Recently, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government held outreaches in some parts of the country. Those engagements were intended to take Government to the people and it appears they will continue with probably more intensity as elections are in the air. It was precisely elections that triggered the outreaches; elections that should have been held within the three-month period that followed the passage of the No-confidence Motion on December 21, 2018.
Government found ways through the courts to delay the constitutionally mandated elections. However, an appeal, with a possible ruling to so instruct, is about to be heard. That strategic delay provides Government with valuable time as it engages seemingly desperate to appease having been broadsided by Guyanese for failing to deliver on its promises. It has however been successful in implementing draconian measures that have strangled the economy and which continue to burden many.
In addition, since taking office, it segregated itself from the populace probably to be insulated in some way from the impact of those measures implemented. Having lost a tremendous amount of goodwill, with confidence in it vastly eroded as a result of its policies, shocked by the no-confidence vote and knowing the constitutional requirements for the holding of elections within those circumstances, the Government could not continue to avoid the citizenry.
So, instead of Ministers visiting villages and being in the fields to genuinely listen to the concerns of residents, a collective approach was taken. Hence the caravans which entailed residents travelling to participate.
One explanation could be that, together in numbers, criticism may be deterred. That may have been realised by the suspicion that some of its dedicated supporters were bussed to those events. That aside, striking, was the presence of a number of Government agencies, including utility companies for electricity and water. Residents were made to believe that in turning up, their concerns would be dealt with in an expected swift manner.
On the completion of each engagement, the Government boasted of much success and of the satisfaction of the residents who accessed the services provided. It is always good when the concerns of residents can be addressed and resolved in a timely manner. The ensuing satisfaction can redound positively to the Government.
Therein lies the real intention within the context outlined. However, some residents have asked why agencies like GPL and GWI cannot offer the same and seemingly efficient service outside of the Government outreaches.
That seems fair as many continue to lament that related concerns at established offices are arduous, time consuming and sometimes unresolved. This has been recurring over the years with some consumers resorting to the media to bring attention to their plight. Discoloured water that is high in iron content, unreliable supply, reportedly indiscriminate disconnections and allegation of billing despite not receiving potable water, are ongoing concerns expressed by some customers of GWI.
Frequent power outages, low voltage, power surges that can lead to the damage of appliances, tedious compensation process, high estimated bills as well as accusations of indiscriminate disconnections, are concerns of consumers of electricity. It is safe to posit that the Government cannot be totally unaware of these concerns.
While it can command the presence of both at the outreaches, the question of what was done to bring relief having been in government four years now, surfaces. Many have argued that had mechanisms to improve various aspects of both services implemented and sustained throughout the country, there would have been no real reason for the two agencies to be a fixture at the Government outreaches.
There is no ambiguity that such events are designed with a clear political objective in mind and in the context of the Government’s rush to engage, a different conclusion is virtually impossible to derive. With that in mind, it also becomes extremely difficult to dismiss the accusations of Government deliberately politicising those two and other State agencies in an effort to foster its own agenda of trying to win people over.
What about the vast majority who will not attend the outreaches? How would their concerns over the services of the two utilities in question be addressed? If the expediency can only be found at the outreaches, should it then be considered as a disservice or even discrimination against those who do not attend and who may seek recourse at the utilities’ offices?
Again, that seems fair to ask, specifically for those who do not support the Government and more than likely will not attend the engagements. While many other questions will be asked, the Government seems committed to “take Government to the people”. In principle, there is a need for such engagements, but it must not be triggered to just appear to be working for the people especially when there was a seeming reluctance before December 21, 2018.
What should be done is for the Government to ensure that all the agencies work with the same efficiency as noted in the outreaches for the benefit of all. Then it will be seen as working for the people. That, however, would not allow for the public relations spectacle that has embodied the said outreaches in an effort to convince of being caring.