s debt stock (debt to GDP ratio) in 2015, when APNU/AFC took office, was 47%. In 2017, it was 54%, significantly rising under Jordan’s tenure.
His response was that “borrowing was a necessity”, since there was much urgent need for infrastructural development. In an earlier Department of Public Information (DPI) interview, Jordan had passionately argued that roads, bridges, boats, health care and educational facilities were just some of the “tremendous developmental needs” which can only be met through internally-sourced loans.
Indeed, foreign debt and annual fiscal deficits increased during the period 2015-2020.
At a signing ceremony for a loan for US$36M for broadband development, Jordan boasted that he had “the pleasure of signing several loans with China”. Jordan posited that Guyana had many infrastructural needs and not enough resources on hand to pursue those infrastructural necessities. After only one year in office, Guyana’s debt had already increased by more than 4% at the time. At the time also, this was the same Jordan under whom NICIL took a $30B loan for GuySuCo with an interest rate of 4.75%, clearly among the highest loan interest rates any country in Caricom borrows money for. At the time, the almost US$150M was among the highest single loan this country had ever taken.
Has anyone forgotten when Jordan, as Guyana’s Finance Minister for a Government that was squatting in office in 2019, following the December 21st, 2018 No-Confidence Motion, bragged that his Government was negotiating a loan of US$900M with the Islamic Development Bank? This was Jordan with his “big borrowing” hat.
“Big Borrowing” Jordan of 2018 has now metamorphosed into “Borrowing is Dangerous” Jordan. In this new metamorphosed Jordan, he has donned his “Borrowing is Catastrophic” hat. Not only is he frightened by Government’s borrowing, but borrowing at interest rates of below 2% is scary to him. When he was in charge, borrowing was a necessity, even if borrowing was at unsustainable rates of 4.75%. But now he has conveniently forgotten that he advocated strongly and committed the Government and the Guyanese people to a borrowing binge at rates no responsible government should have dared.
Winston Jordon continues to disgrace himself, and continues to insult the intelligence of the Guyanese people. Jordan forgets that the Guyanese people, no matter who they voted for, have not forgotten the miserable job he did as this country’s Finance Minister. Given the travesty of the attempt to hide the EXXON US$18M singing bonus, one would have thought Jordan would have stayed silent in his corner. Jordan has given various stories relating to the US$18M signing bonus, but the one that gets ordinary Guyanese citizens upset and at the same time hilariously laughing is the one that he thought EXXON had given them the money as a gift. He never explained who the gift was to, and why there was a need to hide the money.
But, in his latest media letter, he raised the concern of Government borrowing and the burden of Government debt. It is a funny thing that those who are most guilty always seem to keep attention to themselves. So let us remove the elephant in the room. The political party that has the greatest need to keep Government debt issues off the table for discussion is the PNC. Who would forget that, by 1990, Guyana was one of the most indebted countries on earth? By 1990, Guyana’s foreign debt burden of US$2.1B was 953% Guyana’s GDP, and debt servicing was greater than 100% Guyana’s revenue earnings. That legacy squarely belonged to Jordan’s party – the PNC. After the PPP, largely under the leadership of Bharat Jagdeo, first as Finance Minister and then as President, managed the debt crisis and brought down debt to less than 48% GDP, the best in the Caribbean, and debt servicing to under 10%, Jordan’s party returned to Government in 2015 and resumed the debt binge under Jordan’s tenure as Minister of Finance. One would therefore think it is in Jordan’s and the PNC’s interest to remain silent in their corner, since they are the ones guilty of debt and fiscal deficit crisis in Guyana pre-1992 and between 2015 and 2020.
Jordan cannot fool us. He has never been scared to take debts on the backs of the people. He remains faithful to the ideology of his party – tax, borrow and spend now, and let the people bend under the weight later. This is the man that boldly announced in 2015 that he intends to lead Guyana back into the international bond market. Guyana, whose debt stood at 215% in 1982, largely through international bonds, had defaulted in repayments in 1982 under Burnham’s PNC. Under the PPP, Guyana had taken a hiatus in bond undertakings. In 2015, “Big Borrowing” Jordan announced a return. The GuySuCo $30B was an example. Now “Big Borrowing, High Loan Interest Rates” Jordan wants us to believe that borrowing is a heinous monster for Guyana.