By Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, Attorney-at-Law
Speaking on last week’s edition of the TV programme “Public Interest”, President David Granger made some startling disclosures. He said, “Employment is not something to be provided by the government. There is self employment and we are working with villages to generate more employment in those villages, but it is going to be agro-based employment”.
These statements must have shocked the most ardent supporter of the Coalition Government. After all, the creation of jobs, especially for young people, was one of the major planks of the APNU-AFC platform promises. In their 2015 Election’s Manifesto, the APNU-AFC promised, “The aim of your new government is to create jobs, jobs and more jobs in the shortest time possible. Our young people cannot wait “five more years” for jobs for which they could be adequately trained and get better pay and greater job satisfaction”. In fact, many of their billboards around the country promised jobs. Some are still standing at various points in Georgetown. During the 2015 Elections campaign, speaking as Opposition Leader to students of the University of Guyana, Mr. Granger said “This government [PPPC] has no strategy to deal with jobs for young people. One of the biggest problems facing young people is jobs and we have a strategy for providing young people with jobs.
Now in Government, the President sings a completely different tune. This is but one of dozens of promises made to the electorate during the 2015 general elections campaign which the Coalition Government has abrogated. I doubt that in the post -Independent Caribbean a greater fraud has ever been perpetrated against the electorate than that upon the Guyana electorate at the 2015 elections by the APNU-AFC. The Coalition Government has not only failed to deliver on multiple promises but in many instances they have done or are doing the opposite of what they promised.
It is the undoubted responsibility of a government to create jobs, directly, as well as indirectly. Governments create jobs, directly, through the pursuit of policies and projects specifically designed to create jobs; through the expansion of the public sector; through the expansion of state institutions; through the expansion of state-offered services; through capital/infrastructural projects and via various other government-driven initiatives. For example, the PPPC government’s Infrastructure and Housing policy alone generated several thousand jobs.
Indirectly, it is the government’s duty to create the type of environment that will conduce to the growth and expansion of the private sector and the attraction of local and foreign investments that will ineluctably lead to the creation of jobs and proliferation of job- creating opportunities. President Granger is perhaps the first head of state who does not view job creation as an obligation of government.
Speaking on her government’s 2011-2012 National Budget, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, “The budget will increase infrastructural development specifically in areas that will provide jobs in the engineering and construction sectors”. In recent times, no other head of state on the global stage has spoken more comprehensively about a government’s duty to create jobs for its people than President Barack Obama. At every convenient forum, President Obama, has emphasized the uncompromising duty of a government to create jobs. Indeed, President Obama often cites the millions of jobs created during his two terms after the great economic decline of 2008, as one of his most signal achievements. During his final State of the Union address, President Obama, boasts “We are in the middle of the longest streak of job creation in history; more than 14 Million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990’s”.
To kick-start job creation in the U.S., President Obama presented to Congress, the American Jobs Act. This initiative was designed by the Obama administration, specifically, to create jobs for Americans both directly and indirectly. In his speech proposing the Act, he said “The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.” Indeed, undoubtedly, job creation is one of the most critical issues in the ongoing U.S. Presidential campaign.
Quite apart from the President Granger’s flawed view that it is not the government’s obligation to create jobs, his shoving off that responsibility to the citizens (self-employment) and the private sector, is yet another indicia of how far removed from reality the President actually is. That the economy is contracting; that the private sector is recording declining level of business activities and, consequently, profits; that the private sector is shedding staff to survive; that new investments are non- existent; that the new regime of increased taxation and anti- business policies of the government have had a debilitating factor on commercial activities; that SOCU and SARA are driving fear in private sector – are all factors of which the President seems unaware but which have rendered the private sector incapable of creating jobs and have killed the self-employment opportunities which the President anticipates will proliferate. Ironically, the President cites agriculture to be the greatest generator of these jobs. Yet, his government has implemented policies and taken positions that spell doom for the agro-sector. The refusal to aid the rice and sugar industries and the imposition of VAT on capital agricultural equipment are just a few. The truth is that Guyana’s agricultural sector will never move beyond its current stagnant state unless there is a shift to agro-processing. This shift will only take place with the availability of affordable energy. When the APNU-AFC voted down the Amaila Falls Hydro project in the tenth Parliament, they killed this potential. The same can be said of the Government’s posture on self-employment which the President now touts. For example, when the government hounded Bai Shan Lin out of the forestry sector, they devastated dozens of small self-employed loggers who depended upon the company for market for their logs.
The President, in attempting to abdicate his government’s responsibility to create jobs, has certainly become a victim of his own political artifice.