So-called civic groups’ posture on Govt (Pt 2)

Dear Editor,
For ease of reference, the GYEITI is part of a global standard that promotes transparency and accountability in oil, gas and mining sectors. The EITI is governed by an international Board and there are about 56 countries that have agreed to adopt the EITI standard. The Board consists of 20 members representing implementing countries, supporting countries, civil society organisations, industry and institutional investors. The benefits of implementing countries include more investments, promotion of open and accountable governance as well as greater political and economic stability. Interestingly to note, Guyana gave its first impetus for the implementation of the EITI in 2010 and in 2012, Guyana’s commitment was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Guyana at the time (which is the current Administration), and the EITI.
Clearly, the layman reading this epistle would understand that even though this seemingly vexatious group sought to bash the newly appointed National Coordinator of the GYEITI and by extension the Government, the GYEITI is governed by an international Board. Therefore, the credibility of the process, inter alia, the continued implementation and compliance of this global standard, by and large, is likely to be unjeopardised. In other words, it is the commitment of the Government of the day to implement this global standard, which is ultimately governed by an international Board.
Editor, if this particular group of civil society NGOs are really serious about contributing in a meaningful way to Guyana’s development, then it would be worthwhile for them to reconsider their strategic approach. Where for example, instead of criticising for the sake of critiquing albeit weak and lacking empirical substance, they may want to consider engaging directly with the Government of the day. However, they would have to do better than just selling narratives characterised as misinformation and effectively misleading the public. A framework of open dialogue which I know the Government is open to from all stakeholders would be appropriate. The Government is not averse to criticism, in fact the Government has demonstrated on many occasions that they are open to constructive criticisms. For example, for the first time in Guyana’s recent political landscape, the Government of the day accepted ten of fourteen proposals from the Opposition which was included as amendments to the final Local Content Act. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the Natural Resource Fund Act, where the Opposition brought zero proposal to the National Assembly as was demonstrated, they had a different agenda.
It is also safe to say, and evidently so, that the highest level of Government up to the President himself is visible and accessible to the public, something which was not the norm by the former President. This is an irrefutable fact where the former President hardly interacted with the public, and particularly the press/press conferences. In fact, most of his press conferences were controlled press conferences where journalists were limited in the amount of questions they can ask. And, I can never recall a time when the former President made decisions on the spot and intelligibly respond to questions on matters of the economy. The current President is well versed in these areas and on many occasions instructed his Ministers and made decisions on the spot to address concerns of the citizens, whenever he is in an outreach exercise.
I can also attest personally to the fact that the former President in his five years term in office rarely or perhaps never afforded the leadership of Private Sector organisations (which are also civil society stakeholders) the opportunity to engage with him in meetings. Today, the current President and all of the Cabinet Ministers are almost always available to engage private sector organisations upon their requests to so do.
The hullabaloo by the referenced civic groups that the Government is out of control and that there is no objective assessment of issues, are two unjustified assertions, and divorced from reality. If they are looking for objective assessment of public policies and issues, there are several credible organisations they can turn to, such as the IMF, the IDB and a few other international think tanks such as Rystad that produces analyses on the oil and gas sector.
It is untrue that Government policies and issues are not clear to the public. The Government’s policies and development agenda are clearly articulated, well documented and accessible to the public. Also, these civic groups and organisations need to be able to conduct their own objective assessments and analyses of public policy and issues and more importantly, to be used as the basis in engaging the Government in dialogue to work together in achieving a common goal.
It is my humble and respectful opinion that the Government is on the right path in terms of accelerating Guyana’s development. We are 20+ years behind owing to our own peculiar development challenges, historically. We need to now formidably overcome those challenges which includes correcting misinformation being peddled by naysayers and critics who are on a mission to derail Guyana’s accelerated development for the benefit, upliftment and prosperity of all of its people.
Editor, I will close here for now as there were several other concerns raised by the civic groups which space precludes me from addressing in this letter. I shall contribute my thoughts on the others in forthcoming letters.

JC Bhagwandin