From all indications, the youth population will once again make up the largest bloc of voters for the upcoming March 2 elections. That would suggest they hold tremendous influence over the outcome of those elections.
Clearly, they play an important role, not just in the outcome of the upcoming elections, but possibly on policymaking. It is therefore not surprising of the ongoing pitch being made to garner those votes.
The efforts of the two main political parties toward young people, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and APNU/AFC vary from genuine and hypocritical. That, of course, is from historical evidence; evidence which would reveal one party’s proven efforts to empower young people as in the case of the PPP/C and the other’s lip service— as in the case of APNU/AFC.
The PPP/C has produced the youngest President in the history of the nation in the person of Bharrat Jagdeo, who possesses an enviable mind for economics. For the March 2 elections, it is poised to present the second youngest in the form of Dr Irfaan Ali if it were to win.
Mr Jagdeo, who now holds the position of Leader of the Opposition and General Secretary of the PPP, is longest-serving Executive President of Guyana. His extensive achievements are unprecedented and he is referred to as the architect of Guyana’s modernisation.
The evidence of those achievements can be seen across the country: the Berbice Bridge, the National Stadium, the Arthur Chung Convention Center, ICT transformation and numerous new hospitals, health facilities and learning institutions are just to name a few.
His efforts for a genuine green and sustainable economy and for the protection of the environment earned him the prestigious international “Champion of the Earth” award. The services of many facilities Guyanese enjoy today are a direct result of his efforts. It shows the calibre of what the PPP has produced over the years.
Dr Ali entered the National Assembly at a very young age and was at the helm of two major Ministries under the PPP/C Government. His achievements, especially at the Ministry of Housing, are unprecedented. Like Mr Jagdeo, his economic prowess has been proven as his managerial skills. Those qualities are crucial for the position of the Presidency he seeks.
Aside from those two, the PPP/C has not only produced young people of such quality but have entrusted them in very senior positions in Government. A cursory look at the PPP/C’s Members of Parliament and Ministers over time would reveal that deliberate effort to empower young people. This continues through its current lists of candidates for the upcoming elections.
The PPP/C’s efforts to elevate young people have proven to be genuine and are without the intent to pander. That is a stark contrast to the manner in which young people were, and continue, to be treated by the APNU/AFC. Having made bold promises to empower young people during the 2015 campaign, the expectation was rife for empowering them through positions in Government.
That did not happen. As a matter of fact, the coalition government, taking office in May 2015, did not in any way make an attempt to honour their promise to elevate young people into governmental positions as the PPP/C did. That APNU/AFC Cabinet was deemed as one geriatric in nature; a comment that was never intended to offend but one that speaks to reality.
The young people who were very prominent in the APNU/AFC’s 2015 campaign were noticeably side-lined when the coalition came to Government. Throughout its tenure, the coalition has resisted calls to have young people empowered through the Government’s administrative structure.
Not to be swayed, the coalition’s lists of candidates for the March 2 elections are not reflective of intent to empower young people if it were to win. In addition to not giving young people a chance, some of its policies were unhelpful to improving the welfare of young people.
The cost of data and tuition for the University of Guyana were increased. In addition, APNU/AFC’s policies are prohibitive to young people desirous of owning a home or a new vehicle.
In the context therein, with President David Granger again boasting of empowering young people through jobs, mistrust is inevitable. Without ambiguity, any utterance from APNU/AFC that speaks to intent to involve and empower young people would be mere political rhetoric just to garner support.
In other words, given its proven history, APNU/AFC’s new promises for young people are not short of lip service. It’s a stark contrast to the PPP/C’s with a proven and tested track record of empowering young people who are the future leaders of the country.