The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) held its first stakeholders’ consultation over the weekend to solicit the views of business, trade unionists, workers, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, self-employed individuals and ordinary citizens, all drawn equally from both genders towards crafting its Manifesto for the imminent general elections and it certainly lived up to its billing as “historic”.
As the Party’s presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali said, “A manifesto is a serious national document and not an imaginative compilation of unachievable and unrealistic promises. Governments have a moral and ethical responsibility to implement their manifesto … We take seriously this document, hence your participation here today. As we move forward as a country, it is vital that we take ownership and feel part of the development pathway…” In summary, Ali noted that a manifesto must be one that is realistic, achievable, time-bound, implementable and measurable.
If there was ever a time when Guyanese needed a clear roadmap from the political elites on how they plan to develop our country in the next five years, it is now. With the traditional economy – led by sugar – in a tailspin and the incumbent People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition Government seemingly accepting that its one bright spot – gold, is also foundering, it has pinned all its hopes on oil revenues which are supposed to start flowing next year.
While refusing to accept the constitutionally mandated date of March 19 for the next elections, it has yet gone into elections mode in which, as the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo pointed out, it is making all sorts of fantastical promises to the electorate, much as it did in its last manifesto of 2015. Two unfulfilled promises, for instance, are the Code of Conduct for the Ministers and constitutional change to reduce the powers of the President and reallocate them to the Prime Minister.
In this debacle, the PNC must bear total responsibility, for, as the other partners in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) in the governing coalition have complained, they were used as mere “appendages” in the Government’s initiatives since 2015. The PNC is, therefore, following in the footsteps of its first iteration between 1964 and 1992 when it plunged a country – equal in all respects to any of its neighbours in the Caribbean – to second only to Haiti at the bottom, after boasting it would “house, feed and clothe” the nation so that the “small man would be the real man”. This time, it promised “the good life”, but only delivered it to its Ministers with a 50 per cent salary increase to “encourage them not to steal”.
The PPP/C, on the other hand, took that devastated economy in 1992, and pragmatically eschewed any ideological dogma to move it within a decade from being “Highly Indebted Poor Country” (HIPC) to an “Upper Middle Income Country” by not only wiping off the albatross of the PNC’s US$2.1 billion debt, but to consistently generate growth rates averaging 4.5 per cent in the second decade – the highest in the Region. The three per cent growth rate the PNC-led Government has been boasting about has come from the spending on the infrastructural projects – such as the modernised Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA); the West and East Coast Demerara Highways – for which the PPP/C had secured funding and were already in the pipeline. The PNC Government has already dissipated the US$655 million in foreign reserves the PPP/C left it in 2014.
The PPP/C has proffered a presidential candidate in the person of Irfaan Ali, who may be young but played a great part in the PPP’s success as Housing and Water Minister. As he said, “Going forward, we cannot afford to manage the economy on traditional indicators and ratios. Instead, we have to manage our economy to ensure sustainable development which balances economic growth with social development and environmental priorities. The development must be felt by every Guyanese. In this regard, we have to focus on issues of inequality, income distribution, vulnerability of at-risk communities and groups so as the tide of the economy rises, all would be placed in a better position.”