The French and Germans have a single word – “La politique” and “politik” respectively – that encompasses what we in English distinguish as “politics” and “policies”. But it is clear that the PNC-led coalition Government refuse to performatively acknowledge the distinction offered, as they continue to focus on the exercise of raw power. Politics, of course, is all about the pursuit and retention of power – deciding ‘who gets what, when and how’. Less glamorously, policies imply rolling up one’s sleeves to craft principles or rules to achieve goals that have also been outlined and articulated.
The PNC-led Government could not care less about policies. They had, for instance, trenchantly criticised the departed PPP Government on ‘corruption”, but they demonstrated their accusations were just opportunistic “shade”, since they have been unable to secure a single conviction over the last four years, even though they conducted scores of “audits” and laid dozens of charges in the court system. But where are the policies of the PNC Government to deal with corruption?
And we are not talking about simply resorting to shouts of “hang them high”. Carrying out that policy would, after all, result in stringing up a slew of Government officials and individuals associated with the PNC Government. It boggles the mind that no one has been brought to justice for not accounting for the $1.6 billion spent on Jubilee Park, for instance, at the very beginning of the new regime; nor for the clear corruption highlighted in the exploits of Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, and the proposed Demerara Harbour Bridge towards its end.
We have in mind what Max Weber called “a slow boring of hard boards”: a willingness to look behind a given phenomenon and discern its causes before coming up with the broad principles to deal with it within an institutionalised framework.
Returning to the vexed question of “corruption”, are there, for instance, deeper systemic causes operating within the neoliberal order that has been imposed on our economic system since 1989? With oil bringing us even more intertwined into the global financial and trading system, these questions become even more relevant.
Will there be an investigation into the circumstances under which, for instance, Raphael Trotman was “ordered” to accept a 1% bonus from Tullow, after our offshore oil potential was derisked by the Exxon discoveries?
But politics trumped policies not only in sins of omission, but sins of commission. Take the unilateral decision of David Granger to close four sugar estates and fire 7000 sugar workers: this made no sense economically, socially or politically.
Economically, while sugar was running at a loss, it was bringing in very scarce foreign currency, while it was subsidised with local currency. Starting in 2017, directly after the closures, a shortage in foreign currency was detected, which was denied by the Bank of Guyana and the Government. But at the beginning of this year, the BoG could not explain why it had become the largest net borrower of foreign currency from the commercial banks, which are now completely bereft of hard currency. In the meantime, because of the shortage of US dollars, the Guyana dollar had depreciated by some 15% and sinking fast.
Socially, the closure has unleashed an epidemic of pathologies in the rural communities of Wales, Rose Hall Canje and Skeldon; since there was no provision of alternative employment for the fired workers, and the local economies imploded with the precipitate withdrawal of the weekly injection of the sugar salaries that had kept them going.
Politically, the closure was almost definitely a move to attack the strongest base of the PPP, which had been solidified since the 1940s. But it rebounded to become the death knell of the PNC-led coalition when AFC MP from Canje voted against them in the NCM moved by the PPP, and they became transformed into a caretaker administration. The MP explained that he could not justify the sugar closures after witnessing first-hand the suffering of the sugar workers.
In the months ahead, the PNC will once again issue a manifesto full of policies, but a forewarned electorate is a forearmed electorate.